According to the BBC, British readers are devouring psychological thrillersof all persuasions, from authors in the UK and North America. There could be many reasons for the genre’s popularity and here are some of my thoughts.
- A strong showing of female authors
It’s often been said that women buy more books than men, so it would seem logical (or intuitive, if you prefer) for women to enjoy a great read by someone who speaks to them. Not that authors are limited by gender or background, but all writers draw on personal experience – whether that be situations, emotions or characters. (Irritate or intimidate a thriller writer and you’ll likely wind up dead in a story somewhere – I’ve done that twice so far.)
- Psychological thrillers focus on individuals
Both protagonists and antagonists are usually finely drawn, flawed human beings. Perhaps we see ourselves in them; more likely, we see aspects of people we know. Who hasn’t raged at the car in front for not moving away fast enough, or wanted to serve summary justice to a bully?
- People love tension
Stress and release – we see it in stand-up comedy; first the set-up and then the punchline. We ride the roller-coaster (well, you might but I’m a wuss with a full stomach), have our chills and spills, and then live to tell the tale. Thrillers take us into uncharted, albeit eagerly anticipated, territory. The creaking floorboard when no one is upstairs, the mysterious neighbour whose partner disappeared five years ago, the person out walking at night when a voice calls from up ahead… We read on, adrenaline and dopamine running through the pages like silken threads, pulling us deeper into the author’s malign world. We hope for heroics and we fear for safety.
- We live in uncertain times
Most thrillers make sense. There may be horrific violence, duplicity, and terror, but there will be some sort of logic underpinning it all. In real life we don’t always get to see behind the curtain to learn the causes of the effects we witness. A good book may provide escapism but it can also shed light on the outer world, re-examining topical themes and adding to debates of the time – such as crime and punishment, ill or will, or how to navigate the morally ambiguous challenges of the workplace or world politics.
As a spy fiction author, I try to play with the familiar structures and tropes of the genre. Given my love of Raymond Chandler, Thomas Bladen could easily have been a private detective instead. Only he had other ideas. Although much of the Spy Chaser series is set in London (in part because of the 2005 London Bombing that is the catalyst for Book 5, Flashpoint), my lead character hails from further north in Yorkshire. I wanted to place his upbringing somewhere that made him an outsider, giving him different take on London and its people, as well giving me another location for the action to take place.
It seems that the publishing industry itself is also looking to diversifyaway from London. In the end, we need more voices and different voices, whether that’s in the industry, from authors themselves, or on the page / screen.
A Word with You Press has been ahead of that particular curve since its inception. An open door, a global outlook and a willingness to enter into debate, challenge and exploration all make us a strong and vibrant writing community.
When you’re next looking for a book, or want to recommend an author or publishing service, please think of us.
Derek Thompson is a British author with some North American sensibilities. He writes about Thomas Bladen and his work for the UK’s Surveillance Support Unit.
You can find out about his books here:
He’s also on Twitter – @DerekWriteLines