I write police procedurals in the whodunit genre. I like the cerebral quality of following the detective in an investigation. With a thriller you know pretty soon who the evil villain is and his big stakes plan to take over the world. Then it’s all a race against the clock to save the world as we know it. Granted this can be pretty exciting with a lot of car chases, steamy sex, and explosions along the way.
I like the mystery of the whodunits. I like getting the clues to nab the killer just as the detective learns them. I had a friend who reads the last chapters first so that she knows who the killer is because she can’t stand the suspense. Can you imagine? I wanted to snatch my book out of her hands and beat her over the head with it.
I know the rules of suspense thrillers, and with a stun gun at my back, I suppose I could write one, but would it be any good? We are drawn to one branch or another. Something in our psyche or backstory, or our world of experience takes a wisp of an idea and starts playing what if, what if?
In my case, what if led me to the second floor of the Santa Monica Public Safety Building shared by the Police and Fire Department. My detective has been Dave Mason for five crime novels now and I’m working on a seventh. I lived in Santa Monica for a generation and saw its acceleration from a sleepy beach town to a city with a hot buzz that makes it almost unrecognizable.
I write a second series set in the tranquil California mountain town where my security patrol officer heroine and an insufferable Bakersfield homicide cop deal with rural problems. This summer it’s opioids and bear incursions. That’s in real life, by the way.
Mystery crime/suspense thriller? It’s a roomy branch on the subgenre tree. Detectives can vary from Lincoln Rimes to Anna Pigeon. I’ve always been fascinated by the lives big city cops live. Never wanted to be a cop, or date a cop, or go to a cop bar, just observe. I’m a watcher by nature, the one holding up the wall or looking at the bookcase at a party, talking quietly with one other person in the corner.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t imagine being a 5 foot 10 inch security patrol officer with curly hair chasing a bad guy (or a bear) down a dark alley at midnight.
See Holly Seabright (me) in The Most Dangerous Species.