Monday, April 20, 2009

Damn Yankees

Okay, so this is going to get a lot of play among the thriller community. As reported in UK trade publication, The Bookseller, three British thriller writers have formed The Curzon Group to “end the reign of the production-line American thriller writers” and return the focus to domestic British authors.

Here's a link to the story:

And here's a link to their website: Note the jingoistic quote from Jeffrey Archer on the first page. Hmmm, Jeffrey Archer accusing others of churning out cookie cutter bestsellers....

They name-check James Patterson, John Grisham and Dan Brown as three of the main culprits when it comes to adhering to a rigid formula. By the way, if anyone actually has that secret formula, please email me.

I'll come clean and confess that I find the intellectual snobbery which surrounds the work of these writers, well, boring. As I do the snobbery towards the genre from 'literary' writers. Brown, Grisham and Patterson are consummate storytellers. Reaching a mass audience as they do is a rare ability. Archer has it too incidentally.

I'll also confess to the fact that while there are a number of British thriller writers I absolutely love, such as Simon Kernick, Zoe Sharp, and of course the Godfather himself, Lee Child, I read way more American writers than I do Brits.

Debate is healthy, this is a great bit of publicity for the three writers involved, but to suggest that there is some kind of cultural discrimination going on...gimme a freakin' break.

Sean Black's debut novel Lockdown is published on July 30th, 2009.


Karen Dionne said...

This is interesting, Sean - thanks for posting. The thing about stuff like this is it divides the thriller community unnecessarily. Who really cares whether a story was written by a man or a woman, or by a Brit or an American, as long as it's a great story?

Sean Black said...

I think it's best taken with a pinch of salt, Karen. It kind of made me laugh when I read it originally. There's some delicious irony when it comes to Jeffery Archer's endorsement.

Debate's healthy and what I love about this genre is that it's a very broad church.

Matt Hilton said...

I'm a Brit, setting my books in America. Where does that leave me?

Karen Dionne said...

Sarah Weinman has a nice take on this, as always, over on Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind:

mattlynn said...

Thanks for posting about our new group. We weren't attacking all American thrillers, that would be silly. There are some fantastic American writers. Our problem with someone like Patterson is that he is churning out eight ghost-written books a year, and filling the space in the bookshops and the publishers schedules that could be offered to new British writers (the same charge could be levelled at the British SAS writers like Andy McNab and Chris Ryan incidentally). It has become very cynical, so we'd like to open up some space for readers to try out some new writers. That's all. If Sean or Matt Hilton or any of the other writers here would like to join us, that would be great - we only started with three because we happen to know each other.

Sean Black said...


Thanks for posting. That actually makes a bit more sense to me. I think there are editors and publishing houses in the UK who do find it easier to buy tried-and-tested American writers rather than finding British writers who would fill those slots. That said, I'm not sure I wouldn't do exactly the same in their shoes.

But are British thriller writers really being shut out? That's not my experience at all. I've had unbelievable support from my publisher. I'm guessing Matt would say the same.

I'll certainly give your offer careful consideration, but you should think about joining ITW. It's a fantastic organisation and provides a tremendous support network for thriller writers, whatever their gender or nationality, or wherever their books are set.


Matt Lynn said...


Likewise, I've had great support from Headline. But we're all going to have to work hard to get readers to try our books. I'm already a member of the ITW, and I think it's doing a great job. Curzon is a much more local initiative. Anyway, drop me an e-mail via the website and we'll see if we can meet up.