Thursday, April 12, 2012
A thin line between Crime and Horror Fiction
by Richard Godwin
I was invited to share my thoughts with you about the line between crime and horror fiction. Many purists argue that they are two distinct forms. I disagree. My own writing has often been described as a blend of crime and horror fiction, and I want to look at what the connections are.
What do we mean when we talk about horror? What is it that horrifies us?
The genre evokes a painful or intense fear, dread or dismay. Douglas Winter said it is an emotion. It is also connected to the irrational.
As a writer I believe people are often motivated by irrational urges they seek to understand. Some of those urges may be criminal. Extreme criminality involves psychopathology.
I explore these areas in my novels. Mr. Glamour, my second novel, published in paperback this week by Black Jackal Books, is about a wealthy and beautiful group of people targeted by a killer who is watching everyone. These people have irrational habits that threaten their security. And they can buy anything, except safety as the killer strikes.
Horror undermines our certainties, inasmuch as crime threatens our securities. There is recognition and alienation wrapped up inside horror. Extreme crime evokes a horror that is more real than something a reader knows does not exist. More horrors exist in the history of the atrocities committed by the Nazis than in any novel.
I believe Thomas Harris is another author who mixes the genres to great effect.
Stephen King observed that in horror there is a tension between the Apollonian and Dionysian. This stems from Nietzsche’s “The Birth Of Tragedy”, where he examined art in terms of a dialectic between Apollo, seen as light and structured, and Dionysus, seen as dark and chthonic.
In crime fiction, on a simplistic level, we have the struggle between crime and law. The narrative thrust is towards restoring order. To that extent the genre is conservative. And arguably in its resolutions it is unrealistic.
My novel Apostle Rising is about a serial killer crucifying politicians. The narrative takes you deep you into the killer’s mind and the final revelation about his identity is a shock. It is a shock because it subverts identity. It leaves you questioning. It changes the lives of the people who came into contact with the killer’s acts, especially the police, and it leaves them altered.
Obsessions drive men and women to dark places, places where horror breeds.
Mr. Glamour is a crime novel with elements of horror in it. The killer has unusual powers. He steps inside the minds of the investigators. He changes their lives and they engage in acts that may be deemed questionable for police officers. They lead double lives and it is in their double lives that they find something they lost, some aspect of their beings their notions of identity precluded.
I hope it conveys what it is intended to, a great story, and one which shows that people may not know themselves as well as they believe they do.
My debut novel Apostle Rising did well last year, got great reviews, and sold foreign rights in Europe. I hope Mr. Glamour does as well. It’s about a glamorous world of designer goods, beautiful women and wealthy men and a killer who is watching everyone. It was released last week by Black Jackal Books and is already picking up great reviews.
You can find out more about me here .