Genre Bending: It's All a Mystery to Me

This post is part of the Rolling Mystery Blog Tour. My blog was second on this list for this roll, which started with John Hines. All of the participants of today’s roll are listed at the bottom of this article, and all have written articles on the subject of Genre Bending and Blending. Please take time today, or this week, to visit all the blogs on the list. 
           When the Rolling Mystery Blog Tour suggested we address “genre” bending, my somewhat dyslexic brain interpreted the e-mail as “gender” bending. I thought it an odd topic for mystery writers, so I reread the message. Once my eyes and brain connected, I was grateful not have to discourse on sexual persuasions.
            I’ve been working on a mystery-writing presentation for a local library. Twenty-five years of teaching have taught me never to assume my audience knows much about any topic. So my first PowerPoint slide attempts to describe the mystery novel. To do so necessitates defining its myriad subgenres. But most mysteries cannot be pigeon-holed. The definition is a matter of perspective.
            A mystery can be defined by, among many other things, its protagonist (professional, amateur, a paranormal entity), the setting (current, past, a parallel universe), or especially, mood (humorous, thrilling, or official). So when you pitch your books or write synopses, take stock of all the subgenres into which they fit. Readers who prefer certain mystery subgenres look for those categories on bookstores shelves. But, to tell the truth, be they hard-boiled, soft-boiled, romance, noir, thriller, paranormal, historical, police procedural, medical-legal, humorous, or cozy; they’re all mysteries to me.   
            Mystery Writers’ of America says a mystery is any story where crime is the central element. That crime is usually a murder. But when a mystery writer has me doubled over with laughter, (Janet Evanovich or Elizabeth Peters,) provides me with an intriguing history lesson (Laura R. King or Jacqueline Winspear), or educates me on the world of horse racing or Victorian London (Dick and Felix Francis and Anne Perry), I don’t care what subgenre the book falls into. When you really think about it and remove the murder element, aren’t most novels good mysteries?  
            If a dead body drops from the sky, is uncovered from a shallow grave, or found resting in a bathtub in a pool of his own blood, like Ellison James in my first Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Arlington (forgive the plug), and a noisy person, call her a PI, amateur sleuth, or coroner, discovers “who done it,” that works for me. So, bend the genre and give your mystery as many tag lines as you want, because it all about the story.
John Hines
Kathleen Kaska
Ryder Islington
Mollie Bryan