I began my love affair with books—the-holding-on-to-them-in-my-heart-and-soul-long-after-I-read-them kind of affair—in childhood. I clung to certain genres—horror (Stephen King), crime and police procedurals (Joseph Wambaugh), and romance (Sidney Sheldon, Barbara Taylor Bradford, and Judith Kranz). When I wanted one, I went there; when I wanted the other, I went over there. I’m hard pressed to recall even a smooch between characters in any King or Wambaugh novel, and I guess with the exception of The Other Side of Midnight, by Sidney Sheldon, there wasn’t a crime in the forefront of any of the romance novels I enjoyed. So, when I set out to write Testarossa, I vowed to change that.
Admittedly, I came to the writing game late in life. Combining genres has certainly been done prior to my arrival on the scene, but being a particular fan of the crime fiction genre, I didn’t see a strong show of romance in anything I read, and if I did, it was in the form of the revolving door into Stone Barrington’s bedroom in the Stuart Woods novels, or the frustrating relationship Jesse Stone had with his ex-wife in the Robert Parker series. Because I believe cops fall in love, and are capable of staying in love, despite the grisly careers they’ve chosen, I decided to include a very strong romance in my otherwise crimey crime novel, Testarossa.
When all was said and done, and my agent and my editor liked the book well enough, they both said, OK, now what? What are you? They both came up with romance-suspense. Well, OK, so…I’m next to Jude Deveraux at Borders? Uh, have you two read chapter 12, the one with the decaying body and the Hefty bag reference? Don’t knock it, they both said. Romance –suspense is all the rage now. I was nervous. I saw myself as a crime fiction writer, in the vein of Robert Crais, and my hero, Joe Wambaugh. I wanted to at least be on the same side of the bookstore as those two. Alas, I’m not in any bookstore, but that’s not my point. My point is, I think certain genres work well together, and as readers, we benefit most of all.
While these two genres are not my cup of tea, I know for a fact that science fiction and fantasy are the latest combo to hit it big. Another combo, and this has become my all-time favorite, is literary crime fiction. Read just the first few pages of chapter one of R.J. Ellory’s A Quiet Belief in Angels, and you sense something special is taking place. No longer are we burdened with a teller of stories; this man is a storyteller, and he hooks you from the get-go with alluring words and smart sentence structure. Ellory is an incredibly gifted writer. Again, we, the reader, benefit. I am currently reading the debut novel The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly, and will be reviewing it soon for Suspense Magazine. Another superb writer, another engaging crime story, and I am immersed.
I wrote Testarossa as a crime novel first. Then up popped that pesky romance—and it’s a big one. I devote a good third of the book to the relationship between John Testarossa and Karen Gennaro. They fight, they make love, they talk, they banter, they play, they cry, they laugh, they eat—oh, boy, do they eat—and to me, their relationship is real and it’s complicated and it’s sexy and it’s hot. And then there’s the crime, or crimes, that John and his partners have to contend with, cases they have to solve. I think it works, as do those who have read and reviewed the book. Testarossa is getting attention, both as a book of crime fiction, and as a romance.
As readers, and as writers, we have options, and I like them. Want a little fantasy with your sci-fi? Here. Want a little love with your crime? Here ya go. A little literary with your murder and mayhem? We got ya covered. I like this.
I guess maybe, if I were in Barnes and Noble, they’d have to create a new shelf for writers like me – Crime/Romance. Oh! Or, better yet, stick Testarossa in both crime and romance. Now, there’s an idea.