Many of the conversations online that concern “genre fiction” generally mean sci/fi, fantasy and horror. This stuff is distinguished from “mainstream” genres like contemporary dramas and comedies, and period pieces that are…well, dramas and comedies. it also doesn't include big genres like romance and psychological thrillers.
The genre that falls somewhere in the middle of “mainstream” and “genre” fiction, and is a massive category of fiction is what I'd call the Crime genre.
This stuff is about the Law vs. the Unlawful. Cops and crooks, or lawyers and the justice system.
Subcategories would involve Heist movies where the roguish lawbreakers are the heroes, and courtroom dramas and “case of the week” series like the Law & Order franchise.
This genre would include the Elmore Lenard books about shifty ex-cons, hitmen, cops and detectives, as well as The Ocean's 11 movies, and dramas like Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
Where fantasy trades in magic and non-magic, sci/fi in conflicts or environments based on extraordinary technology and horror is about the monstrous vs the normal and being scary, the crime genre is the Legal and the Illegal.
And “Legal vs. Illegal” is not always the same as “Right vs. Wrong”.
While any genre can be used to examine the human condition, I think the Crime Genre is uniquely suited to it. One of the ongoing themes/undercurrents in Better Call Saul is that idea of Right and Wrong, and Legal and Illegal, and the shades of grey that can exist between all of those poles.
I don't think some of my favorites like “The Firm” and “The Fugitive” are crime stories. Though they are amazing, the ‘crime’ aspects of those stories are more background color than central to the stories. I'd call them both thrillers.
By the way, that those two come so strongly to mind are a testament to how great they are, but also to how old I'm getting. Sheesh! These references will need a refresh at some point!
I also would call Mystery a separate genre, even though there are good guy and bad guys and a crime committed in those stories. The thrust of those stories would be the mystery as opposed to the crime-based conflict we're talking about. It's about what kinds of conflicts are in a given story.
Of course, there are combined genres out there that help keep everything interesting.
What's your favorite Crime story? Ever written one?
Resting my case,
Banes at 12:00AM, Dec. 17, 2020
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