What do Westerns and Crime novels have in Common?

Why do you like the genre that you do? (For those of you who don’t know, a genre is basically a category into which people like publishers and movie producers place a story, based on similarities in form, style, or subject matter to stories that have come before). But I think what’s truly at the core of genre are characters and the problems or conflicts they get into, and how they get out of those problems. 

For instance, traditional romance features a male and a female whose conflict or story problems drive them and keep them apart. They must overcome those problems in order to be with one another. 

A Big Hurdle

One of the biggest hurdles for me in my publishing career has been deciding which genre my books belong to. That may sound silly, but if you take my latest, The Things We Keep, it has elements of romance, mystery, and domestic crime fiction all rolled into one. Other books of mine, however, have been a little easier. Namely, Fortune’s Flame, which is distinctly western.

Except when it’s not.

It’s about a woman who seeks revenge on the man who killed her family. And while it’s set in 1865, Clara Dorsey isn’t your typical western heroine. She’s a strong woman with a lot of agency, which isn’t something many women had in those days, especially in frontier towns. There’s no romance in it, and Clara isn’t exactly the most angelic person in the world. So while it’s western, what other genre does it fit into exactly? Well, it sorta fits the crime genre, doesn’t it? 

Hear me out. 

Fortune’s Flame

  1. There’s a crime. Clara’s father and sister are murdered. 
  2. Clara, an individualist loner, seeks something (revenge). 
  3. She becomes embroiled with the villain (a truly dastardly guy) and does things some people would consider…less than noble. 
  4. There’s a shootout in the end. 

Now, let’s run that through the filter of a crime novel: 

  1. There’s a crime
  2. An individualistic loner (detective, usually) seeks something (to solve the crime, retrieve the lost object, find the missing person).
  3. There’s a dastardly guy behind it all, and the loner does things not totally on the up-and-up.
  4. There’s a shootout/knife fight in the end. 

What d’ya know! Both the crime novel and the western are practically family! The only difference being, of course, the setting. Son of a bitch, you learn something new every day, don’t you?

 If you want to know more about Clara and her less-than-noble deeds, you can check it out here.

And a big thank you to John Reich for helping me better understand this connection. 

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