I'm not even going to touch the definition of thrillers, but expand it to all crime fiction.
I really can't stand D H Lawrence. And I still have nightmares about being made to read a book at university in which nothing happened except every 8 pages or so a caterpillar crawled up a wall (Alain Robbe Grillet's LA JALOUSIE (a book which was trumpeted by my lecturer as "a masterpiece")). By the fifth appearance of the caterpillar I wanted to bash its little head in with the most convenient Nancy Drew book in my collection. All that bloody navel gazing. If I want to gaze at anyone's navel I have one of my own. OK, it's not pretty, but it's mine damn it, and it's an honest navel. I don't need to spend £10 on a book just to be bored by someone else's lumpy navel. But that doesn't mean I'm saying it's a bad book - it's just not a book I liked.
Give me a book that engages my mind, my emotions, takes me into another world, makes me laugh and makes me cry, written by someone who wants to tell a good story, with engaging characters and excellent writing. You get books like that in every genre (including the 'literary fiction' Hensher seems to prefer), I just happen to prefer crime fiction.
And I dislike the whole idea of crime fiction (or any genre fiction, in fact) being seen as the neddish little brother of literary fiction. It seems that unless books are picked up by the establishment and lauded as 'literary' then they are unworthy.
Don't we all get different things from a work of art (in the general sense to include literature)? And isn't what we get from that work of art dependent on our emotions, our background, our experiences? So surely the understanding and the meaning is going to be slightly different for all of us? My understanding of Jane Austen is going to be different from my grandmother's understanding of Jane Austen. Yet the favourite book of both my grandma and I was Pride and Prejudice, and we used to have some great discussions about it.
And who's to say what Jane Austen's intention was when she wrote it? OK, she wrote about it in some letters, but who's to say she was telling the truth? :o) And if I want to think that William Blake's Tiger, Tiger is just a lovely poem about a tiger, then who's to say I'm wrong and poor old William doesn't whirl in his grave every time someone comments on the religious symbolism and significance. "Damn it, I saw a tiger at London zoo and was really impressed, you pretentious dickheads", he might be saying.
I agree with Raymond Chandler: "I think that certain writers are under a compulsion to write in recherche phrases as a compensation for a lack of some kind of natural animal emotion. They feel nothing, they are literary eunuchs, and therefore they fall back on an oblique terminology to prove their distinction."
I like difficult books. I like simple books. I like books full stop. I just don't like being told that that difficult book has more merit than the simple book I've just read - the simple book that made me laugh and made me cry, and left a little bit of itself in my brain and in my heart. I don't think that JUST because a book is difficult it's better than a simple book. Sometimes a tiger is just a bloody tiger.
Bringing this waffling back to crime fiction, one of the main attractions of crime fiction is the excellent characterization that these books usually have. Crime fiction takes an ordinary character at an extraordinary time in their lives and shows how they react and cope in the dark place into which they are taken. Or, in the case of police procedurals and PI novels, how they deal with death and devastation on a regular basis. They have a far wider and deeper approach to characterization than a lot of more mainstream novels and say a lot about humanity and society. It's the whole order from chaos thing, and sometimes it's just continuing chaos - and that's all good. Sometimes order is achieved, sometimes it isn't. I don't always like it when the ends are tied up all nice and neatly, I like ends to be left loose. But I like there to be ends.
I guess what I'm trying to say (very badly) is that I read crime fiction because there's such a wide variety of stories about 'people'. There are points and plots and problems - great characters and strong stories.
The crime fiction genre is huge and varied and wonderful. There are a lot of books out there that I find dull and bland or at the other end of the spectrum so gory that I need to wash the blood off my hands after I've read them. I don't enjoy books where crocheting cats with a degree in astrology solve the murder, but I have friends who do. I don't like books which make me feel I could carry out an autopsy if pushed, but I have friends who do (I'm not sure which of those groups of people scare me more!). There is something for everyone. Although I prefer my crime fiction either dark, twisted, noir and warped, or full of black humour, it doesn't mean to say I don't read anything else.
And nobody should be made to feel that anything they choose to read is unworthy. If you read something and love it, then I want to hear about it. Even if the book is not to my taste, I love hearing people's enthusiasm for the books they love.
Oh, shut up, Donna.