The market is driven by supply and demand, whether the goods provided are housing and food or books. In the case of books, the veritable food for our literary souls, the publishing houses, until recently, gate-kept which authors were given the opportunity to breach the gap between books written and books read. The readers who originally set the tone of what was popular, often were fed what the publisher thought readers wanted, until a new author appeared on the scene who broke the mold and cleared the way for a new style of writing.
Two examples come to mind: Stephen King and Truman Capote. Stephen King presented publishers with an out of the box style of writing that was not initially accepted by publishers as they rejected King’s submissions repeatedly with the notion that nobody would read that ‘stuff’. King had written three novels that would go on to become bestsellers by the time he finally was accepted by one worn-down publisher, intent on getting King out of his hair. The rest is well known history, King was not only well received when his first book, Carrie was published in 1973, but went on to become one of the most successful authors of all time, with books selling in the hundreds of millions of copies.
Truman Capote, was another author who dared to think and write ‘outside the box’ when he produced In Cold Blood in installments posted in The New Yorker in 1965, detailing the 1959 murders of the Kansas family by the name of Clutter. The horrific crime took place in one of the most peaceful communities of the Holcomb Kansas area and was committed by two disturbed prisoners newly released from a Kansas prison. Capote meticulously researched each individual involved in this horrific plot, in order to not only tell a story but to reveal the characters as complex psychological beings who were molded by individual experience, personality and by societal influences.
It is particularly interesting as to how Capote broke out of the box with his writing by straying from the overused and common form of journalistic writing to use an innovative flowing narrative style that allowed In Cold Blood to be read like a fiction novel; in effect, Capote claimed to have created a new genre ‘the nonfiction novel’.
It is this insight rich, detail oriented style of writing that made Capote world famous with the publication of the ‘first’ true crime book that read like a novel instead of a prolonged news article. Capote developed the characters of the Clutter family, enabling the reader to both understand them and feel deep empathy and compassion for the hardworking, upstanding family; while also creating a humanistic perception of the murderer Perry, the victim of the worst of societal evils, childhood abuse and abandonment. The conflict of good versus evil and man against man as well as himself if powerfully orchestrated into the story.
The reader is made to both understand how psychopaths are created by an unfair system and how society is ultimately faced with the monsters in the end. The societal conflict is reminiscent of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and how the monster turned on its masters in the end. The problem with this story is the reader realizes from the beginning that the ‘story’ is not a story at all, but an actual historical happening skillfully recreated by the author, a fact that makes In Cold Blood all the more thought provoking.
The bottom line, is the play it safe approach that publishers have relied upon for decades is giving way to the modernistic writing styles of authors such as Stephenie Meyer with the Twilight series and Amanda Hockings paranormal romance novels; each a deviation from the average traditional plot.