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Historical Fiction Discussions > Do you consider historical-based mysteries historical fiction?

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message 1: by James (new)

James Jr. (jimrada) | 17 comments I was curious if any of you consider historical-based mysteries like those by James Rollins and Steve Berry to be historical fiction. I just finished "The Devil Colony" by James Rollins and learned a lot of interesting historical facts, which is one thing I like about historical fiction. So what are your thoughts?


message 2: by Terri (new)

Terri (terrilovescrows) | 25 comments Yes. I just hope they do their research - same as in other historical genres


message 3: by Zoe (new)

Zoe Saadia (zoesaadia) I think yes, as long as the setting is authentic enough, backed by a through research, like any other historical fiction. Many hist-fic classics are centered around fictional characters rubbing their shoulders with historical ones. So any mystery developed in such way would be historical fiction in my opinion.


message 4: by James (new)

James Jr. (jimrada) | 17 comments True, but I'm talking more about a modern story that uses different aspects of history for its mystery. Think, "National Treasure" type stories. "The Devil Colony" used a lot of history about the Lewis & Clark expedition, Mormonism, Native American lore and the founding of America woven together to create the mystery of the story that Rollins' modern characters sought to unravel.


message 5: by Cheryl A (new)

Cheryl A | 940 comments I don't consider Berry & Rollins to be a historical mystery or historical fiction. In the books that I've read by these authors, the action takes place in the present, with a historical bend to the plot (Templars, Library of Alexandria, Oracle of Delphi). For want of a better term, I call these "mythological suspense". All the ones I've read are enjoyable, with lots of information about the historical aspect, but not truly historical fiction.


message 6: by Eileen (new)

Eileen Iciek | 467 comments Cheryl A wrote: "I don't consider Berry & Rollins to be a historical mystery or historical fiction. In the books that I've read by these authors, the action takes place in the present, with a historical bend to th..."

I agree. Steve Barry's books are in the thriller/mystery category, although they do have a heavy overlay of history in them.


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 2962 comments I would say it depends. If you have a mystery in a historical time period or you flip back to modern day and historical time, yes.


message 8: by Garrett (last edited May 01, 2014 05:23PM) (new)

Garrett Smith (garrettsmith) I find this thread's question very interesting.

I very much enjoy reading fiction that teaches me something. I think that is why I loved Michener so much. But even lighter treatments can be great fun.

I don't think a book has to be purely a treatment of a historical event, to be historical fiction. If it is set, in whole or part, in the past, and teaches us something about that time period or historical moments of that time, then to me it is HF.


message 9: by Zoe (new)

Zoe Saadia (zoesaadia) James wrote: "True, but I'm talking more about a modern story that uses different aspects of history for its mystery. Think, "National Treasure" type stories. "The Devil Colony" used a lot of history about the L..."

no, personally I wouldn't consider that historical fiction. But this is just my personal opinion :-)


message 10: by B. (new)

B. Wilson (bjameswilson) | 9 comments I do. One of my favorite series of such fiction was, "The Anasazi Mysteries", by Michael and Kathleen Gear. Check it out yourself.


message 11: by Rhoda (new)

Rhoda D'Ettore (RhodaDEttore) | 8 comments From what I have read, historical fiction needs to take place in the 1960s and prior. There are some publisher that I have seen that place the time frame even before that. Therefore, any adventure that is taking place is present day, that just discusses the past.

Part of the problem with these genres (don't get me wrong, I LOVE history, it was my major at one point), is that lazy people take historical fiction to be history. So if Mormon John Smith meets with George Washington in a book, then some readers believe it. I know a few like this! lol


message 12: by Maggie (last edited May 03, 2014 12:24AM) (new)

Maggie Anton | 219 comments When it comes to historical fiction mysteries, the Brother Cadfael series set in Medieval England:comes to mind. I enjoyed them all and learned a great deal about 12th-century English politics. I think Ellis Peters wrote over 20 of them.


message 13: by Garrett (new)

Garrett Smith (garrettsmith) Maggie wrote: "When it comes to historical fiction mysteries, the Brother Cadfael series set in Medieval England:comes to mind. I enjoyed them all and learned a great deal about 12th-century English politics. I t..."

I loved this series. I had forgotten about it. Thank you for reminding me.

Cynthia


message 14: by Julia (new)

Julia (julia103) | 126 comments I think of Sharon Kay Penman's Justin de Quincy series. The first one is The Queen's Man. (The queen of the title is Eleanor of Aquitaine.)


message 15: by Jane (last edited May 05, 2014 08:11AM) (new)

Jane Carver (janecc) | 12 comments I just began the 4th book in the mystery series I'm reading The Damascened Blade and on the front cover it says that the book won the Historical Mystery award for Barbara Cleverly. I didn't know there was such an award, but:

The winner of the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award is announced at Left Coast Crime, an annual event sponsored by fans of mystery literature for fans of mystery literature. The award honors the best historical (events prior to 1950) mystery published during the previous year.

So obviously Left Coast Crime thinks some mystery books deserve to be called Historical Fiction.


message 16: by Laura (new)

Laura | 38 comments Garrett wrote: "I find this thread's question very interesting.

I very much enjoy reading fiction that teaches me something. I think that is why I loved Michener so much. But even lighter treatments can be grea..."


Agreed. While maybe not qualifying as "historical fiction", if a mystery is set in the present day and discusses an historical event/person, etc., I enjoy reading them.


message 17: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited May 05, 2014 10:23AM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 407 comments I consider historical mystery to be historical fiction, yes. One of my favorite historical fiction series is historical mystery: the Shardlakes, which are set in Tudor England.


message 18: by Michele (new)

Michele Well, if you only mean stuff like James Rollins or Dan Brown - books set in present day about an ancient mystery - then I wouldn't call that HF. Even if the author sticks in a bunch of historical factoids, you don't actually get to have scenes set in the past, or viewpoints of historical characters. I think HF should have at least 50% of the scenes take place in the past.


message 19: by Jane (last edited May 08, 2014 11:53AM) (new)

Jane Carver (janecc) | 12 comments I have to add on to my (message 15) post. While Barbara Cleverly did win a Historical Mystery award for the The Damascened Blade in 2004 from Left Coast Crime, the publisher of the book copy I am currently reading was referring to a different award. That award came from the Crime Writers Association (UK), which is known for its Dagger awards that are awarded each year. When Barbara Cleverly received hers in 2004 it was called the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger. I believe it is now called the CWA Historical Dagger Award. I just wanted to correct my error.


message 20: by Robin (new)

Robin (ukamerican) | 548 comments If it's entirely set in a historical time period, it's historical fiction. If it's half set in a historical time period, half in modern times, it depends how well depicted the historical setting is - is it just there to move the plot forward? I would not consider it HF. If the historical setting really comes to life then yes, I'd class it as HF. If it's entirely set in modern times but the subject matter is about history, I do not consider it HF. I tend to call these "archeological mysteries".


message 21: by Darcy (new)

Darcy (drokka) | 100 comments Similar to Robin, but I call them Relic Hunter mysteries.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

The James Rollins books I have read I would consider thrillers. I just finished reading Dissolution and that is an example of historical mystery because it takes place in the past, Tudor England during historical settings.


message 23: by Nora (new)

Nora (noramarie) | 64 comments Terri wrote: "Yes. I just hope they do their research - same as in other historical genres"

I agree.


message 24: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jenniferleecarrell) I like the 'Relic Hunter' label for Berry & Rollins, if one must label. I imagine - at least I hope - a lot of historical fiction fans enjoy the best of this sort of book as a twist on history. (They're fun to write: I've done it!) In general, I care a lot more about a story being gripping and believable within the act of reading it, than I care about any label. Diana Gabaldon & Sharon Kay Penman write brilliant historical mysteries, though. When either of them finds the time to do it, I don't know.


message 25: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jenniferleecarrell) P. s. I've always called those books Treasure Hunt Thrillers.


message 26: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Prescott (victoria_prescott) I think crime fiction wholly set in the past, such as Cadfael, Falco and Shardlake, is definitely historical fiction, within the sub genre historical crime or historical mystery.

I've been thinking about this myself, because I've been trying to come up with a way to describe the type of mystery that is set in the present but which concerns something that happened in the past and has a some scenes set in the past. Historical mystery isn't accurate but it seems to me this is a specific sub-genre which ought to have a name! Archaeological mystery or treasure hunt isn't accurate if there is no treasure or artefact involved.


message 27: by Robin (new)

Robin (ukamerican) | 548 comments Victoria wrote: "I think crime fiction wholly set in the past, such as Cadfael, Falco and Shardlake, is definitely historical fiction, within the sub genre historical crime or historical mystery.

I've been thinki..."


Well, for my personal shelves, I would still put it under archaeological mystery. I'm not saying it should be marketed that way but as a reader, the concept is still the same to me, the characters are just seeking knowledge rather than a physical item so I just lump them into the same category regardless of what I name it.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Treasure hunt thrillers and archaeological mystery. I like both titles they are enjoyable.


message 29: by J.U. (new)

J.U. Scribe (juscribe) | 5 comments It can work as long as you have the right balance of historical elements with the mystery. There are many mysteries or unknowns throughout history so I think the two genres coexist quite nicely.


message 30: by Ian (new)

Ian Carr | 6 comments Absolutely! Unless they are changing significant and/or major historical facts - such as the winner of WWII - in which case they move towards fantasy and other similar genres.


message 31: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Anton | 219 comments I agree completely. I love the Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters, but there are many others I could recommend as well.


message 32: by C.P. (new)

C.P. Lesley (cplesley) | 717 comments Amelia Peabody! Matthew Shardlake! Mary Russell!

Even something like Tefuga by Peter Dickinson relies on a relatively remote past.

So I agree with Maggie: a big yes.


message 33: by Linda (new)

Linda Bridges (lindajoyb) | 754 comments And the Anne Perry books about Thomas and Charlotte Pitt.


message 34: by Millie (new)

Millie Thom (milliethom) | 7 comments I think historical crime novels should definitely be classed as historical fiction if they're set completely in the past. As many people have already said, historical crime writers will need to do as much research into the period as other historical fiction writers - and the facts about setting and so on will need to be just as accurate. I love a crime or mystery in a historical novel. It adds that extra dimension for me. I've enjoyed so many of them, by many different authors, but the Falco series has to be one of the best. And I love the Thomas Pitt and William Monk novels by Anne Perry.


message 35: by Michele (new)

Michele Um, the OP refers to modern day settings with something like an artifact of the past or an old legend as a focus.

While there is plenty of educational detail about the artifact/legend and the culture that produced it - usually explained by experts in the novel - these types are firmly modern day thrillers. Someone above called them relic hunter stories.

I love these, but I don't think of them as historical fiction.


message 36: by Robin (new)

Robin (ukamerican) | 548 comments Michele wrote: "Um, the OP refers to modern day settings with something like an artifact of the past or an old legend as a focus.

While there is plenty of educational detail about the artifact/legend and the cul..."


A lot of them are half set in a historical time period though - like I said, if the historical setting comes to life, I consider it historical fiction. If the historical parts are just there to move the modern day plot forward, I don't.


message 37: by Gary (new)

Gary Inbinder | 174 comments I definitely think historical crime novels are an important historical fiction sub-genre, and I agree they should be well-researched and evocative of a particular time and place. Of course, I'm somewhat prejudiced since my debut historical crime novel was released this month. ;)

The Devil in Montmartre A Mystery in Fin de Siecle Paris by Gary Inbinder


message 38: by Judith (new)

Judith Starkston | 75 comments Gary wrote: "I definitely think historical crime novels are an important historical fiction sub-genre, and I agree they should be well-researched and evocative of a particular time and place. Of course, I'm som..."

Have to agree with Gary that as long as the historical setting is accurate and integral to the novel, I'd put historical mysteries in HF. Interestingly they often enjoy a much wider readership than "straight" HF. A lot of readers love the mystery to pull them into a far away time. I know I do!


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 407 comments I read a lot of mystery, and probably a good half is historical mystery, maybe more.


message 40: by James (new)

James Jr. (jimrada) | 17 comments Rhoda wrote: "From what I have read, historical fiction needs to take place in the 1960s and prior. There are some publisher that I have seen that place the time frame even before that. Therefore, any adventure ..."


Rhoda, yes, you're right, but that can also be applied to many genres. How certain weapons work in mysteries, for instance. Your problem with historical fiction is my personal problem with alternative history. I can't enjoy it because I'm always having to check to see if a particular fact has been changed to alter history in the story. So what should be enjoyable reading tends to turn into a research project for me. I don't have that problem with historical fiction, though I also recognize it as fiction.


message 41: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret | 248 comments James wrote: "Rhoda wrote: "From what I have read, historical fiction needs to take place in the 1960s and prior. There are some publisher that I have seen that place the time frame even before that. Therefore, ..."

Since I love research, discovering that a novel is an opportunity for research is a huge plus point for me. I am a lifelong learner who always wants to learn new things through the books that I read.


message 42: by Judith (new)

Judith Starkston | 75 comments Shomeret wrote: "James wrote: "Rhoda wrote: "From what I have read, historical fiction needs to take place in the 1960s and prior. There are some publisher that I have seen that place the time frame even before tha..."

I have to say, as an author I try to make it clear via author note and my website etc that the history is accurate in my books exactly so the reader doesn't have to do required research to be sure I'm not filling heads with bad history. But I also think a lot of readers love delving further into a period and I also try to create some shortcuts to that process in my supporting materials. But as a writer of the Trojan War and the Hittites (both mystery and straight HF) I am pulling readers into a period most don't know much about, so I take my job extra seriously!


message 43: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Anton | 219 comments Back to the subject of historical mysteries, I've recently discovered two new series featuring clever female detectives, Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King that takes place in early 20th-century England, and Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood set in Roaring 20's Australia.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 407 comments Those are both a lot of fun.


message 45: by Eve (new)

Eve (ewkarlin) | 10 comments History is full of mysteries. Learning about them through an engaging novel often brings that era to life. As a writer having my first historical novel published this Tuesday, I can tell you that attention to fact was a primary concern.


message 46: by Gary (new)

Gary Inbinder | 174 comments Eve wrote: "History is full of mysteries. Learning about them through an engaging novel often brings that era to life. As a writer having my first historical novel published this Tuesday, I can tell you that a..."

Your new novel looks fascinating. Good luck with it!


message 47: by Eve (new)

Eve (ewkarlin) | 10 comments Thank you, Gary. That's awfully kind. Writing a historical novel was an amazing experience. Truth is stranger than fiction and using history as a starting point for one's imagination may be the best thing ever!


message 48: by Gary (new)

Gary Inbinder | 174 comments You're welcome, Eve. Your choice of an actual late 18th century New York murder case is certainly an intriguing basis for a novel.


message 49: by Eve (new)

Eve (ewkarlin) | 10 comments It's actually the first recorded murder trial in US history! The defense attorneys were Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr -- four years before the duel. History is full of so many fascinating chapters. Thanks for your interest, eve.


message 50: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Crampton (cramptonmargaret) | 7960 comments Eve I have ore ordered your book on Kindle. It sounds very interesting. Is it the same case described in The Manhattan Well by Stanley Cloud?


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