According to the Pew Research center, 26% of those who had read a book in the past 12 months said that what they enjoyed most was learning, gaining knowledge, and discovering information, while 12% said they liked the entertainment value of reading, the drama of good stories, the suspense of watching a good plot unfold. That was back in 2012 when the world was a simpler place to live. I suspect that 99% of people buying Jeanine Pirro’s book, “Liars, Leakers and Liberals,” are conservatives who want reinforcement on their conservative philosophy. Just as 99% of people who bought Michelle Obama’s book, “Becoming,” were political progressives. Unfortunately, people don’t buy books to discover another political point of view. They want comfort in knowing their point of view is the right one.
This brings me to people who read thrillers. I truly believe (without research to back me) that people read thrillers because they want to see justice prevail. This is true of conservatives and liberals alike. Everyone wants to see the hero overcome obstacles to save the day. Why? Because our lives have become so stressful and so unfair and so partisan that we can’t see justice ourselves. That bully at school or work is not going away and there seems to be no consequences anymore. That’s where fiction comes in to play. A good writer has the ability to get you invested in the protagonist and watch him or her face challenges, just like you. They face obstacles and bullies and sinister villains who antagonize them and cause pain. We can sympathize, even empathize with their challenges. But all the while we are convinced the protagonist will get his/her revenge. It may be as simple as overcoming these obstacles without ever causing harm to the villain, but more times than not, the bully gets theirs.
In today’s political climate, everyone has been affected by the barrage of media outlets inundating us about the White House and Washington’s behavior. The Trump supporter will relate their hero’s retribution as if the villain is a liberal. The resister will see this as an affront to the Trump presidency. Either way, thrillers allow us resolution where the real world will not.
The reason why movie theaters are stacked with superheroes is because we know who will win and yet we still show up to see how it happens. If you already know Ironman will succeed, why bother going? Yet we do, don’t we? It’s the same with books. Readers want the challenge. They want our protagonist to face an uphill battle because it makes the win so much more enjoyable, doesn’t it? It gives you a sense of justice prevailing. Something you rarely find on the cable news, or in newspapers or social media. It’s cathartic.
One of the reasons I’ve never given my Nick Bracco character a political persuasion is because I don’t want my readers to choose sides. We’re all on the same team. Right versus wrong. It should be as simple as that. Why reminder us of our differences when we could team up against the challenges we face together.
Bottom line, people read thrillers for entertainment and to escape the real world. Because right about now, that’s a really good place to be.