by Jamie Freveletti
I just re-read Sara Paretsky’s post on bad sex in mysteries and am still laughing over it, so I thought to address the topic in thrillers. I don’t have sex in my novel, but one can always have an opinion, right?
Question 1: Am I the only one who reads a thriller and waits for the protagonist PI/FBI Agent/Crook/Amateur Sleuth/ Woman on the run from paramilitary guys that are trying to kill her (my novel) to meet up with the opposite sex? Doesn’t it add just that extra bit of interest?
Question 2: Can you think of a thriller where the protagonist doesn’t consider some extracurricular activity with the opposite sex? The rules here are simple: They don’t have to actually do the deed, they just have to think about doing it. I just ran a quick mental list and I can’t remember one without at least the hint of a possibility.
(Wait, here’s one: Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. But that’s a short story, so it doesn’t count. Likewise anything by Poe-clearly sex and opium don’t mix).
Question 3: If it’s a truth universally acknowledged that a protagonist in possession of a mystery must be in want of a hookup, then why do sex scenes in thrillers so often fall flat?
While I agree that it can be a bit absurd for the protagonist to take time out from a firefight to get it on with that good looking CIA agent (although there is the shark tank scene in “Beat the Reaper” to consider), I still think once the fight’s over it might be time for some witty repartee over a smoking gun, or even a celebratory "damn, we're still alive!" sex scene. Sadly, often these scenes just don't work. It might be because as thriller writers we immerse our characters in so much strife that to slow down for something like sex seems contrived.
Question 4: And how about the thrillers where the love scenes worked? More rules: it doesn’t count if the scene skips from the first kiss to the two of them lying in bed smoking cigarettes and discussing Proust.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts. And make no mistake, I’ll be adding the titles of “thrillers with scenes that work” to my reading list!