Gimmick Novels; why mysteries?

By gimmick novels I mean books where interspersed among the story you find something else, recipes for instance. I read a book recently where the protagonist is into home repair. All through the book she discusses home repair projects while the story unfolds.

Are most gimmick novels of the mystery genre? Seems like mysteries are the only books where I’ve seen the gimmick approach. Also, any other examples? And are gimmick books generally looked down on? Thanks!

David Bird’s Abbot series (sample book/review here) are a collection of stories in which the card game Bridge plays a central role; the stories are about life in a monastery, and character development is illustrated by the tendencies of the monks as they play a detailed hand or two. These are not mysteries, more like amusing character studies.

I don’t recommend these books unless you are a Bridge player, but is this the kind of thing you mean by a “gimmick novel”?

Exactly. Thanks for the example. I was perplexed about why the only ones I’d seen are mysteries, but I was wrong!

Why not mysteries?

That said, I’ve read some romances, I think by Shirley Jump which had recipes interspersed, and have probably seen others by other authors. I’ve also read at least one “contemporary realism” Young Adult novel which featured Knitting as a gimmick (“Chicks with Sticks” was the title, I believe).

Why mysteries? Mysteries make up a significant portion of the novels which are written, read, purchased, and circulated through libraries(not neccessarily in that order). Within the genre there are a number of sub-genres, the Cozy, the Noir, the Romantic Suspense*, etc. Why not a mystery or a series of mysteries, probably in the Cozy subgenre which includes recipes, crossword puzzles, or something else?

Mysteries also tend to be somewhat formulaic. Chapter One introduces our amateur sleuth, Chapter Two introduces the first dead body, Chapter Three introduces suspects, . . . . . Next to Last Chapter, our amateur sleuth’s life is in peril, as he or she has made a significant discovery, Last Chapter our amateur sleuth puts all the pieces together, so that the reader can look back and say “OK, that makes sense now”

*Yes, Romantic Suspense can also be defined as a subgenre of Romance. Drawing lines between categories is always a balancing act between the coventions of the genre and the expectations of the reader.

They do seem to be mostly mysteries; crossword puzzles, recipes, quilts, sometimes animals, that sort of thing. (Do quilts count as a gimmick? I think so.) But there is a whole series of novels centered around quilting as well–the Elm Creek Quilters series by Jennifer Chiaverini. There are probably 6 or 7 by now.

I used to have a bridge instruction book called “Sherlock Holmes: Bridge Detective.” Each chapter was about how Holmes invented some convention or other of bidding or play. Not a novel or an overall mystery story but a fun read for a bridge player.

As to the OP, “Moby Dick” has a lot of detailed information on whaling interspersed, but I don’t suppose that’s quite what you mean by a gimmick novel. Best I could come up with.

I don’t know about looked down upon. I enjoy at least one of the series of mystery/foodie books: The Diane Mott Davidson Goldilocks Catering books. But there, the recipes, themselves are actually collected in the back of the book - while the references to food are many through the story, they aren’t what I’d call a ‘speed bump’ because, well, the main character is a caterer, and the mysteries all involve things that happen to her through her business contacts.

As long as the story works as a story, the fact of a gimmick plot isn’t a problem to me. I may not be interested in a mystery about, say, macramae workers - but since I’ve read and enjoyed at least four mysteries focusing on cross-stitchers (another hobby I don’t do) I might, at that.

Of course I generally read SF and fantasy, so… that may affect how much gimmicky stuff I will tolerate.

In Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg! comic (definitely in the science fiction genre), he put in his recipe for Chicken Carbonera at one point (Flagg served it, and the recipe was in the material at the back).

That is awesome! I’m a big Flagg! fan, and I’ve actually met Chaykin and spent some time chatting with him. We actually complained about the impossibility of getting a good New York deli-style restaurant in Orlando, among other things. I only have the three oversized American Flagg! trade paperbacks from First Comics (one of them is a hardcover, actually) – all autographed, of course – but none of the single issues that followed.

I just read Catalyst by Laurie Halse Andersen, and was struck by its resemblence to a Gimmick Novel. Do Gimmick Novels need more than Chapter headings and sub-headings on a non-literary theme to be gimmick novels?

If so, Catalyst doesn’t count. But all the chapter headings and sub-headings are Chemistry related. And it certainly isn’t a mystery–it’s a *Young Adult *novel.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that there aren’t mysteries written for Young Adults, even if I can’t think of any off-hand. It’s just that when I speak of a Young Adult novel like that, it has certain characteristics.

This one happens to be Contemporary Realism. So it’s set in a high school in the present, and most of the main characters are teens. The adult characters are generally not very important. But the thing that makes it most Young Adult-y is the feeling one has that something bad and horribly dramatic is going to happen.

OK, so one gets that feeling in part from the blurb on the back cover. But it’s a common enough pattern in certain varieties of Young Adult novels that I think I’d have picked up on it anyway.

Catalyst is the story of Kate Malone, high school senior, who is waiting for her acceptance letter from MIT, the only college where she applied. Kate’s neighbors’ have a house fire, causing her nemesis from high school to move in with her. “Kate feels that her life is spinning out of control --and then something occurs that truly blows it all apart”(from the blurb on the back cover).

If you’ve heard of Speak–this is set in the same community.

IIRC, the chapter titles of John Varley’s Millennium – a time travel novel – were all titles of other time travel novels and short stories.

I’d have to say yes. There must be 10,000 regular novels that have done a variation of this.

Like Water for Chocolate wasn’t a mystery, it was a love story. With recipes.

I keep meaning to try the recipe for matches.