What is a Corporate Thriller?

I've described my fictional work as Corporate Thrillers, but that's hardly a standard sub-genre.  When I mention the term, I usually get a blank stare.  When I google the term, I don't come up with much useful, either.

So what is a Corporate Thriller?  Here's my definition.

A Corporate Thriller, is at its most basic level, a thriller with the corporate environment as it's backdrop.

Thrillers tend to favor action over a more cerebral exploration of the novel's theme.  The storyline tends to move from one sequence of actions to another, without huge breaks that delve into relationships, inner thoughts, or a search for deeper meaning.  In my view, a thriller tend to be a bit superficial, but even in the most action-oriented thrillers, there are some nuggets of truth to be found about the human condition.  Thrillers can involve elements of mystery as well -- my stories wouldn't be as fun to read without a little misdirection and a few surprise plot twists.  While an element of mystery isn't a requirement in a thriller, most of my novels include it.

A Corporate Thriller, almost by definition, involves a corporation.  Many people work in Corporations, and corporate environs are the home of many strange, interesting, and even stereotypical behaviors.  Classical thrillers often involve paranormal events, spies, governments, or the like.  Corporate Thrillers utilize the environment of large corporations as their setting, and usually some aspect of corporate life is an integral part of the story itself.  To write a realistic Corporate Thriller requires an intimate understanding of how corporations work, how leaders function, and how things get done (or don't).  Having read a significant number of novels that pose as Corporate Thrillers, it is quickly obvious to me when the author doesn't have the research or experience to make the corporate environment feel "real" to an insider.

My Corporate Thrillers go beyond just this category definition in a few ways.  

  1. I've already mentioned the mystery element I try to include in each novel, along with it's associated mis-direction and surprise twists.  
  2. The second element that makes my Corporate Thrillers a bit different, is there are no "evil" Corporations in them.  Evil individuals?  For sure.  Evil corporations don't exist in my experience.  When a corporation gets into trouble, it's invariably because of the actions of people employed there, not because the entity itself is somehow evil.
  3. I strive to make the corporations (fictional, of course) in my novels realistic and believable.  I can rely on thirty years of experience in Corporate America, including positions very close to the top, to make sure they feel real.
  4. I don't buy into the evil CEO thing -- at least not in the conventional sense.  In my experience, no CEO knows what they are doing is wrong, but goes ahead and does it anyway.  In my novels, the CEOs (or other key business leaders) -- if they are even involved in the crime about which the story revolves -- rationalize what they are doing as "right for the shareholders", even though it might also be self-serving.  CEOs in my novels are much more likely to cover up a problem, than to be engaged in causing it.
  5. I don't believe in rainbow-unicorn-pretty pony party endings.  In the real world, innocents get hurt and the bad guys sometimes get away with their schemes.  If you're expecting the guy to always get the girl, and the bad guys to always die or go to jail, you're likely to be disappointed with my novels.
  6. There's always an underlying theme to the novels which should strike a cord with those who have served long sentences in Corporations, for example:
    • Leverage -- those in leadership positions can easily convince themselves they are doing the right thing, even as they're happily strolling down the slippery slope.
    • Incentivize -- even when things look hopeless, there are kind souls in the world who will extend aid.  Among conspirators, however, there can be no trust.
    • Deliverables -- money isn't the only thing which motivates corporate battles, so does pride and a need for control.
    • Heir Apparent -- an enviroment of ambiguity and uncertainty can create unintended motives and consequences.
    • Empowered -- given the right incentives and penalties, even a good person can be turned to the dark side.
    • Pursuing Other Opportunities -- a secret shared by more than one person is no longer a secret.  Everyne's perceptions shape their interpretation of the reality around them.

Hopefully, this helps to define the sub-category, and give readers a better idea of what they might find when reading my work.