No, not the little things you add to a salad or have with anchovies.

I thought I would give some thoughts on what a Caper is. Some of my friends have convinced me my books would more properly be categorized as capers, so, what does that mean?

I’ll start with some examples (like a picture for the mind; worth a thousand words)

Mission Impossible (the TV series, not the movies) is built around the caper.

Leverage (the TV series) is based on a series of capers.

Burn Notice (again, a TV series) is based on the team doing capers.

Older versions of the the theme include (TV Shows like) Switch, It Takes a Thief (though, arguably, the movie is as well), The Thomas Crown Affair (though you might be able to debate either movie).

I note that many (most, but not quite all) of the things I reference are television shows. I guess that shows how my mind works, and what kinds of things have influenced me. Maybe it also shows that books more rarely delve into this genre.

Movies do though. The Thomas Crown Affair is not a solo here. I would include Ocean’s Eleven (and the subsequent movies) in this genre.

Now, definitionally, I would say a caper shares elements with a mystery or a thriller. For example, Where Eagles Dare, Force 10 from Navarone, and maybe Ice Station Zebra (all books by Alistair Maclean) would nominally be classed as thrillers. However, if they all shared the same characters doing the tasks listed, they might be classed capers.

The central thing to a caper story is some plot element where the group of heroes (and I think it is necessary for it to be a group) take on some odd task to deal with a bad guy (or agency, or corporation, or whatever) in some interesting and clever way in which the “mystery” part has to do with the way the lion will be bearded in its den rather than not knowing who the bad guy (or whatever) is.

The Odd Jobs Mysteries are somewhat like Mission Impossible, but with less meaningful glances.

They are a bit like Leverage, but less zany.

They are something like Burn Notice, but with less guns and bombs.

So, there it is. Capers.


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