Airport novel
Airport novels represent a literary genre
Literary genre
A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even length. Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children's. They also must not be confused...

 that is not so much defined by its plot or cast of stock character
Stock character
A Stock character is a fictional character based on a common literary or social stereotype. Stock characters rely heavily on cultural types or names for their personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. In their most general form, stock characters are related to literary archetypes,...

s, as much as it is by the social function it serves. An airport novel is typically a fairly long but fast-paced novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 of intrigue or adventure that is stereotypically found in the reading fare offered by airport
An airport is a location where aircraft such as fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and blimps take off and land. Aircraft may be stored or maintained at an airport...

 newsstands for travellers to read in the rounds of sitting and waiting that constitute air travel
Air travel
Air travel is a form of travel in vehicles such as airplanes, helicopters, hot air balloons, blimps, gliders, hang gliding, parachuting or anything else that can sustain flight.-Domestic and international flights:...


Considering the marketing of fiction as a trade, airport novels occupy a niche similar to the one that once was occupied by pulp magazine
Pulp magazine
Pulp magazines , also collectively known as pulp fiction, refers to inexpensive fiction magazines published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, half an inch thick, and 128 pages long...

 fiction and other reading materials typically sold at newsstands and kiosk
Kiosk is a small, separated garden pavilion open on some or all sides. Kiosks were common in Persia, India, Pakistan, and in the Ottoman Empire from the 13th century onward...

s to travellers. This pulp fiction is one obvious source for the genre; sprawling historical novel
Historical novel
According to Encyclopædia Britannica, a historical novel is-Development:An early example of historical prose fiction is Luó Guànzhōng's 14th century Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which covers one of the most important periods of Chinese history and left a lasting impact on Chinese culture.The...

s of exotic adventure such as those by James Michener
James A. Michener
James Albert Michener was an American author of more than 40 titles, the majority of which were sweeping sagas, covering the lives of many generations in particular geographic locales and incorporating historical facts into the stories...

 and James Clavell
James Clavell
James Clavell, born Charles Edmund DuMaresq Clavell was an Australian-born, British novelist, screenwriter, director and World War II veteran and prisoner of war...

 are another source. In French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, such novels are called romans de gare, "railway station
Train station
A train station, also called a railroad station or railway station and often shortened to just station,"Station" is commonly understood to mean "train station" unless otherwise qualified. This is evident from dictionary entries e.g...

 novels", suggesting that writers in France were aware of this potential market at an even earlier date.

Meeting the reading needs of travelers

An airport novel must necessarily be superficially engaging, while not being particularly profound or philosophical, or at least, without such content being necessary for enjoyment of the book. The reader is not a person alone, in a quiet setting, contemplating deep thoughts or savouring fine writing; the reader is being jostled and penned among strangers, and seeks distraction from the boredom and inconveniences of travel. Similarly, the reader is not in a position to consult reference works, scholarly papers, or the author's previous works. The writer of an airport novel must meet the needs of readers in this situation.

The realisation that this niche market for mass market paperbacks had given rise to a new genre was slow in coming. Perhaps a defining moment in the history of the genre came in 1968, when Arthur Hailey
Arthur Hailey
Arthur Hailey was a British/Canadian novelist.- Biography :Born in Luton, Bedfordshire, England, Hailey served in the Royal Air Force from the start of World War II during 1939 until 1947, when he went to live in Canada. Hailey's last novel, Detective , is a mystery told from the perspective of a...

 published Airport, an airport novel that used the commercial flight industry to frame an adventure yarn about a disaster in an airport. Hailey's other novels, soap opera
Soap opera
A soap opera, sometimes called "soap" for short, is an ongoing, episodic work of dramatic fiction presented in serial format on radio or as television programming. The name soap opera stems from the original dramatic serials broadcast on radio that had soap manufacturers, such as Procter & Gamble,...

 tales with complex plots of adultery and intrigue featuring business characters, using a number of other industries as backdrops (e.g. The Final Diagnosis (hospital
A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment by specialized staff and equipment. Hospitals often, but not always, provide for inpatient care or longer-term patient stays....

s); Hotel
Hotel (novel)
Hotel is a 1965 novel by Arthur Hailey. It is the story of an independent New Orleans hotel, the St. Gregory, and its management's struggle to regain profitability and avoid being assimilated into the O'Keefe chain of hotels. The St. Gregory is supposedly based on the Roosevelt Hotel, although the...

A hotel is an establishment that provides paid lodging on a short-term basis. The provision of basic accommodation, in times past, consisting only of a room with a bed, a cupboard, a small table and a washstand has largely been replaced by rooms with modern facilities, including en-suite bathrooms...

s); Wheels
Wheels (novel)
Wheels is a novel by Arthur Hailey, concerning the automobile industry and the day-to-day pressures involved in its operation.The plot lines follow many of the topical issues of the day, including race relations, corporate politics, and business ethics...

An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

 industry); The Moneychangers
The Moneychangers
The Moneychangers is a 1975 novel written by Arthur Hailey. The plot revolves around the politics inside a major bank.-Plot summary:As the novel begins, the position of CEO of one of America's largest banks, First Mercantile American is about to become vacant due to the terminal...

(banking) represented an emerging genre.


Airport novels are always paperback books of a small but thick format. These books are seldom made to last, printed on inexpensive newsprint
Newsprint is a low-cost, non-archival paper most commonly used to print newspapers, and other publications and advertising material. It usually has an off-white cast and distinctive feel. It is designed for use in printing presses that employ a long web of paper rather than individual sheets of...

, and they often begin to fall apart after one or two readings. Their titles are often printed in a gilded, silvery or vividly scarlet finish, which more often than not starts very quickly to dissolve and stick to the reader's fingertips. This is not a problem for their intended purpose; they are made to be bought on impulse, and their readers often discard them when finished.

Airport novels are typically quite long books; a book that a reader was able to finish before the journey was done would similarly be unsatisfying. Because of this length, the genre attracts prolific authors, who use their output as a sort of brand
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a "Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers."...

ing; each author is identified with a certain sort of story, and produces many variations of the same thing. Well known authors' names are usually in type larger than the title on the covers of airport novels, often in embossed letters.


Airport novels typically fall within a number of other fictional genres
Genre fiction
Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is a term for fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre....

, including:
  • Thrillers
  • Detective fiction
    Detective fiction
    Detective fiction is a sub-genre of crime fiction and mystery fiction in which an investigator , either professional or amateur, investigates a crime, often murder.-In ancient literature:...

  • Spy fiction
    Spy fiction
    Spy fiction, literature concerning the forms of espionage, was a sub-genre derived from the novel during the nineteenth century, which then evolved into a discrete genre before the First World War , when governments established modern intelligence agencies in the early twentieth century...

  • Crime fiction
    Crime fiction
    Crime fiction is the literary genre that fictionalizes crimes, their detection, criminals and their motives. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as science fiction or historical fiction, but boundaries can be, and indeed are, blurred...

  • Historical romance
    Historical romance
    Historical romance is a subgenre of two literary genres, the romance novel and the historical novel.-Definition:Historical romance is set before World War II...

Whatever the genre, the books must be fast paced and easy to read. The description "airport novel" is mildly pejorative
Pejoratives , including name slurs, are words or grammatical forms that connote negativity and express contempt or distaste. A term can be regarded as pejorative in some social groups but not in others, e.g., hacker is a term used for computer criminals as well as quick and clever computer experts...

; it implies that the book has little lasting value, and is useful chiefly as an inexpensive form of entertainment during travel. Airport novels are sometimes contrasted with literary fiction
Literary fiction
Literary fiction is a term that came into common usage during the early 1960s. The term is principally used to distinguish "serious fiction" which is a work that claims to hold literary merit, in comparison from genre fiction and popular fiction . In broad terms, literary fiction focuses more upon...

; so that a novel with literary aspirations would be disparaged by the label.

Writers of airport novels

Writers whose books have been described as airport novels include:
  • Peter Benchley
    Peter Benchley
    Peter Bradford Benchley was an American author, best known for his novel Jaws and its subsequent film adaptation, the latter co-written by Benchley and directed by Steven Spielberg...

  • Dan Brown
    Dan Brown
    Dan Brown is an American author of thriller fiction, best known for the 2003 bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code. Brown's novels, which are treasure hunts set in a 24-hour time period, feature the recurring themes of cryptography, keys, symbols, codes, and conspiracy theories...

  • Arthur Hailey
    Arthur Hailey
    Arthur Hailey was a British/Canadian novelist.- Biography :Born in Luton, Bedfordshire, England, Hailey served in the Royal Air Force from the start of World War II during 1939 until 1947, when he went to live in Canada. Hailey's last novel, Detective , is a mystery told from the perspective of a...

  • Robert Ludlum
    Robert Ludlum
    Robert Ludlum was an American author of 23 thriller novels. The number of his books in print is estimated between 290–500 million copies. They have been published in 33 languages and 40 countries. Ludlum also published books under the pseudonyms Jonathan Ryder and Michael Shepherd.-Life and...

  • Gérard de Villiers
    Gérard de Villiers
    Gérard de Villiers is a French writer, journalist and editor. His SAS series of spy novels have been bestsellers, with his total sales running into more than 150 million. His works have been translated and are especially popular in Germany, Russia, Turkey, and Japan...

  • Michael Crichton
    Michael Crichton
    John Michael Crichton , best known as Michael Crichton, was an American best-selling author, producer, director, and screenwriter, best known for his work in the science fiction, medical fiction, and thriller genres. His books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide, and many have been adapted...

  • Jodi Picoult
    Jodi Picoult
    Jodi Lynn Picoult is an American author. She was awarded the New England Bookseller Award for fiction in 2003. Picoult currently has some 14 million copies of her books in print worldwide.-Early life and education:...

  • Lee Child
    Lee Child
    Jim Grant , better known by his pen name Lee Child, is a British thriller writer. His wife Jane is a New Yorker, and they currently live in New York state. His first novel, Killing Floor, won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel....

  • John Grisham
    John Grisham
    John Ray Grisham, Jr. is an American lawyer and author, best known for his popular legal thrillers.John Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981 and practiced criminal law for about a decade...

External links

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