Tuesday, April 10, 2012


A thriller by its very definition, is not a feel-good book (or movie) but an experience which is laden with suspense and can cover all sorts of topics such as espionage, crime or mystery i.e. it’s a suspenseful adventure story.

Thrillers popped up more and more from the early 1900’s and probably the most famous one of that era was The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan which set the standard for innocent framed men on the run. An earlier novel with a theme of an innocent protagonist that might not spring to mind as a thriller is The Count of Monte Cristo (1844).

Hitchcock’s very early films such as The Lodger (Jack the Ripper) and The Man Who Knew Too Much were the forerunners of his suspense-thrillers which advanced during the 50’s to movies such as Strangers on a Train.

During the 70’s and 80’s movies such as Play Misty for Me and Deliverance and the so-different Blow Out expanded the genre.

In the 1990’s and onwards spy thrillers in particular became much more technical e.g. Tom Clancy’s novels such as The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games along with Robert Ludlum’s books about Jason Bourne.

In the 2000’s now we have novels and movies and TV series based on a variety of thriller subgenres:

 Conspiracy thrillers (Da Vinci Code)
 Crime thrillers (Silence of the Lambs)
 Erotic thrillers (Basic Instinct)
 Political thrillers (Day of the Jackal)
 Psychological thrillers (Misery)
 Spy thrillers (Casino Royale)
 Supernatural thrillers (Flatliners)
 Techno thrillers (Jurassic Park)

Recently one of the more successful thriller writers has been Stieg Larsson (Girl with a Dragon Tattoo etc). Interesting that this a little controversy about who did most of the writing of his more recent novels. All adds to the mystique.

The main elements of a good thriller are:

 The protagonists face death, either their own or someone else’s
 The main plotline is a mystery begging to be solved
 The characters are often dragged into conflict and situations that they don’t normally meet (although the spy subgenre of course has a bunch of well-equipped protagonists and antagonists).

Below I’ve laid out some thrillers I’ve read recently that I enjoyed. Sometimes that does not include well known writers since I love finding new writers who satisfy me with their writing. I like MEAT to my thrillers, not necessarily just the promise of it. I won’t describe the plot lines, but I’d suggest you try some of the following books:

A Bodyguard of Lies by Donna del Oro
Upcoming books by new author Liese Sherwood Fabre
The Geneva Convention by Martin Bodenham
Lost in the Bayou by Cornell de Ville (Young Adult)
Bait by Karen Robards
I Can See You by Karen Rose
Face of a Killer by Robin Burcell
Gone by Lisa Gardner
The Killing Floor by Lee Child

I tend to get hold of a writer and read them dry. The above books are only a very little sample of what I read. I read a large quantity of books called romantic suspense which are, in actuality, thrillers; likewise I love detective fiction and police procedurals which are often more thriller than the genre they are purported to be. I guess it’s all down to that old word: marketing.

NEXT WEEK I’ll move on to police procedurals.