What actually constitutes a “Thriller”? Adventure? Action? Mystery? Page-turning ratio?
Browse around your local B&N and you might notice that the Horror section has dwindled to one or two bookshelves, while Thrillers and Fantasy novels can fill two or three aisles. It’s clear that the Horror label is considered a minus to marketing mavens in the publishing industry, and yet–the Thriller and fantasy sections are chock full of — horror books!
Hmmm. So what’s the real deal? Join us this Thursday (new day!) at 8pm eastern (same time!) for the Dead End Blog Talk Radio Show Presents: Thrillers! It’s a riveting, spine-tingling, bone-chilling, ________ (insert your own thriller cliche here), look at what makes a Thriller…a Thriller. Below are some of the questions, topics and blood-soaked ground we’ll be covering. Your responses and comments are welcome and encouraged!
What is a thriller? On Amazon and most other book listings, thrillers are grouped with mysteries, do you see them as intrinsically connected? What is the relationship?
How does horror fit under the thriller umbrella? By it’s nature horror has scary action (thrills), hero/villain conflict, so would all horror be considered dual genre?
Why do you think horror became such a shrinking presence in bookstores? It seems that there are more horror books published than ever, yet horror seems to be dirty word in publishing and most books that are clearly horror end up on the Thriller shelves. So this is clearly a marketing move made by publishers and bookstores who seem to think that horror is dead. But given that popular culture/film/TV has gone gaga over zombies, vampires, etc, are they just out of touch with what people want? Do you think this trend will continue or will horror bounce back, get more respect from the big publishing houses and end up marketed as such?
What makes a great thriller? What’s your essential checklist? Here’s mine:
– Great villain
– Hero you can really cheer for
– High stakes (including a love interest/strong personal ties for the hero)
– Suspense and pacing
– Page-turner.Whether mysteries need to be solved or clever strategies to thwart the villain, reader must be riveted every step of the way.
– Surprising plot twists (non-formulaic) and avoidance of clichés
– No plot holes or unbelievable actions that throw you out of the story
– Great action scenes
– Climactic battle/ending that really delivers
There are so many kinds of Thrillers. Here are some categories listed by Reader’s Digest. Noticeably absent, The Horror Thriller, though some of the books they select in these categories are, in fact, horror novels:
1. The Spy Thriller
2. The Techno Thriller
3. The Classic Thriller
4. The Psychological Suspense Thriller
5. The Legal Thriller
6. The Medical Thriller
7. The Sci-Fi Thriller
8. The Military Thriller
9. The True-Crime Thriller
10. The Action / Adventure Thriller
Now check out NPR’s audience picks (happen to agree with many of these and how many horror? 15%).
Here are a few of my favorite literary thrillers:
Silence of the Lambs – Harris
The Stand/The Shining – King
Andromeda Strain – Chrichton
In Cold Blood – Capote
Magic/Marathon Man–William Goldman
By the way, Goldman was also a prolific screenwriter and wrote some classic thrillers:
- Marathon Man (1976) – based on his novel
- All the President’s Men (1976; Academy Award) – based on the book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
- Magic (1978; Edgar Award) – based on his novel
- Misery (1990) – based on the novel by Stephen King
What are your all time favorite film Thrillers? Here’s my top 50 list in no particular order (sequels are combined):
– Pulp Fiction
– Reservoir Dogs
– Marathon Man
– Three Days of the Condor
– Bourne Identity 1&2
– The Hurt Locker
– Terminator/Terminator 2
– Dressed to Kill
– Rear Window
– North by Northwest
– Angel Heart
– Total Recall
– The Matrix
– True Romance
– True Lies
– A History of Violence
– Eastern Promises
– The Usual Suspects
– Blade Runner
– Minority Report
– Out of Sight
– Taxi Driver
– The Thing (original)
– The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3 (original)
– The Evil Dead 1/2
– Xmen II
– A Clockwork Orange
– Predator / Predator 2
– Hellboy I & II
– The Fly
– Pitch Black
– The Conversation
– Silence of the lambs
– No Country for Old Men
– Devil’s Advocate
– Jacob’s Ladder
– The Tenant
Okay, time for you to weigh in–and tune in–to the Dead End Blog Talk Radio Show Presents: Thrillers!
Oh and if you’re in the mood for a really intense thriller, you might consider reading (or reading) The Book of Paul!