This week we hear from my author mate Steve Vincent on his top five for thriller readers. Take it away Steve...
I’ve never been a ‘favourite’ kind of guy. I can’t name an absolute favourite movie or book or song or travel destination, but instead enjoy a wide variety of all of these (and other) things. This puts me at a natural disadvantage when trying to write blog posts on the topic.
My own writing is a good example of this. The themes my Jack Emery series covers vary widely in scope. The Foundation deals with the concentration of the media, the power that unelected individuals can wield, and the chaos both can cause in certain circumstances. State of Emergency deals with the extent to which laws can be enacted and freedoms curtailed in order to defeat terrorism, and the risks in doing so. The newest, Nations Divided (released 10 December), is about the lengths some individuals and groups will go to in order to win, and the potentially shattering consequences of their actions. Each theme is different, fun to write about and important to me.
Yet in writing this post I did want to think about the books or authors in the thriller genre that have influenced me or had an impact on me when I read them. This isn’t a list of the best books, but instead are books that I consider important markers on the road through the genre. Of course, I could cheat and simply tell you to read all of the books written by my friends in the industry, such as Chris’ Intrepid series, but I’ve decided not to. Instead, the list contains five books I think are important contributions to both my own writing and the genre more broadly. Plus, they’re great reads.
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
Not the best thriller, and probably not even the best Tom Clancy novel, but this was where my love affair with political and conspiracy thrillers began. I read a much-loved copy that belonged to my uncle when I was a teenager and went on to read each and every Jack Ryan novel written by Clancy. My main character was named Jack partly as a nod to Jack Ryan, who I grew up loving.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
The granddaddy of thrillers and hard-boiled crime. It has mind-meltingly good writing, a really tough and uncompromising plot, a flawed and complex hero, and dashes of humour. There's a reason this has been adapted to screen so many times. Not even Bogart could fully realise the brilliance of this book. In a crowded genre, it’s a standout.
The Firm by John Grisham
Before we knew John Grisham was all lawyers all the time, this tight and compelling page-turner stood out to me. It showed me that you could write great books in a white-collar world, but still fill those books with characters every bit as brutal and scary as gangsters and serial killers. It’s a fun and fantastic book.
Fatherland by Robert Harris
A wonderful crime novel set after the Second World War, the only difference being the Nazis won and Adolf Hitler is in charge of most of Europe. A British detective works a murder case, but learns a whole lot more about an international plot to cover up the Holocaust. This book has great characters, a great plot and an incredible setting all in one.
The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre
Similar to Clancy, it’s hard to pick one book by the British master of the Cold War thriller. The Constant Gardener is mostly set in an Africa that is ravaged by aids and being fought over by politicians and companies. This book was sharply different to Le Carre’s Cold War thrillers, but was both highly entertaining was very informative.