A Suspense Novels Diet

Present word count of WIP:  58,962

Suspense novels are thrilling . . . when read in moderation. At least, that’s my theory. And any good theory needs testing, right?

As I’ve written in this article, humans are geared for suspense, but is there such a thing as too much? Would a steady diet of suspense fiction keep you on the edge of your seat, or would it begin to seem repetitive?

I’ve decided to find out. Two years ago, NPR put out a list of the top 100 “Killer Thrillers” as voted on by their listeners, and I’m going to read and review every book on that list. Except for some books by friends, as well as other books I may have to judge for contests, I’m going on a “suspense diet.”

Beginning in July (after my daughter has left for California), each Thursday will be my “Thriller Thursday” in which I’ll post a review of one of the “Killer Thrillers.”

Granted, it may take me 3-5 years to get through the whole list, but I’m game. (Note: I’m also perfectly willing to set a book aside if it proves too gory, violent, vulgar, or salacious. This may well cut the list in half, but at least I’ll get through it quicker.)

#1 on the list and first up: The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (Shudder!)

I want to find out two things:

1) Will they continue to thrill or become repetitive?

2) What kind of effect will such a reading diet have on me personally?

What do you think the answers to those questions will be a year from now? I’d love to hear your own theories.

Originally posted 2012-06-22 22:53:42.

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13 thoughts on “A Suspense Novels Diet

  1. Tanya, if you want a couple of good, but not too gory, novels, to read, I can suggest two. First, David Baldacci’s THE INNOCENT and, second, Robert Crais’s TAKEN. Both are very suspenseful and not too gory.

    • Thanks, Linda! I’ll definitely add them to the list or use them for relief reading if I’m feeling a need for respite.

  2. You’ll be putting this one aside. :) that’s my prediction. Did you see the movie? Disturbing!!!!!!! “It puts the lotion in the basket.” It’s been, heck 15 maybe even 20 years since I saw that movie. I STILL remember that line. :( (hint: if you haven’t seen it, he refers to his victims as “it”)

    • You’re probably right, though my husband says I have a strong stomach for violence. That, in itself, is disturbing. Why do language and sex bother me, but not violence?

      No, I never saw the movie in full (I caught snatches of a scene once on TV before I realized what it was).

      Oh, and thanks for the teaser. You’re probably right, though now I almost feel like it’s a challenge. We’ll see.

    • I know, Donna, but this list covers a wide range of suspense, including horror. I’m going to give it a try but horror is really not my thing. I think Dan Wells’s I Am Not A Serial Killer has been my only horror attempt thus far. I imagine that was a walk in the park compared to this.

    • Me too, though I’m a tad leery. I keep seesawing back and forth about the purpose of my writing and this will certainly take me in one direction–a direction I’m not sure I want to follow.

  3. Tanya,
    Dale (my sister) has had a long-standing diet of Stephen King, Baldacci, and others. She’s still reading them. Personally, my only try at Stephen King was to read “Cujo”, and after figuring out (spoiler alert!) through the elliptical introductory language that Cujo had been bitten by a rabid bat, I felt quite a bit deflated. I did skip to the end, and sure enough, rabid dog story, only gussied up. That was my only Stephen King, and when Dale found out that I would “taste” the end of books (to see if it had an interesting ending) before I started reading, she threatened to stop loaning me her books. Since she’s gone Kindle on us, loaning, or not loaning books becomes moot (she can’t loan a Kindle book).

    I remember reading through as many Alistair MacLean (sp?) novels as I could, and they did wear thin after a while, likewise Bourne’s author. I look forward to hearing how it goes for you.

    • “Silence of the Lambs”? A particularly spooky movie. I doubt I’ll read the book, for better or worse. I’ve only seen parts of it, up to the end. Hopkins was brilliantly scary. It was surprising to me to find that I enjoyed Ted Levine so much as Monk’s boss Stottlemeyer, once I realized he played the creepy serial killer in “Silence”. (I think his eyebrows still haven’t recovered from being plucked for the movie.) Well, he must have been glad to change “types”.

      • So Monk’s boss plays the bad guy? Ugh. I’ll try and forget that while I’m reading the book or else he might not seem so creepy.

    • Shame on you, Bob! Why ruin a perfectly good ending by tasting it first? Do you know how hard an author works to get you to that ending in a twisting, turning way? (Of course, some work harder than others.)

      As for loaning Kindle books, you can if it’s all in the family. Everything I buy on Kindle is available to Allison (through her Kindle purchased by me…I have one kind and she has another) and Michael (through his Kindle app on his Android phone). Those books would be available to Jason, too, on his iPod Touch except that he doesn’t like the e-reading experience. For him, it has to be a physical book.

      Anyway, I used to consider all my spy novels my “junk” reading (meaning reading for pure pleasure). It will be interesting to see if this list changes my mind. I’m intrigued by the idea of “literary thrillers,” though I’m not certain which ones on this list would qualify.

      We’ll see.

      • Dale can share? I’ll have to check that out — we have an iPad now. Part of the story is the _way_ it’s told, too. Reading just the end of Harry Potter VII wasn’t enough to get everything, so I had to make sure I read it very carefully from start to finish, though I did get lost with how Gryffindor’s sword ended up in the sorting hat, except it seemed to have a connection with it. I visited the list of 100 and was surprised that I’d already read some of them. I hadn’t known Goldfinger was on the list.

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