“Thriller Thursday” Preview and How Suspense Fits In

Present word count of WIP:  59,427

They say not all thrillers are suspense novels and not all suspense novels are thrillers. So what’s the difference? And how does Mystery fit in?

It remains confusing in my mind, but I like Maeve Maddux’s delineation here. Nevertheless, I think one of the reasons I’m taking on this huge reading project is to help me clarify these genres.

As defined by International Thriller Writers, you can characterize a true thriller by “the sudden rush of emotions, the excitement, sense of suspense, apprehension, and exhilaration that drive the narrative, sometimes subtly with peaks and lulls, sometimes at a constant, breakneck pace.”

For a lengthier description of what makes a novel a thriller, I recommend this site.

For those of you who haven’t yet looked up NPR’s list of “Killer Thrillers,” these are the first 20 I’ll be devouring in order:

1. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris 

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

3. Kiss the Girls, by James Patterson

4. The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum

5. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

6. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

7. The Shining, by Stephen King 

8. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie

9. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy

10. The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

11. Dracula, by Bram Stoker

12. The Stand, by Stephen King

13. The Bone Collector, by Jeffery Deaver

14. Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton 

15. Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown

16. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham

17. The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton

18. Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane

19. The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth

20. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

In all honesty, I’ve already read at least seven of these thrillers (I can’t recall for sure if I read “The Andromeda Strain” or if I’m simply remembering the movie). However, I am not going to skip over those I’ve already read. I’ll read ALL of them in order to gain the full perspective.

One of my readers, Bob, already contacted me about having read and/or seen the movie version of most on this list. I realized then that much of what we might think of these stories has likely been slanted either positively or negatively by their movie versions. I thought that would make for a couple of good questions to put to all of you:

How many of these first 20 have you actually read (before seeing the movie)? (If you only saw the movie, it doesn’t count.) Of those you have read, which would you rank at the top?




Originally posted 2012-06-28 13:16:14.

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14 thoughts on ““Thriller Thursday” Preview and How Suspense Fits In

    • Not surprised. I would imagine that is the case 99% of the time. I haven’t read or seen “The Stand.” Looking forward to it!

  1. Some of those (especially by King) I would have classified as horror. Yes, they’re thrilling, too, but there’s such a horror element as well. Definitely very different from Ludlum’s Bourne series.

    • I have found that the more I’ve read about thrillers, the wider the genre seems to grow. You’ve got medical thrillers, legal thrillers, spy thrillers, paranormal thrillers, psychological thrillers, political thrillers, religious thrillers, crime thrillers…even romantic suspense can be ramped up to thriller level. Yes, some of these titles could be classified as horror and are classified as such. It doesn’t change the fact that they’re full of suspense and lead the reader on an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride (however unpleasant).

        • I hate horror movies. I’ve never really read much horror. This will probably reinforce my distaste for horror in general.

  2. I’ve read Dracula, The Bourne Identity, The Hunt For Red October, and both Dan Browns. I’d have a hard time picking a favorite though! It will be fun to hear which ones you enjoy the most!

    • That’s a good variety. It will be interesting to me, too. I tend to favor spy thrillers (probably because my dad was in the CIA), but we’ll see.

    • Amen! I love Tom Hanks as an actor, but he simply did not do it for me as the protagonist. And that was only one aspect of the film I found disappointing.

  3. I have for sure read:
    1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – Really liked it except some very brutal stuff in it.
    2. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote – Excellent – read a long time ago
    3. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown – Excellent, much better than the movie
    4. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie – Read a looong time ago; don’t remember it
    5. Dracula, by Bram Stoker – I was amazed at how truly terrified I was in some of this, for a book written so long ago
    6. Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown – Excellent
    7. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham – Excellent but very brutal
    8. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier – Excellent
    The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris – Haven’t read but I am told it’s just as sick as the movie if not more so.
    I’ve probably read some of the others but, like you don’t know if I’m remembering the book or the movie.
    Of those 8 I guess I’d say my favorite was The DaVinci Code – very exciting.

    • I’m impressed, Lee…particularly that you remembered how well you liked (or didn’t like) them. It sounds like I’m in for some brutal reading. Gulp. Like I said in my original post, if it’s making me squirm too much or feel too dark about life, I’ll put it down.

  4. That’s an ambitious project. I find it intriguing that the titles I’ve read (Rebecca, Hound of the Baskervilles, etc.) didn’t in any way create the creepiness that I would anticipate others would and so choose to avoid them. While still others, (Hunt for Red October, Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code, etc.) make me very much want to read the books. As for books into movies,nearly invariably I’ve liked the books more. However, I wrote about The Hound of the Baskervilles and the BBC Sherlock series here http://amindwandering.blogspot.com/2012/06/film-review-sherlock.html which I think is excellent.

    • I loved that series! It’s one of the few times I think a character was improved by plopping him down in a different century.

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