Thrillers: 100 Must Reads
Short Story Anthology by David Morrell and Hank Wagner, co-editors
Review: The definition of what exactly is a "thriller" is hard to pin down. In introductory remarks to this list of novels and other literary works that have had an impact on the genre, David Hewson tries to do so by simply stating that "if a thriller does not thrill, it is not doing its job." However, not unlike the term "mystery", what it means to be a thriller seems to be something different to each and every reader. And so it is with the 100 novelists who contributed their thoughts on 100 thrillers written during the past 3500 years in Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, co-edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner.
Each of these 100 works, which date from Theseus and the Minotaur (circa 1500 B.C.) through to 2000, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code being the only exception for this decade (and an odd one at that; a hand-waving explanation for its inclusion is provided by the editors in the introduction), is prefaced by a paragraph of introductory remarks, an abstract, if you will, separate from the author's essay, which is often in the form of an critical analysis. What is possibly most fascinating about the essays is how personal the work being written about is to the authors, ranging from gushing over the material and how it affected their own writing to defending it as a thriller … even within the broad context seemingly allowed by the editors: "Did the author contribute a new subject, direction, character, and/or technique that had a lasting effect? Did a work make such an impression that it was frequently imitated?"
It's interesting to note that 12 of the 100 works were written by authors who contributed essays themselves to other works. (These are fun to compare and contrast!) And many others are written by those who were practicing professionals (physicians, attorneys, detectives, and the like) before becoming novelists, writing about authors who impacted their particular sub-genre (medical thriller, legal thriller, police thriller, etc.).
Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads is not a reference work, nor is it marketed as such — it's far too subjective for that. But it does offer a relatively comprehensive and inclusive listing of those books written over the ages that have "[a]n unsettling theme, a menacing tone, or an insistent pace" … and possibly more importantly for modern readers, an intriguing glimpse into how these books have influenced — and continue to influence — today's thriller writers.
Acknowledgment: Oceanview Publishing provided a copy of Thrillers: 100 Must Reads for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Thrillers: 100 Must Reads: None
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Thrillers: 100 Must Reads by David Morrell and Hank Wagner, co-editors — Short Story Anthology
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: July 2010
List Price: $27.95