Thriller Authors who are entertaining and also give you the feel of what excellent writing can bring to the page!
(the first few are not usually tagged as "Thriller" authors since this is a
modern day definition - but they certainly meet my definition, even if their
styles are dated):
Robert Louis Stevenson - The Black Arrow, Treasure Island, et al.; the root of all adventure, unless you count Homer.
Edgar Rice Burrows - Tarzan, John Carter, et al.; the beginnings of modern adventure (OK, so this dates me, but that's life!).
And if you think Tarzan and Boy are sweet guys, based on the movies, you
need to go back and read the originals (FREE on Kindle). Bloodthirsty does
not begin to describe them.
Louis L'Amour - A jack
of all trades - stevedore, cowboy, seaman, prize fighter, miner, hobo, soldier - and
through all this a prolific reader who published his first short story in
1937. His early efforts were adventure fiction set primarily in the South
Pacific before and after WWII, where he served as a Lieutenant after
completing OCS. Later in life he discovered the western genre
he is most well known by today's readers and TV viewers (from
Cassidy to How the West Was Won through The Sacketts, et
al.). His last, and best in my mind, military
novel is Last of the Breed, where a Native American Air Force pilot
is shot down over Siberia. The story of his survival is the definition of
action and adventure.
Nevil Shute- On the Beach, Trustee of the Toolroom, et al. Nevil Shute Norway, born in London, worked as an aeronautical engineer at Vickers before setting up his own aeronautical firm. Worried that his reputation as a fiction writer would damage his engineering career, he wrote without using his surname, Norway, hence the "Shute" on his books. He served in both world wars and was a commander in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in World War II, working on secret projects. Another author who knows of what he writes!
(the pen name of Harry Hart Frank) - Alas, Babylon; The original nuclear doomsday novel, Alas,
Babylon, is set principally in rural Florida in a fictitious town reportedly modeled after Mount Dora, just north of what is
now the Disney complex, after a catastrophic exchange of nuclear weapons. At the time I read this I was the Army's Strategic Nuclear Plans and Programs Staff Officer in the Pentagon. Talk about striking home! Where Shute's On the Beach is a tragic aftermath story, Alas, Babylon tells of the tensions leading up to nuclear war and how survivors coped.
James Michener - Caravans, et al. One of many authors I really regret
not meeting. I read an article in the Riyadh English language newspaper
about his workshops in the Tampa Bay area, but he left us before I was able
to get back in country. If you read only one book about Afghanistan,
Caravans should be the one. Written in the early Sixties to portray Afghanistan of the late Forties, the place and the people as Michener described, Afghanistan are exactly as reported by our military today.
Donald Hamilton - A prolific paperback author of westerns
thrillers (Hamilton was a Navy officer during WWII working as a research
chemist), Hamilton perfected the Everyman in a manner reminiscent of Shute. He also
wrote one of the most successful popular "counterspy" series featuring the
Matt Helm character, not to be confused with the very shallow movies using the
same titles and character names, but with none of the gritty intrigue typified by
Line of Fire. Matt Helm and Jack Reacher would work well together, if
they didn't kill each other.
Robert Ludlum is one of my
all-time favorites, especially with his Jason Bourne series, pitting the
minor operative against vast conspiracies, much like - but different from -
Hamilton. Some of the new novels commissioned in his name are good, some
Thomas Perry - In The Butcher's Boy, Perry creates a unique style where the antagonist, a truly mean guy, is also the main character who gains the reader's support, if not sympathy - but even better are Perry's Jane Whitefield series - a personal witness protection program that often goes awry, with a significant Native American influence. And the main character is a woman - strong, tough, but caring enough to risk her own life for others.
He recently published a sequel to The Butcher's Boy that is as good
as the original.
Nevada Barr - Anna Pigeon is a National Park Service Enforcement Ranger with a propensity for trouble. A unique character, another adventurous woman succeeding in what is often
considered a man's world in a series set in National Parks from out west to
down south to the Statue of Liberty. Perry and Barr prove that adventure and action aren't just a man's thing.
Some of her recent books are a little too touchy-feely for me, but still good
reading, especially The Rope.
C. J. Box has a
great series about Joe Pickett, a Game Warden in Wyoming and his family -
wonderful outdoors adventure.
Lee Child has an ex-military tough guy, John Reacher
- MP, Special Ops, sniper - who will crush you with his fist if required -
and does to the bad guys routinely in the books. Don't let the actor Tom
Cruise (who does a great job in the movie) define Jack Reacher for you - read the books to discover the real
John Stanford has moved the police procedural to a new level with the
Davenport character in the Prey series.
Ward Larsen, a new friend, writer
and ex-fighter pilot, has several international thrillers including The Perfect Assassin
that matches up with the greats.
Great new authors appear every day, including
Baldacci (some of his books are
great like Split Second, some not so),
Stieg Larsson's Girl with the
Dragon Tattoo trilogy,
Prey and especially the Virgil Flowers series. Every few days I discover
another like Greg Rucka and his
Aticus Kodiak series.
Robert Crais is my current
favorite read with both great series and great standalone books. And Maggie,
the Army/Police dog!
General Sir John Hackett; et al. - The Third World War - a fictional account of how many of the senior generals in NATO in the late '70's believed a NATO vs. Soviet Union conflict in Europe would play out - maybe a little dry, but for those of us stationed in Europe at the time, a sobering challenge;
Harold Coyle - Team Yankee, et al. - his first book was a small unit slice of the Third World War based on the overall battle portrayed in Hackett's The Third World War. In
a more recent book, They are Soldiers, Coyle's platoon leader of twenty
years ago in the Fulda Gap, now the Army Chief of Staff, sends his son off
to serve with the National Guard on "Peacekeeping" duties in the Middle
East. A great reflection of the contrasts between Active and Reserve/NG
mindset, many of the prejudices described in the novels have been faced and
disposed of by our current deployed forces with their reserve component unit and individual current combat achievements.
Dale Brown - Flight of the Old Dog, et al. - Heavy Bomber quasi science fiction
that spans a number of years and characters.
Tom Clancy - Hunt for Red October, et al. Even the later Clancy
novels, huge tombs with evidence of "writing by committee," are excellent war stories with engaging characters. Still
toward the top of my personal list.The latest series that continue with his
name are a mixed bag, however teh Jack Ryan Jr series by Grant Blackwood are
as good as the originals.
- Flight of the Intruder, et al. - Navy Air Vietnam to tomorrow, with a lot of Middle Eastern action in the newer books and now, real Sci-Fi with Saucer: The conquest.
The series continues with the Navy LT now a retired admiral, still involved
with teh CIA.
W. E. B. Griffin - Brotherhood of War series presents an insider's view of what it was like to be a soldier from 1944 to 1970 - WWII to Vietnam, along with his Men at War series with the fledgling OSS in WWII. He has also written highly acclaimed police and Marine series that I have yet to read. Oh, to be so prolific - and GOOD! And he has continued the tradition with a new series starting with By Order of the President, a counter-terrorism novel.
Ken Follett - Follett adds Hornet Flight, a WWII tale, to his long list of espionage thrillers that will keep you up far past your bedtime and his latest biological warfare thriller.
Ralph Peters - Red Army, et al. Retired US Army Intelligence Officer and author of several other outstanding novels and scholarly works on modern warfare. Different from most novels, but with the protagonist twist I first saw in Perry's Butcher's Boy, Peter's Red Army is written entirely from the perspective of Soviet military - enlisted and officer ranks. Intellectually capable of analyzing Clausewitz - and as entertaining as Clancy - Peters' Beyond Terror helps explain the mess the world is in from both geopolitical and military strategic perspectives. Contemplative issues for those interested in serious discussions.
Do NOT pass up the opportunity to read
Nelson DeMille'sUp Country. DeMille (a LT in the 1st Cavalry Division in 1968's Vietnam) takes you back to
and drags you through the current day jungles of Vietnam, the cities of Saigon/Ho Chi
Minh City and Hanoi, the battlefields many of us experienced in the raw. DeMille's other novels are all very realistic, often forecasting the political realities of today - unfortunately.
The Lion and The Panther have the NYPD cop John Corey and his
FBI wife tangle with the worst terrorism has to offer.
Alex Berenson's John Wells is
the ultimate defender of freedom. Ex- Ranger and CIA operative, Wells takes
on terrorists in their own 'hoods, at the expense of his own family and
friends. Like most of these authors' books, start at the beginning of the
series (The Faithful Spy) to grow with the characters. Another in the
Jack Reacher style of no holds barred
Florida (I have met each of these authors, except John D, whom I knew through the wisdom of Dr. Ed Hirsberg. Each is committed to tell their version of what Florida is really about).
The order follows the way their books are stacked on my shelves -
John D. MacDonald - Travis McGee series - the classic series that uses a tough guy to expose environmental disasters set in Lauderdale and environs - I feel an affinity for JDM - he also finished his military career as a Lieutenant Colonel after service in India with the OSS, and only then began his writing career - oh, if only I shared a bit of his talent....
McGee, like many of my other favorite tough characters, has a
"no-holds-barred approach to the bad guys.
Les Standiford -
his Deal series features a Miami building contractor - contemporary,
but reminds you of the old time (maybe also contemporary) crime scene in
Miami with excursions to the Bahamas and other exotic spots like South Beach
and Key West.
Barbara Parker is an ex-
Miami area lawyer who also writes about - guess what - another Miami lawyer
in her Suspicion series. But the best of the batch, in my opinion, is
The Perfect Fake, about a fake masterpiece, set in Italy - a far cry from
Miami, but strangely similar. [We lost Barbara to cancer - a great
lady, good friend, mentor and teacher who is greatly missed.]
James Hall -
writes the eloquent and rough Thorn series set in Miami and the Keys.
Randy Wayne White -
his Doc Ford series is set on the Florida Suncoast, with travels to
Cuba and other exotic spots. In Tampa Burns, Doc Ford,
the mysterious ex-some-kind-of-unnamed-government-agent, stops by some of my favorite Suncoast restaurants
while solving grand mysteries.
Diane Vogt - Willa Carter series set in Tampa
tells about the judicial system in a different way and now writes a series
based on the Lee Child's Reacher character.
Tim Dorsey - writes about the outrageous Florida that really exists.
Old friend Terry Griffin
makes you want to prop up on a beach chair and read on the beach with his
series about the Longboat Key-based Matt Royal.
Sterling Watson - a mentor who writes both "literary" and gritty Florida crime.
James O. Born, a working Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent,
has a gritty series set in south Florida, all too parallel to the real
crimes and criminals he deals with everyday.
Jonathon King, a transplanted Yankee, took roots in the Everglades
and environs, with characters straight from his beat as a police reported.
My old friend, Tom Corcoran, parlayed his experience and skills as a
photographer and member of the Conch Republic to develop a fresh series set
in the Florida Keys that will make you yearn for a tall cold one.
Christine Kling sailed much of the world, but based her current
series about a salvage operator in the waters around Lauderdale.
James Swain is a magician who
will amaze you with his slight of hand and his tales of how crooks rob
casinos and casinos rob - everyone. He captures all this in his stories
about an investigator-for-hire ex-cop who works the gambling world.
Stuart Kaminsky's list of
works and awards fill a book all by themselves. Too much to select from -
over fifty novels, many movie and TV scripts, short stories. The Master!
Unfortunately, he also has passed on.
Bernard Cornwell - Sharpe series - begins with Richard Sharpe as a British Private in the British colony of India, takes you through the India and Napoleonic wars in Spain and France with Sharpe finally as a Regimental Commander at the battle of Waterloo, and ends with the exile of Napoleon. New Sharpe books continue to appear, along with other Cornwall historical classics such as Stonehenge, which explains how and why all those big rocks ended up on a British plain. All wonderful action adventures, with characters who are as real as Clancy's Jack Ryan. And, lo and behold, I discovered his Starbuck series set in the American Civil War, more great historical fiction so realistic and well researched that you can learn history by reading the books.
George McDonald Fraser - Flashman series - A scoundrel who participated in many historical events including the Charge of the Light Brigade and Custerís defeat by Sitting Bull at the battles of the Little Horn and Big Horn Rivers. Lots of good old gratuitous sex, and extraordinarily accurate historical settings. Flashman is a bit bigger than real, but always good for a history lesson and a humorous escapade. The
latest excerpt from the "Flashman Papers," Flashman on the March,
covers Flashman's 1868 Campaign to Abyssinia. Fraser also wrote an engaging memoir about his
own combat service in the Burma campaign during World War II.
Non-fiction (part of my Middle East research):
T. E. Lawrence - Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the source of much cultural wisdom about the Middle East people and factual descriptions of the geography and climate, and The Mint, a shocking exposť about the abuses of the British military system.
Lowell Thomas - With Lawrence in Arabia.
I GIVE UP! - Every day I find a new author - or re-discover an old one - the
list keeps growing.
Click the Amazon link to buy books by these authors!