Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

June 13, 2010

What Are the Best Thrillers of All Time?

Filed under: On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 10:49 AM

So, you like thrillers. I do too.  But there’s so many and there are multiple categories of thrillers to choose from. So what to do?

Like the American Film Institute that rates the best movies in each category, book editors at Reader’s Digest Select Editions spent 50 years finding the best, most satisfying stories that will race your heart and grip your imagination while you turn the pages.

Ready? Here’s their choices both past and present.

1. The Spy Thriller

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le Carré (1963) is the quintessential espionage thriller. Set during the Cold War, this rich tale still captivates with its spellbinding portrayal of the world of secret agents.

2. The Techno Thriller

Gadgets, gadgets and more gadgets. Ian Fleming started it all with James Bond and his arsenal of clever, useful gadgets, some not so far-fetched anymore. The best Bond book? From Russia with Love (1957). Get to know the real Bond, not Sean, Roger, Timothy or Pierce, by imbibing him on the printed page.

3. The Classic Thriller

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (1898) was one of the world’s pioneering thrillers, introducing this genre, unknown at the time, to worldwide acclaim. And the story is still alive and well today.

4. The Psychological Suspense Thriller

For sheer creepiness and terror, nothing beats The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988).

5. The Legal Thriller

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow (1987) features terrific characters, a deftly executed plot, and fascinating legal insight, making it the definitive legal thriller.

6. The Medical Thriller

Read Coma by Robin Cook (1977), the unforgettable saga of patients who check into the hospital for “minor” surgery and never wake up.

7. The Sci-Fi Thriller

Sure he’s done dinosaurs and television emergency rooms, but Michael Crichton’s first novel, The Andromeda Strain (1969), still ranks as one of the top science fiction thrillers of all time.

8. The Military Thriller

You’ve seen the movie, but don’t miss the book. The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill (1950) is even more captivating on paper, with perhaps the most hair-raising POW escape scene ever written.

9. The True-Crime Thriller

The most famous book in this nonfiction genre is Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (1966). The author spent months in the Midwest painstakingly retracing the steps of two young rural killers — and then wrote about it chillingly.

10. The Action/Adventure Thriller

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read (1974) set the gold standard for heroic survival stories, with this true tale of a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashes, resulting in an incredible 10-week physical and emotional ordeal.

There you go. The editor’s picks. Can you do better?

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