FORGOTTEN BOOKS #382: Thrillers: 100 Must Reads Edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner,

Todd Mason mentioned Thrillers: 100 Must Reads (2010) on his fine blog here. Somehow, David Morrell and Hank Wagner’s book had slipped by my radar. So, I do what I usually do when encountering notice of an interesting book: I tracked down a copy. And read it. The key to success for books like Thrillers: 100 Must Reads rests not on the choices of the 100 “thrillers” but on the supporting essays which explain why each particular title was selected. I’ve read many of these books–68 to be exact–and I now have a list of a half dozen addition books from this list that I’ll be reading in the near future. If you’re a fan of thrillers, you’ll find plenty here to entertain you. How many of these books have you read? GRADE: A
Welcome to the world of thrillers / by David Hewson
One hundred must-read thrillers / by David Morrell, Hank Wagner
Theseus and the Minotaur (1500 B.C.) / Lee Child
Homer’s The Iliad and the Odyssey (7th century B.C.) / William Bernhardt
Beowulf (between 700 and 1000 A.D.) / Andrew Klavan
William Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1605-1606) / A.J. Hartley
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719-1722) / David Liss
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus (1818) / Gary Braver
James Fenimore Cooper’s The last of the Mohicans (1826) / Rick Wilber
Edgar Allan Poe’s The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) / Katherine Neville
Alexandre Dumas’ The count of Monte Cristo (1845) / Francine Mathews
Wilkie Collins’s The woman in white (1860) / Douglas Preston
H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomons mines (1885) / Norman L. Rubenstein
Robert Louis Stevenson’s The strange case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1886) / Sarah Langan
Anthony Hope’s The prisoner of Zenda (1894) / Michael Palmer
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) / Carole Nelson Douglas
H.G. Wells’s The war of the worlds (1898) / Steven M. Wilson
Rudyard Kipling’s Kim (1901) / Tom Grace
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The hound of the Baskervilles (1901) / Laura Benedict
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of darkness (1902) / H. Terrell Griffin
Erskine Childers’s The riddle of the sands (1903) / Christine Kling
Jack London’s The sea wolf (1904) / Jim Fusilli
Baroness Emma Orczy’s The scarlet pimpernel (1905) / Lisa Black
Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the apes (1912) / W. Craig Reed
Marie Belloc Lowndes’s The lodger (1913) / James A. Moore
John Buchan’s The thirty-nine steps (1915) / Janet Berliner
E. Phillips Oppenheim’s The great impersonation (1920) / Justin Scott
Richard Connell’s “The most dangerous game” (1924) / Katherine Ramsland
W. Somerset Maugham’s Ashenden, or, the British agent (1928) / Melodie Johnson Howe
P.G. Wodehouse’s Summer lightning (1929) / R.L. Stine
Edgar Wallace’s King Kong (1933) / Kathleen Sharp
Lester Dent’s Doc Savage : the man of bronze (1933) / Mark T. Sullivan
James M. Cain’s The postman always rings twice (1934) / Joe R. Lansdale
Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) / Allison Brennan
Agatha Christie’s And then there were none (1939) / David Morrell
Eric Ambler’s A coffin for Dimitrios (1939) / Ali Karim
Geoffrey Household’s Rogue male (1939) / David Morrell –
Helen Macinnes’s Above suspicion (1941) / Gayle Lynds
Cornell Woolrich’s “Rear Window” (1942) / Thomas F. Monteleone
Vera Caspary’s Laura (1943) / M.J. Rose
Kenneth Fearing’s The big clock (1946) / Lincoln Child
Graham Greene’s The third man (1950) / Rob Palmer
Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a train (1950) / David Baldacci
Mickey Spillane’s One lonely night (1951) / Max Allan Collins
Jim Thompson’s The killer inside me (1953) / Scott Nicholson
Ernest K. Gann’s The high and the mighty (1953) / Ward Larsen
Jack Finney’s Invasion of the body snatchers (1955) / James Rollins
Hammond Innes’s The wreck of the Mary Deare (1956) / Matt Lynn
Ian Fleming’s From Russia, with love (1957) / Raymond Benson
Alistair MacLean’s The guns of Navarone (1957) / Larry Gandle
Richard Condon’s The Manchurian candidate (1959) / Robert S. Levinson
Len Deighton’s The IPCRESS file (1962) / Jeffery Deaver
Fletcher Knebel & Charles W. Bailey’s Seven days in May (1962) / James Grady
Lionel Davidson’s The rose of Tibet (1962) / Milton C. Toby
Richard Stark’s (Donald E. Westlake’s) The hunter aka Point blank (1962) Duane Swierczynski
John le Carré’s The spy who came in from the cold (1963) / Denise Hamilton
Wilbur Smith’s When the lion feeds (1964) / W.D. Gagliani
Evelyn Anthony’s The rendezvous (1967) / Sandra Brown
Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda strain (1969) / Josh Conviser
James Dickey’s Deliverance (1970) / Terry Watkins
Frederick Forsyth’s The day of the jackal (1971) / F. Paul Wilson
Brian Garfields’s Death wish (1972) / John Lescroart –
David Morrell’s First blood (1972) / Steve Berry
Trevanian’s The Eiger sanction (1972) / Lee Goldberg
Charles McCarry’s The tears of autumn (1974) / Hank Wagner
Peter Benchley’s Jaws (1974) / P.J. Parrish
William Goldman’s Marathon man (1974) /Hank Wagner
James Grady’s Six days of the condor (1974) / Mark Terry
Jack Higgins’s The eagle has landed (1975) / Zoë Sharp
Joseph Wambaugh’s The choirboys (1975) / James O. Born
Clive Cussler’s Raise the Titanic! (1976) / Grant Blackwood
Ira Levin’s The boys from Brazil (1976) / Daniel Kalla
Robin Cook’s Coma (1977) / CJ Lyons
Ken Follett’s Eye of the needle (1978) / Tess Gerritsen
Ross Thomas’s Chinaman’s chance (1978) / John D. MacDonald’s The green ripper (1079) / J.A. Konrath
Justin Scott’s The shipkiller (1079) / Lawrence Light
Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne identity (1980) / Linda L. Richards
Eric Van Lustbader’s The ninja (1980) / J.D. Rhoades
Thomas Harris’s Red dragon (1981) / Bev Vincent
Jack Ketchum’s Off season (1981) / Blake Crouch
Thomas Perry’s The butcher’s boy (1982) / Robert Liparulo
Tom Clancy’s The hunt for red October (1984) / Chris Kuzneski
F. Paul Wilson’s The tomb (1984) / Heather Graham
Andrew Vachss’s Flood (1985) / Barry Eisler
Stephen King’s Misery (1987) / Chris Mooney
Nelson DeMille’s The charm school (1988) / J.T. Ellison
Dean Koontz’s Watchers (1988) / Lee Thomas
Katherine Neville’s The eight (1988) / Shirley Kennett
Petrer Straub’s Koko (1988) / Hank Wagner
Johns Grisham’s The firm (1991) / M. Diane Vogt
R.L. Stine’s Silent night (1991) / Jon Land
James Patterson’s Along came a spider (1992) / Mary SanGiovanni
Stephen Hunter’s Point of impact (1993) / Christopher Rice –
Johns Lescroart’s The 13th juror (1994) / Karna Small Bodman
Sandra Brown’s The witness (1995) / Deborah LeBlanc
David Baldacci’s Absolute power (1996) / Rhodi Hawk
Gayle Lynds’s Masquerade (1996) / Hank Phillippi Ryan
Lee Child’s Killing floor (1997) / Marcus Sakey
Jeffery Deaver’s The bone collector (1997) / Jeffrey J. Mariotte
Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci code (2003) / Steve Berry

15 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN BOOKS #382: Thrillers: 100 Must Reads Edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner,

  1. Sergio (Tipping My Fedora)

    I have read a good few of these and some of the choices are a bit odd (HEART OF DARKNESS instead of THE SECRET AGEN?) and some very bold choices (like Finney’s THE BODYSNATCHERS) – very interesting, thanks George.

  2. Deb

    I’ve read almost everything published prior to the mid-1950s. After that, the number drops off. I suppose if I read the book’s introduction, I’d discover the editors’ definition of “thriller” and understand their selection criteria, but I must admit a few of their choices leave me puzzled, to say the least.

    1. george Post author

      Deb, I was scratching my head about the inclusion of Homer and Shakespeare. The definition of “thriller” in this book is elastic.

  3. steve oerkfitz

    I’ve read about 50 of these. Some bad books made the cut. The Da Vinci code was extremely popular but is horribly written. Anything by Sandra Brown or James Patterson I would avoid like the plague.

    1. george Post author

      Steve, I think the inclusion of The Da Vinci Code and Sandra Brown, and James Patterson was a sop to the Best Sellers list. My list of 100 thrillers would be quite different. I’m sure your’s would be, too.

  4. Jeff Meyerson

    I’ve read 60. Like Cap’n Bob, I’ve seen movie versions of a lot of these – among the 60 and among the others. (Just checked – total is 62 titles. some with multiple versions.)

    Let me add that as a kid, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY was one of my favorite movies.

    I have this book sitting on the shelf, by the way. I think I picked it up at a Bouchercon, but have only skimmed through it.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, TRILLERS: 100 MUST READS is a great browsing book. I read most of it during the Republican National Convention coverage on TV.

  5. maggie mason

    I’ve read from 25-35, possibly as many as 50. There were a lot i think I’ve read, but not sure. I’ve seen a bunch of movies made from the books also.

    I liked the list being in chronological order. Most that I’ve read were published after WWII. I was happy to see Watchers, my favorite book of all time on there (the hero is a golden retriever). I used to have a lot of Lionel Davidson books, loved the cover art. Not sure how many I actually read, and they are long gone.

    I might even have this book, someplace most of my books are in boxes.

    1. george Post author

      Maggie, like you I’m a fan of Lionel Davidson’s thrillers. I’m trying to get my books on shelves and send boxes of books to SUNY at Buffalo for the Kelley Collection.

  6. Jerry House

    I’ve only read forty. Gotta start catching up.

    Some of the books listed are questionable at best. Dan Brown? Really? THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS is of historic interest only and shouldn’t be on the list. I’d switch THE ABC MURDERS for AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. There is something for everyone to quibble with in the 102 books and stories listed. (I certainly would have included Joe Lansdale and Ken Bruen.) I didn’t notice any Yellow Peril on the list and Doc Savage and Tarzan were the only two pulp characters mentioned.

    1. george Post author

      Jerry, I’m with you on Joe Lansdale and Ken Bruen. There’s plenty to quibble about with this book, but I enjoyed the essays defending the choices.

  7. Richard R.

    So what the heck is a “thriller”? How do the editors of this book define it? Seems to me there are many books on the list that don’t deliver a thrill as it’s defined in the dictionary as “a sudden feeling of excitement and pleasure.”

    1. george Post author

      Rick, with a definition like “a sudden feeling of excitement and pleasure” we could be talking about pornographic books! As I mentioned to Deb, I found the term “Thriller” to be very elastic in this book.


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