October 22 – 28: “What can thriller writers learn from the horror genre?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5The thriller and horror genres often go hand in hand, but this week ITW members Colin Campbell, Lee Murray, Carole Lawrence, Catharine Riggs, Eric J. Guinard, Sandra Ruttan, DiAnn Mills, Michaelbrent Collings and Andrew Bourelle will be discussing what thriller writers can learn from the horror genre. Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along!

 

Carole Lawrence (C. E. Lawrence, Carole Bugge) is the author of eleven published novels, award-winning plays, musicals, poetry and short fiction.  Her most recent novel is the historical thriller Edinburgh Dusk, the second book in the Ian Hamilton Mysteries series.  Her “Silent” series (Silent Screams and its sequels) follows NYPD profiler Lee Campbell in his pursuit of serial killers. Her plays and musicals have been performed internationally – including an original Sherlock Holmes musical.  Her most recent musical is Murder on Bond Street, based on a true story. A self-described science geek, she likes to hunt wild mushrooms.

 

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. She is co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference and Mountainside Marketing Conference

 

Andrew Bourelle is the author of the novel Heavy Metal, winner of the Autumn House Fiction Prize. He also is the coauthor with James Patterson of the novel Texas Ranger and novella The Pretender. His short stories include mystery, horror, science fiction, and other genres, and have twice been selected for inclusion in The Best American Mystery Stories and twice listed as honorable mention for The Best Horror of the Year.

 

Ellen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. A Cajun Christmas Killing and Body on the Bayou both won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery and were nominated for Agatha awards. Plantation Shudders was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. Mardi Gras Murder, just released, was deemed a “winner” by Publishers Weekly. Ellen’s TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly OddParents; published plays include the award-winning Graceland.

 

Ex-army, retired cop and former scenes of crime officer Colin Campbell is the author of British crime novels Blue Knight White Cross, and Northern Ex, and US thrillers Jamaica Plain, Montecito Heights, Adobe Flats and Snake Pass. His Jim Grant thrillers bring a rogue Yorkshire cop to America where culture clash and violence ensue.

 

Sandra Ruttan has had her foot partially severed, survived a car crash in the Sahara Desert and almost drowned. Between disasters she stays busy with her writing, family and dogs. Her sixth novel, The Spying Moon, was published September 2018 by Down & Out Books.

 

 

Lee Murray is an award-winning writer and editor (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows). Her latest thrillers include New Zealand military thriller INTO THE SOUNDS (Severed Press), and supernatural crime-noir, TEETH OF THE WOLF (Raw Dog Screaming Press) co-authored with Dan Rabarts. HELLHOLE, a volume of subterranean thriller stories, including novelettes from Jonathan Maberry, Michael McBride, and Sean Ellis, is forthcoming from Gryphonwood Press in December.

 

Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally-bestselling indie author, multiple Bram Stoker Award Finalist, produced screenwriter and WGA member, and one of the indie horror authors in the United States.

 

 

Catharine Riggs lives and writes on California’s Central Coast. A graduate of UCLA with an MBA from Drake University, she is a former business banker, adjunct college instructor and current nonprofit executive with a handful of starter novels tucked away in a drawer. What She Gave Away is her debut novel. Her first work of psychological suspense features an outsider with a dark past and a bitter grudge who moves to a wealthy beach-side community only to find herself enmeshed in the secrets of her boss and his hapless wife. Riggs is currently at work on the second novel of her Santa Barbara Suspense trilogy. The thrillers are loosely linked by location and secondary characters.

 

Eric. J. Guignard is a writer and editor of dark and speculative fiction, operating from the shadowy outskirts of Los Angeles, where he also runs the small press, Dark Moon Books. He’s won the Bram Stoker Award, been a finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award, and a multi-nominee of the Pushcart Prize.

 

 

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34 Comments
  1. Now that’s a strange one. The question could also be, “What can horror writers learn from the thriller genre?” Because I think the two are closely linked. My answer is; I’m not sure. My favourite horror writer, as with many people I’m sure, is Stephen King and the thing Stephen King does that makes him so great is merge the fantastical elements of the horror story with the reality of everyday life. He sets the horrors that he creates in the real world, therefore making them believable. Ian Fleming had a similar trick when writing his James Bond novels. He would fill the story with brand names and details, describing cars and food and locations in such a way that you felt this was the real world. Then he could throw in a megalomaniac with a penchant for gold or world domination and you’d accept it as part of that world. As thriller writers we create pace and suspense and dangerous situations. Those situations feel all the more dangerous if they are set in familiar surroundings. Then we can make things can go bump in the night.

    1. You make a great point, Colin. When we read, we tend to accept outlandish—even supernatural—story elements if otherwise the narrative seems to feel grounded in reality. This goes for a Stephen King horror novel as well as a Lee Child thriller. Both might have unrealistic elements, but we accept them within the story because so much of the books feel real.

  2. Look at all my horror friends stepping up this week. [Hello Eric! Hello Michaelbrent! She waves furiously!] Back to the question at hand. In my view, thriller, like horror, is a concept that crosses genres. A thriller can be historical or contemporary. It can include supernatural or paranormal aspects. It can be science fiction or fantasy or crime. In fact, you can write a thriller in any genre because it is the race against time which is the essential element. The protagonist (s) must race the clock to achieve a goal and avoid calamitous consequences ‒ either personal consequences (like revelation that they were assaulted as a child and the predator is now coming for them), or saving the world from some global catastrophe. Likewise horror crosses genre. It is writing that conjures feelings of fear, whether that fear be unease right up to the pure terror that my UK colleague Stephen Jones (editor) describes as “eyeballs on a plate”. So in my view, a book which includes both thriller and horror concepts is likely to provide the perfect heart-pumping, edge-of-your-seat reading experience. To do this, it helps to tap into the common psychological aspects which contribute to fear. My New Zealand colleague, fantasy writer Darian Smith, is also a psychologist, and he has has put out a fantastic toolkit to help writers to include the psychological motivations of characters in their work. Called the Psychology Workbook for Writers: Tools for Creating Realistic Characters and Conflict in Fiction, I highly recommend it.

  3. I agree with Colin. The two genres are linked but with obvious slants. The horror genre steps beyond the emotional angst of the ticking clock to accelerate impending terror. Writers strive for the reader to experience the full impact of the genre in unpredictable means.

    The ability to create fear
    A lesson writers of thrillers can learn from the horror genre is the ability to create fear and terrify the reader through a nightmarish emotional experience.

    The ability to unleash unpredictable fear
    A horror story unleashes our worst and often darkest fear which is in the form of a monster or antagonist. In a thriller, the fear is not the antagonist but what the antagonist is prepared to do.

    The antagonist’s ability to intensify fear
    The protagonist in a horror has a slim chance of overcoming the antagonist/monster. The genre is written to scare the reader. Emotive conflict through sensory perception intensifies the reader’s terror-filled experience.

    The perceived inability of the protagonist to overcome the fear

    The antagonist/monster is often off-stage, leaving the protagonist searching and wondering who is the enemy and when will it next strike.

      1. Thanks! We all want to intensify the reader’s experience – and the horror genre does an excellent job. Writers of suspense and thrillers have much to learn and explore from the scaring-the-reader-to-death novel.

  4. I’ve always considered the thriller/suspense genre to be horror minus the supernatural. But in light of this discussion, I thought it might be helpful to return to the master of horror and reread Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie. It’s been decades since I read the book/watched the movie so I was surprised by the similarities between Carrie White and Crystal Love, the revenge-seeking protagonist of my debut novel, What She Gave Away. In fact, there were so many similarities I thought I might re-frame the question to ‘What has this thriller writer learned from the horror genre?’ because the background of my conflicted character so resembles the plot of King’s legendary work.

    In both novels, a lonely girl with a disastrous home life snaps at a cruel act of school bullying and her response has a devastating effect on her life and others. But rather than using telekinetic powers to flip a bike, or burn down a school, Crystal uses matches to set fire to her apartment which injures her grandmother and lands her in juvenile hall.

    I did not recall Carrie when I wrote Crystal’s backstory. In fact, I’d forgotten the early scenes. But when the movie debuted I must have been so impressed that the story was forever imprinted on my brain. In the 1970’s and ‘80’s, there was seldom an official response to school bullying; if you were unlucky enough to become bully’s target, you were on your own. So, when a young Sissy Spacek appeared on the movie screen – a much more sympathetic character than the Carrie White portrayed in the novel – I and thousands of other young women rooted for the awkward girl with the broken home life even though we were horrified by her destructiveness – couldn’t the kindly Miss Collins (film version) have been saved?

    The timeless story of Carrie has stayed with me over the decades, tucked between scenes I’ve inhaled from The Shining, Halloween, The Exorcist, A Nightmare on Elm Street and the countless other tales, fictional and not, from which I’m able to pick and choose. I suppose it all comes down to Stephen King’s top advice for writers, READ, and my humble addition to his wisdom – watch a few good movies, too.

  5. When I was a teenager, I read Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery. Needless to say, it blew me away.

    Her ability to gradually build suspense in a mundane environment, using everyday language, to a culmination of ultimate horror, still blows me away. The story is all understatement, there is no explicit violence, and yet it is the most terrifying story I have ever read, all the more horrifying because of its very ordinariness and simplicity.

    The reveal is of course brilliant, but then you realize she has set it up all along with little hints and details.

    So I guess you could say I learned everything I need to know from Shirley Jackson. Thanks, Shirley. You rock.

  6. There can be variation in all genres, so this is a generalization. In general, thrillers focus on a threat that may be personal, national or global that the protagonist must stop. Maybe they need to rescue their family from kidnappers or stop a virus from being unleashed on unsuspecting people or avert a war. There’s usually a ticking clock and with every step the protagonist takes there are twists and obstacles that hinder their progress. In the end, order is restored. As a reader, I think the suspense typically lies in how the protagonist will triumph, how they’ll solve a specific problem, etc.

    With horror, bad things happen, things get a lot worse and then they get even worse until it ends. A lot of times order is restored at the end. This may be as simple as the threat being removed, even if just temporarily. The emphasis can vary, but the focus is often on feelings of fear and terror from the events as they’re unfolding. Since horror can vary widely, and involve supernatural elements, there isn’t always a rational explanation for what’s happening. Horror isn’t a genre that always gives you a reason. Just think of the differences between a Bond film (bad guys want to steal lots of money or get powerful weapons to destroy their enemies) or Halloween (psycho wants to chop people up).

    Generally speaking, I think that the horror genre does a fantastic job of eliciting specific emotions from the audience – particularly tapping into fears and inciting terror. That’s something thriller writers can definitely incorporate into their stories to make them more visceral.

    I’ve been reading a lot of horror this year, and found that it often taps into my emotions in a much more powerful way, probably because I’m a big chicken and I’m terrified half the time. Is this where I plug Terror is Our Business: The Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors by Joe and Kasey Lansdale? Or Salt by Hannah Moskowitz? There are a lot of shades of horror, and some of my favorite works this year have incorporated the best elements of the genre.

  7. I seem to recall a quote from Stephen King saying his recipe for fiction was simple: Create characters that readers care about and then put them in danger. I think he might have actually said something like throw them in a kettle of boiling water, but I can’t remember exactly. I think this is good advice for any fiction writing actually, especially thrillers, and I tend to keep it in mind when I write. I want to create compelling characters that readers take an interest in, even root for, and then I put them in a tight spot. You want your reader to squirm and think, “How is the character going to get out of this?” If the reader doesn’t care about the characters, it doesn’t matter how tight of a spot you’ve put them in—the reader won’t care.

    That advice is as applicable to the thriller genre as it is to horror. The danger the character is in doesn’t have to be physical. It could be a detective who is in danger of not catching the serial killer before the next victim is killed. Or a police officer who doesn’t look like she’s going to be able to catch the thief before he skips town. I think those are all types of boiling water we can throw our characters into.

  8. All great comments from everybody, and at risk of sounding like an echo, I agree, “Yes,” both Thriller and Horror genres have so much overlap, it’s difficult (and subjective) sometimes to separate. Much of it comes down to the individual feeling generated by the reader (or, more commonly, the question if there was a supernatural element or not, although that’s not a requirement). I remember hearing the expression years ago, “If it thrills, it’s a Thriller” (Cue, Michael Jackson’s same-named music video, although, per genre taxonomy, that would settle more faithfully into the horror genre!), which has always sat just fine with me.

    I think a lot of the difference comes down to emotional resonance. In a thriller much of the plot is mystery- or suspense-based, which is slowly developed and then unraveled over the course of the plot arc. In horror, the mystery of the antagonist (killer or monster, etc.) is generally a lesser element, in favor of the fight-or-flight action and scares when repeatedly in contact against such antagonist.

    It may well be that intensifying the effects of one genre (i.e. horror elements over thriller elements), may muddle the whole, although there is plenty of successful cross-over (Thomas Harris’s HANNIBAL series, or Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD, Dean Koontz, ODD THOMAS series, e.g.).

    I think horror can sometimes be a bigger world to play in (as an author), and one that lends itself more to the use of triggering imagination, since the laws of the natural world are no longer insisted upon; additional elements can be added in, creative beings; otherworldly phenomenon, etc. It allows you more opportunity to “think outside the box” or experiment.

  9. Hey, all! Thanks for having me (and a direct and specific “hi” right back at you, Lee; leave it to you to make the rest of us have to be courteous… sheesh).

    So since the title of the roundtable is “What can thriller writers learn from the horror genre?” I am going to focus on a thing that is REQUIRED in horror, for it to actually BE horror, but which is glossed over (or missing entirely) from far too many thrillers.

    Now before I get to the meat of it, I want to say clearly: I’m NOT saying that thrillers aren’t as good as horror, or vice-versa. I’m NOT saying that all thrillers miss some imaginary mark. I’m NOT denigrating any author or any book. Just gotta front that because people tend to read things like “here’s something horror HAS to nail and which thrillers have a bit more leeway with” as “here’s something horror does right and thrillers don’t and also thriller readers suck and thriller writers are morons” etc. etc.

    I have nothing but respect for both the thriller and horror tropes, and I run back and forth between the two in my own writing with gusto and a real appreciation for both.

    All right. Caveating and hemming-and-hawing over. On to the meat:

    There are a number of things horror HAS to do in order to work, to function AS horror. Of them, the one that is most useful when writing thrillers is this simple fact: horror has to matter.

    Horror, at its core, is something that frightens us (the readers). It does this by putting us in someone’s shoes, and giving us as much (or as little) information as they have. Then, firmly planted in the path of the book (or story or movie or whatever) protag, the reader screams when the terror reveals itself. The terror is real in that moment, not just for the characters in the story, but for the audience.

    Whenever you go to a horror movie, you’re sure to see a scene where the hero is backing away. The shot is tight, showing her face, the expression of fear, the knowledge that IT is out there, that IT wants her blood. She backs up a step. Another step… turns…

    AND IT IS RIGHT BEHIND HER!

    I often hear people talking about this “cheap trick” – as in, “Like we don’t know that there’s gonna be something behind her. What do those Hollywood guys think we are, morons?”

    The people saying that miss the point. That moment isn’t about a “trick” – no one at the production company hinges their career on the fact that “this time we’ll get ’em with the ol’ ‘Closeup and then she turns and BLAMMO!’ trick, fellas!” No, what they’re doing with that tight shot, that closeup of her face, is PUTTING YOU RIGHT THERE WITH HER. The audience has no choice but to walk in the hero’s path, taking the same steps she takes, and suffering the same terror she suffers.

    In horror – or at least the BEST horror – the audience must fear. For that to work, the audience must stand in the shoes of a character who fears as well. The character’s terror becomes ours (the audience’s) and voila! Horror!

    Now here’s the fun part: fear is intensely personal. You get a bit woozy at the sight of blood, don’t you? Not me. I laugh at your weak stomach. Laugh, I say!

    But you probably don’t freak out when you get in the ocean past your kneecaps. And I do. (Cue your laughter now, because revenge is a dish best served cold… and as a part of the ITW roundtable discussion.)

    In sum, what terrifies you does NOT terrify me (necessarily). That’s WHY people who write horror novels or direct horror movies take such pains to keep everything in dark places, in extreme closeups: to hobble the audience; to shackle their experiences to those of the story’s characters.

    Then, thus shackled, when the character runs breathlessly through the airplane-hangar-sized tool shed full of rusty pitchforks and idling chainsaws and dismembered body parts, so do we. When the character trips and falls over an unlikely root, we tumble to the ground and hurt ourselves as well. When the character screams, our own shrieks follow close behind.

    The horror is real, because it matters to us. It matters to us because it matters to THEM, the characters. Without the twin steps of a) association by the audience with the characters, and b) something that is terrible in a specific and unique way TO those characters, horror cannot be achieved. The movie or book is a bust.

    And that’s something that thrillers are more likely to miss: a uniquely personal tie between what is happening and the characters in the story. Thinking about the typical thriller series illustrates this problem: in the first book, the detective has to find the Big Bad, because the detective lost his father in a tragic combine accident, and now the police have come to him, stumped, because they can’t figure out who the newest serial killer is. The killer has been dubbed The Combiner by the press, because he chops people up in a combine and leaves them on the lawn of the various towns where the killings occur.

    The detective resists taking the case. But he will. Because there’s that question: is this how his dad REALLY died? WAS his father’s death an accident… or was it early practice by a blossoming serial killer?

    He gets deeper and deeper, the hunt moves faster and faster. NO! The killer didn’t murder his father. The killer IS HIS FATHER! (cue trumpets)

    Fast-forward to book seventeen. The cops are stumped. A killer the press has dubbed The Retainer – so named because he wires his victims’ jaws shut and makes them watch old reruns of Everwood until their souls just give out – is on the loose. The detective resists the case… but he’ll come around. Because as was revealed in a fascinating flashback during the prologue, the detective’s favorite niece once had a best friend whose dog peed on a hydrant outside the local dentist’s office, and the dentist threw a retainer at the dog to get rid of it. Trauma for all.

    So yeah… this time it’s personal.

    Obviously, I’m saying a lot of the above tongue-in-cheek. But there’s some truth to it. I mean, you’ve cycled through all the protagonist’s most deep-seated fears in the first book. You caught the man who killed his father… and who WAS HIS FATHER! Book two: the rapist who came after his sister. Book three: the trilogy moment where you find out The Combiner WASN’T HIS FATHER AFTER ALL, and his REAL father is being held captive in a grain silo slowly being flooded as a result of the tornado that just hit, so our hero only has two hours to solve the mystery of where he is and who put him there! Book four: I dunno, something about his sister again? Book five: we’re definitely moving from friends to family at this point. Book eight: I think that one’s got something to do with the local grocer.

    My hat is off to those thriller writers who manage to keep wringing painful memories out of their heroes, book after book after book, and so craft a story that MATTERS to the character. But it doesn’t always happen. Far too often, in fact, thrillers are thrilling only as a mental exercise of sorts: there’s nothing that matters to the detective, or the doctor, or the Everyman at the heart of the story. The thriller becomes more of a crossword puzzle: something to be solved, and the victory to be savored. But the suspense comes more in the form of “Can he/she (the hero) figure this out?” rather than in the nail-biting-knowledge that the stakes are simply victory on the one hand, and destruction on the other.

    Horror MUST have those kinds of stakes. No one comes out of a horror movie raving about “the movie of the year where if the hero didn’t get away he was faced with the very real possibility of BEING SET BACK A DECADE IN HIS CAREER!” No. That is a FAILED horror movie, and it has failed from the start.

    I’m not saying that a thriller has to have blood and guts, or even a life on the line to work. But the best thrillers DO remember the lesson that horror imparts: the story has to matter. It has to matter – deeply, profoundly, irrevocably matter – to the characters. It can’t be an interesting mental exercise, or even a question that will bring shame or unhappiness if not answered. It must be MORE.

    A good, competent, fun thriller will take us on a roller coaster ride. A heart-pumping, blood-pounding, arms-in-the-air-and-screams-on-our-lips adventure that has us smiling as we get off because of the sheer exuberant madness of the experience.

    A GREAT thriller takes us on that same roller coaster. And reminds us – subtly sometimes, overtly others – that somewhere, the roller coaster is on fire. That somewhere, the rivets are loosening. That if we ride the roller coaster just right, then we will pump our fists and shout for joy that WE WERE THERE… but that if we fail to do it, destruction will follow.

    Thrillers must thrill. Of course. But there are different kinds of thrills. One is the the thrills-by-proxy we experience when someone tells us of an extreme event, an unusual occurrence. It could be anything from winning the lottery to the time they almost fell down the stairs right in front of the Girl/Boy Of Their Dreams.

    Another kind of thrill comes when we witness someone escape a situation that could have ended in death or madness or damnation (the extremes of body, soul, and mind).

    And the third kind of thrill – the best kind, and the ONLY kind acceptable in a good horror story – is the one where we witness that same situation… and forget we are merely the audience. We fall into the story, and become the characters, and the doom that looms is our own. Then, at the end, we feel our wet palms and totter unsteadily to the shelf, where we return our book. We pause. We breathe. We smile.

    And we pull the next title in the series from the shelf. What has happened in the story happened to us. We survived. And a thrill like that is addictive. A thrill like THAT – one that, like all good horror, is based in things that MATTER to us – is one we will pay dearly and eagerly to enjoy.

    1. MIchaelbrent, I think you make a great point. In horror, the stakes have to matter. Otherwise, we’re not scared. The same goes for thrilled. The more the stakes matter, the more thrilling the thrill ride is.

      And I love your idea about THE COMBINER! A sequel could be THE CULTIVATOR. Followed by THE LIQUID MANURE SPREADER. I think you’ve got a whole new series on your hands.

  10. Great comments from everyone – Diann, I love your list! Might use it with my students, with your permission.

    Catharine, I appreciate what you say about Carrie – of course we all know the story about him throwing it out and his wife rescuing it from the trash…. what interests me about Carrie is that it is, in many ways, a revenge fantasy for nerds and oddballs.

    And I had a therapist once suggest that my interest in serial killers was somewhat related to my own buried fantasy of “acting out.”

    Any thoughts, anyone?

    1. Hi Carole, Absolutely, you can use my list. This week’s topic is a challenge for every writer who is working to take their plotting and characterization to the next level. Love reading all the comments.

  11. I hadn’t thought about it that way but yes, you are right that Carrie is a revenge fantasy for nerds and oddballs. And yes, I was a bit of a oddball myself (aren’t most writers?) And there was this one mean girl in high school who was twice my size…hmm. :-)))

  12. Exactly, Catharine – I have no doubt that Stephen King himself was a bit of an oddball; as you say, most writers are, at least at one point in their life. The Revenge story is classic Inn horror, crime, and even Gothic stories like the ones Poe wrote. It’s interesting to me that he is the mascot for the mystery writers of America, because he really was a horror writer.

    I hope you got revenge on that mean girl by putting her in one of your novels! ( ;

  13. I’m wondering if we might all try to think of some examples of books that effectively blur the line between horror and thriller–or that would qualify as both.

    One example that comes to mind is Stephen King’s newest book, THE OUTSIDER. It’s basically a mystery, with the characters coming to the realization that the only solution to the mystery must be supernatural. Catharine mentioned that a thriller is horror without the supernatural, which I agree with. But THE OUTSIDER feels like a thriller with the supernatural.

    Another that comes to mind is Cormac McCarthy’s NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. McCarthy combines the western and mystery genres, and subverts them to defy readers’ expectations. But with Anton Chigurh, he’s created a villain that is so terrifying that he seems almost superhuman. You could say the same about BLOOD MERIDIAN, where McCarthy created one of the all-time great villains in literature–the Judge, who could be read as the devil himself. Neither of these are necessarily considered thrillers–but they are thrilling. And horrific.

    As Halloween approaches, I’d love to hear recommendations about books that blur the line between the two: horror books that could be thrillers, thrillers that could be horror.

    1. How about a short story? Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds? A suspense filled thriller set in Cornwall with just a hint of the supernatural. Definitely a “blur” and much more frightening than Hitchcock’s version.

        1. I found it at the library in an old book of du Maurier’s short stories but I believe you can still purchase online.

          “The birds kept coming at him from the air, silent save for the beating wings. The terrible, fluttering wings. He could feel the blood on his hands, his wrists, his neck. Each stab of a swooping beak tore his flesh. If only he could keep them from his eyes. Nothing else mattered.” Daphne du Maurier

  14. Thanks, Diann! Much appreciated. Good question, Andrew – the one that I thought of right away is another King classic, The Dead Zone. I think it has strong thriller elements, and actually is my favorite King novel.

  15. Teo great ones that blur the horror/thriller line are PHANTOMS and WATCHERS by Dean Koontz.

    Also, I’d venture to say that about 90% of horror titles are just trillers with some extreme moments tossed in.

      1. Fun mental exercise: imagine North by Northwest – one of the best examples of a classical “thriller.” Now imagine what makes it as a thriller, as opposed to horror (certainly it ticks a lot of horror boxes – torture, paranoia, loss of identity, heights…). Now imagine how you would turn it into a horror movie.

        1. The airplane chasing Cary Grant hits him with its propellers. Blood and body parts rain down on the field. Of course, then the movie would be over, so maybe that won’t work.

    1. WATCHERS is great. Very much a thriller, with science fiction and horror elements. I’ve never read PHANTOMS. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

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