September 19 – 25: What’s the one thriller that really grabbed you, but never received the deserved notoriety or accolades?

What’s the one thriller (or perhaps thriller writer) that really grabbed you, but seems to never have gotten the deserved notoriety and/or accolades?  Why that book/writer?

Join ITW members S. Eric Wachtel, J. H. Bográn and Allison Brennan for another can’t-miss discussion!


S. Eric Wachtel was born and raised in New York City and studied at the University of Missouri. While in college he crafted his first historical based short story. Recruited by the CIA, he opted out in favor of a business career. Starting on Wall Street, he was later a vice president of an international conglomerate, director of a management consulting firm, and then president of a medical technology company.  In his debut novel, THE ESSENE CONSPIRACY, a blend of fact and fiction, he has created dynamic fictional characters from composites of personalities with whom he crossed paths during his business career. Eric lives with his wife, Lynn, and Russian Blue cat in Vermont and Washington, D.C. A member of International Thriller Writers, he is at work on the next Harry McClure thriller.

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist; he ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José is the author of TREASURE HUNT, the first in the series of a professional thief that goes by the handle of The Falcon. Other works include short stories, contributor to The Big Thrill magazine, co-screenwriter for two TV serials and movie reviews for Honduran newspaper La Prensa.

Allison Brennan is the New York Times bestselling author of seventeen romantic thrillers, including Kiss Me, Kill Me; Love Me to Death; Sudden Death and Killing Fear. A five-time RITA finalist and Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Brennan enjoys spending her free time reading, playing games, watching high school sports, and researching her novels. A member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers, Allison Brennan lives in Northern California with her husband, Dan, and their five children. The third book in the Lucy Kincaid series will be out in November.


Latest posts by ITW (see all)
  1. THE FIFTH ANGEL, by David Wiltse, published in the late ’80s (87?). The book and the main character, Sgt. Mark Stitzer, remind me of RAMBO (the book, not the movie), in that the story revolves around one “hard man” – hard to a great extent because of the life he’s lived in extreme service to his country – and his singular focus on outwitting his opponents and “the system” in order to achieve his objective. Some of the unfavorable, dismissive reviews make me think the reviewer simply never knew a man like Stitzer, and therefore can’t comprehend the existence of men with such capabilities.

  2. I love, love, LOVE “The Genesis Code” by John Case. To me, that’s an example of a perfect thriller. I’m pretty sure it hit the New York Times list, but I’m also pretty sure it’s kind of gotten lost in the decades since it published. Great story, great twist.

    Years after I read it, I learned the book was actually written by a pair of authors, a husband and wife team, Jim and Carolyn Hougan. I had the pleasure of interviewing them about this and their other books when I met them at Bouchercon in 2004.

    Sadly, Carolyn has since passed away. She was a lovely person, who generously gave me a terrific blurb for my first novel. I miss her, and I still LOVE that book!

  3. While on vacation in the Adirondacks last summer, I visited the Saranac Lake library to research background information for the thriller I was writing. Before leaving, I stopped at the new fiction section. As I browsed the book titles, my eyes were suddenly drawn to a book with the words EYE OF THE RED TSAR printed in bold black letters on a pale white cover, and above the title in a smaller typeface: Introducing Pekkala: He was the Tsar’s most trusted investigator. Now he’s Stalin’s greatest fear. Written by debut author Sam Eastland, it was published in 2010 by Bantam Books.

    With book in hand, I slipped into a library chair, read the book jacket, the gripping prologue, and the first ten pages. The story begins in 1929. Pekkala, the former Emerald Eye, the personal investigator of Tsar Nicholas II, is serving a long sentence in Siberia for crimes against the Communist state. He’s been surviving on his own by marking trees for cutting in the Siberian wilderness. Located by Commissar Kirov, a red army officer, he is taken back to Moscow. Stalin has a special job for him. He wants him to investigate the murder of the Tsar and his family and solve a decades-old mystery — who actually killed the Romanovs, and are there any survivors?

    I was hooked, but I wasn’t a resident of Saranac Lake so I couldn’t borrow the book. Determined to get a copy, I ordered it online the next day. When I returned home the following week, it was waiting for me. I finished it in 2 days.

    I thoroughly enjoyed EYE OF THE RED TSAR. It’s well written, the storyline suspenseful, and the characters memorable. Why then didn’t it get the recognition it deserved? I think there are several reasons:

    1. In the publishing world where spreading “The Buzz” through social networking is the norm, Sam Eastland lacks any real presence.
    2. Sam Eastland is a pseudonym used by the author.
    3. Little is known about the author’s background. (Sam Eastland lives in the United States and Great Britain.) Perhaps he works for British Intelligence?
    4. The book’s structure is unusual. With the exception of the prologue, the entire novel is one continuous chapter.

    1. Eric,

      How did I miss Sam Eastland? After reading your comment, I surfed around and realized Sam has written several books I’d like to read.

      But, I’m a Cold War kid and I’ve always been fascinated by all things Russian, so I didn’t have to read far into your comment to become interested in EYE OF THE RED TSAR.

      It reminds me of the first time I saw CHILD 44 on the shelf. I knew as soon as I read the flap that I had to have the book. I think (I’m not certain) it was Tom Rob Smith’s first novel.

      And of course, it also reminds me of my favorite fictional Russian investigator – Arkady Renko.

      I guess I’m straying from the Roundtable issue here, so I’ll end with a sincere “Thank you” for mentioning Sam Eastland.

  4. One of my favorite novels is A Dangerous Fortune (1993) by Ken Follett.
    Of course, after the huge success of Pillars of the Earth (1989), ADF was dwarfed by comparison and probably did not get its deserved notoriety. I feel it’s been underrated so much that Wikipedia doesn’t even show a page for it!

    As usual with Mr. Follett-I’ve met him, even had our picture taken, but can’t come to grips to use his first name-the book shows a myriad of characters and P.O.V.’s from both good and bad guys.

    ADF begins with a mysterious murder in the prologue then explores the far reaching consequences to the 5 or 6 people involved.
    The book also deals with banking during the last decades of the 1800’s and I was surprised and fascinated how things done today had their roots in things done hundreds of years before. I was reminded of the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Although Wikipedia doesn’t have a page, Follett’s official site does. Here is the link:

MATCH UP: In stores now!


ThrillerFest XVI: Register Today!



One of the most successful anthologies in the history of publishing!