May 13 – 19: “What are your favorite examples of thrillers that question conventional wisdom or the status quo?”

This week we join ITW Members L.A. Starks and J. H. Bográn to answer the question: “What are your favorite examples of thrillers that question conventional wisdom or the status quo?” You won’t want to miss this!


L. A. Starks was born in Massachusetts, grew up in Oklahoma, and lives in Texas. She earned an engineering bachelor’s from Tulane and an MBA from the University of Chicago. Working for energy companies prepared her to write thrillers. Strike Price, published by L&L Dreamspell, is her second. Her first, 13 Days: The Pythagoras Conspiracy, received five-star reviews. Starks consults on energy economics, is on the Dallas Public Library volunteer board, and has run seven half-marathons.

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator. You can find him on Twitter @JHBogran, Facebook and Blogger.

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  1. I got a kick out of Michael Crichton’s State of Fear because he had the brand heft to question the green-is-God narrative. Conversely, and despite its grim tale, the authenticity of Helon Habila’s Oil on Water explains Nigeria better than a dozen State Department briefings.

    Authors like Alex Berenson, Joseph Finder, Vince Flynn, Jamie Freveletti, and Taylor Stevens know their subjects so well their thrillers consistently vault past the status quo. Similarly, we keep learning how little we know about Russia, so I appreciate Russian-set thrillers by Martin Cruz Smith and Tom Rob Smith, as well as Cathy Worthington’s Moskovsky Station.

    The unreliable narrator format in The Dinner by Herman Koch, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Sister: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton is mind-bending.

    As an energy expert as well as a thriller author, I’m happily surprised when someone gets the business right (or closer to right) instead of the stereotypically lame bad-guy oilman, usually coupled with a dismissive “it’s-too-hard-to-explain” ethos. Thriller authors who know their tech and their tech characters include Dr. Amy Roger’ Petroplague and Ben Coes’ Power Down, the latter a book I discovered at Thrillerfest 2012.

  2. What a great list L.A. Starks already posted. Not really much to add there, is it?

    In general, Sci-fi has been considered the go-to genre for analogies and criticism to the establishment or the society of its time. However, as you can see from the first entry, there are plenty of thrillers crossing that line as well.

    Other authors that I’d add to that list are John LeCarré from Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy to The Mission Song, with a quick stop in The Taylor of Panama, there’s always a nod, a repressed, dare I say quiet, antagonism to the establishment.

    On the other side of the spectrum, we have Ken Follett. I recently read Fall of Giants, where he depicts the events of the early 20th Century including World War I. What’s interesting of that book was the respect it showed to Germans, it would have been easy to peg them as the epitome bad guys, but Mr. Follett goes to great lengths to explain reasons and how, in a certain way, the conflict was inevitable due to the ruler’s class way of thinking during that era.

  3. Jacqueline, I will definitely have to read more Sandford.

    JH-you are right about sci-fi. In fact, Fahrenheit 451 was the book our city chose for the “Big Read”–a program where everyone reads the same book during a specific month. Great additional recommendations.

    Betty & Anita–thanks for your comments!

  4. The mention of Follett’s ‘Century’ series prompted me to write here. Yes, his works have often grabbed me and even have directed to some degree my own writing. He and authors like him have a tendency to point out personalities and traits even amongst the ‘bad guys’ that make us sit back and thin ‘Hrm…what if I was on that side of the border’?

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