March 23 – 29: “Have international novels evolved in recent years?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week the Thriller Roundtable is going international! Join ITW Members Jean Heller, J. H. Bográn, Anderson Harp, Susan FroetschelShelley Coriell and Alan Field as they discuss the question: “Have international novels evolved in recent years?”


hellerMost of Jean Heller’s career was as an investigative and projects reporter and editor in New York City, Washington, D.C. and St. Petersburg Florida. Her career as a novelist began in the 1990s with the publication of the thrillers, “Maximum Impact” and “Handyman” by St. Martin’s Press. Then life intervened and postponed her new book, “The Someday File,” to publication in late 2014. Jean has won the Worth Bingham Prize, the Polk Award, and is an eight-time Pulitzer Prize nominee.


TreasureHunt_Ebook_2J. 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 Short Fiction Writers Guild, Crime Writer’s Fiction and the International Thriller Writers. He lives in Honduras with his family and a “lucky” dog.


bornAnderson Harp is the author of the military thrillers “Retribution” and “Born of War” (Kensington). He served in the Marines, taught artic survival, mountaineering, and was stationed around the globe. He created the USO’s Operation Thriller. He is a recipient of the Non-Sibi Sed Patriae Lifetime Achievement Award. His writing has also appeared in The Huffington Post, CNN Larry King Live, NewsMax and The Big Thrill.



Allure of Deceit by Susan FroetschelSusan Froetschel (East Lansing, MI) is the author of four previous novels—FEAR OF BEAUTY (also set in the same village of Afghanistan), ALASKA GRAY, INTERRUPTIONS, and ROYAL ESCAPE. In addition, she has written articles for the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Barron’s, and many other publications. She has taught writing and journalism at Yale University and Southern Connecticut State University, and she currently writes and edits for YaleGlobal Online, based at Yale University’s Macmillan Center.


theburied_final_rgb_lo3 (3)Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of romantic suspense and novels for teens. Her debut romantic thriller, The Broken, was named one of the Best Romances of Summer 2014 by Publishers Weekly and a Top Pick/4.5 Stars by Romantic Times Book Reviews. An avid foodie and former restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner.


Alan Field, new to the ITW, hopes to make a splash with his first urban thriller, The Chemist, that revolves around a weapon of mass destruction and the person who created it. Alan has written short stories starting from age 10, but this is the first work he wishes to publish. While practicing law for twenty years, Alan fathered four children. He is also an accomplished music composer and arranger who resides in New Jersey.



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  1. Growing up in a Spanish-speaking country, I admit to have begun reading thrillers late. My big catch-up decade was the 90’s when I read plenty of paperbacks. I read Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Identity, The Matarese Circle, and Road to Gandolfo. I enjoyed Frederick Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal, and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. I was sold on Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, Debt of Honor and Executive Orders. Although completely out of order as it depended what I could get my hands on, I read the first 14 books of the Dirk Pitt series from Pacific Vortex to Flood Tide and everything in between. And of course, I read most of the early books from Ken Follett, being my favorite Triple.

    Please do not think I am just dropping names and throwing titles at random. My intention is explain that because I read books form four decades all banged up into one it took me a long time to realize the subtle changes the genre has gone through.

    World threatening could be a staple of the thriller genre, but we’ve seen that since the 60’s with Ian Fleming’s books, so that’s not new. The larger-than-life hero? Yep, we got them since the early 70’s. Multiple point of views? Check. Oh, wait…that maybe something more recent, say the 80’s. However, one of the most notable changes I’ve seen as a reader is the use of first person narrative. They used to be third-person, remember? Although first person narrative may be somewhat new to thrillers, the trick goes back centuries. Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Treasure Island, they all are books written before the 20th century and they used First Person narrative.

    The other subtle change I’ve seen is that thriller books are carefully dipping a toe into other genres. Gone Girl comes to mind.

    In sum, as the name implies, we read to get thrills out of the stories we are being told. Of course we’ll see changes because books are products of their individual generations and they move with their respective target audience.

    PS: Since I was the last to comment the last time I participated in a Roundtable I see it fitting that I comment first this time around. 🙂

  2. I would agree with what J H Bogran is saying..I recently reread Sherlock Holmes and was fascinated with the writing. Doyle’s ‘The Red Headed League” is a short, fun read. And it is a travelog that takes us back in time and to a place that we have never been. Dickens is similiar in that he took you back in time, place and class. You really felt poor when he finished a story. But to the point, thrillers have been the opportunity to go to places one would usually never go to. Most might make the trip to London at some point, but rarely to Istanbul like Bond. One may never go to Oman. Thrillers take us to such places. Now, with the Internet, we can back check, so to speak, these locations. So there is more of a demand for a reasonable degree of accuracy that was not there a decade ago.

  3. As José points out, the range and diversity of nations and characters have expanded. Conflict is less limited to an agent of the West versus a traditional foe – as seen by clicking on International in the ITW menu bar. Security is no longer the key concern, and characters must defend themselves on cultural grounds, human rights, climate change, inequality and more. News events and perceptions of threats drive the topics and themes behind climate change, terrorism, and cross-border finance. Anderson raises a good point about the internet – curious readers will check on accuracy. Also, because of the internet, readers are less keen on the travelogue thrillers that seemed common in 60s and 70s.

    1. Great point, Susan, that “characters must defend themselves on cultural grounds, human rights, climate change, inequality and more.” In these cases, conflict, despite the genesis on a global stage and enhanced by powerful technology/intel/weaponry, is intensely personal. By going big, international thrillers can force characters to get deep in their hearts.

  4. Susan is very right…”Conflict is less limited..” The thriller has been opened up to a wide range of good and bad by the internet. How about the speed of world events? Has that had an impact on the international novel? Does a plot have to be carefully chosen so that it is not passed by from world events? Just think of the page one events that several months ago would have the world on edge but now have passed by.

    1. As with the Internet, social media has been a huge factor in establishing global immediacy and intimacy. Look at the role Twitter, in particular, has played in recent international conflicts. In addition to writing adult romantic thrillers, I write for teens, and it’s mind-blowing how many of my readers use Twitter and Tumblr as primary news sources.

    2. The speed is mind-boggling. The response to world political and financial events comes in seconds. Members of the public, armed with ample detail, can respond on an issue before world leaders. The interconnections are intricate, with sanctions imposed for activity in one sector but firm agreement and coordination of force in another sector. Nations are deeply polarized, and elites and ordinary citizens have little trouble quickly finding common ground with counterparts overseas. All this is why I set my novels in a fictional Afghan village where technology is minimal and the literacy rate is low but on the rise. Make no mistake, though, globalization thrives in the world’s smallest communities. For me, the small-community setting is more accommodating for the first-person narrative.

      1. Ha. I still remember the novels dealing with the early days of Internet. One in particular that went to great lengths explaining how to log in to an internet account and how people back then were nice to reply to massage erroneously sent to their account with a note: “I think this was meant for this other person.”
        Then again, account were not inundated with junk email, and Spam only meant mystery meat.

  5. Subject matter aside, the biggest change I’ve seen is the emergence of Scandinavian thriller writers, who seem to have a great knack for the genre. I was reminded of that this weekend when I was in Cleveland doing a book promotion and a friend of mine introduced me to Jo Nesbo. Just as I had a wonderful time discovering British thriller writers several decades ago, I’m now having the same fun with Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, Peter Hoeg, and a host of others.

    I’m late in the discovery of some of these writers, but better late than never.

  6. Accessibility is amazing..I traveled to the Kaaba recently on Google Earth..It would be nearly impossible to do so otherwise..Interesting note: recently geologists found high levels of iridium in tests near the black stone which would be consistent with what is found in, access to information such as this pushes the envelope on international thrillers!

    1. I did the same thing, Anderson. I was hired to ghostwrite a novel for a client that required me to visit northern Afghanistan, the historic city of Bamyan, and the equally historic Silk Road. The fee the client was paying me was nowhere near enough to allow me to make the trip in person, assuming I even wanted to, which I didn’t for obvious reasons.

      But thanks to Google Earth and other sources on the Internet, I was successful in learning the terrain, the history, and taking readers to those sites, even setting a lot of action there, especially in the caves of Bamyan.

      It was one of many occasions over my recent writing career that caused me to scratch my head and wonder, “What did we do before the Internet?”

      1. Jean…I think before the internet we used to have encyclopedias on the one side, and the other, was the utter lack of shame to interview people in the name of research.
        I still do the latter. In fact, a few months ago I had the opportunity to interview a former President of my country about a particular experience. How I got his phone number is an story all in itself.

  7. This roundtable is a good example of the accessibility now afforded. The exchange of ideas from several authors thousands of miles apart. We are working right now on posting interviews on YouTube that talk about the characters in my books. Interesting experiment. Meet the author and get some deep background on the characters you have read about. Who is Will Parker? What is an HK P-30? What drives the bad guy? The test of the week – what is an HK P-30?

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