March 7 – 13: “How many thrillers do you read each year?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5How many thrillers do you read each year? This week ITW Members Heather B. Moore, Sanjida Kay, J. H. Bográn, Vaughn C. Hardacker and Jean Heller discuss what proportion thrillers represent of their overall reading and what were some favorites from last year?


Lost King by H.B. MooreHeather B. Moore is a USA Today bestselling author of more than a dozen historical novels and thrillers, written under pen name H.B. Moore. She writes women’s fiction, romance and inspirational non-fiction under Heather B. Moore. This can all be confusing, so her kids just call her Mom. Heather attended Cairo American College in Egypt, the Anglican School of Jerusalem in Israel, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University in Utah.



bone by boneSanjida Kay is a writer and broadcaster. Bone by Bone is her first thriller. She lives in Bristol with her daughter and her husband. To learn more about Sanjida, please visit her website.




BLACK ORCHID PosterVaughn C. Hardacker has completed five novels and numerous short stories. His novel, SNIPER, was selected as a finalist in the Crime Fiction category of the 2015 Maine Literary Awards. His third, THE BLACK ORCHID, was released on March 1, 2016. He is a veteran of the U. S. Marines and served in Vietnam. He holds degrees from Northern Maine Technical College, the University of Maine and Southern New Hampshire University. He lives in Maine.


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.


Firefall_Proof2J. 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. His debut novel TREASURE HUNT, which The Celebrity Café hails as an intriguing novel that provides interesting insight of architecture and the life of a fictional thief, has also been selected as the Top Ten in Preditors & Editor’s Reader Poll. FIREFALL, his second novel, was released in 2013 by Rebel ePublishers. Coffee Time Romance calls it “a taut, compelling mystery with a complex, well-drawn main character.” He’s a member of the Short Fiction Writers Guild, Crime Writer’s Association, and the International Thriller Writers. He lives in Honduras with his family and one “Lucky” dog.


  1. Almost all the books I read are psychological thrillers. One of my favourites over the past couple of years is Gone Girl (I read this twice!), which has an incredible plot, the characters are chillingly Machiavellian and the prose is pitch-perfect for this kind of thriller. Flynn’s previous novel, Sharp Objects, doesn’t have such a rollercoaster plot, but it’s much edgier with a searing twist: perfect Southern gothic-noir. I loved Peter Swanson’s The Kind Worth Killing, Maggie Mitchell’s Pretty Is and The Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin. The prose in Jane Shemilt’s, Daughter and The Drowning Lesson is beautiful. Another favourite is Gilly MacMillan’s Burnt Paper Sky, published in the US as What She Knew. It’s set in Bristol where I live and it’s a good combination of plot, character with a wonderful use of language.
    What unites these books and authors for me, is that they deliver. Often with psychological thrillers, the hook or premise sounds incredible, but then the actual story can be disappointing and the language can often feel a bit prosaic. What do you think – is how a book is written as important to you as the plot and characters?
    As I work, write and have a family, I don’t have enough time to read all the books I want (I know, I know, I’m not alone here!) – hence concentrating so much on thrillers as that’s what I write. If I had more time, I’d add more literary fiction to the mix. Also, due to lack of time, most of the books I ‘read’ I actually listen to whilst I’m working out. I wonder if my perception of these thrillers is different because of the medium in which I’m absorbing them (and what I’m doing at the time. i.e. suffering!). What do you think?

    1. I’ve started listening to Audible over the past year in order to save time and read more books. I’ve enjoyed listening to some genres that I typically don’t pick up, which includes literary 🙂

      1. I must confess Gone Girl was my least favorite book of my list last year.
        May be all the hype raised the bar too high and when I read it I wasn’t enthralled.

  2. I probably read two thrillers a week, on average. Over the course of a year, thrillers probably make up half to two-thirds of all the books I read. My favorite book of 2015 was, without a doubt, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr. It wasn’t a thriller by our usual definitions, but it was captivating, mesmerizing, magnificently written and, on the whole, totally satisfying. I read it early last year, and my first thought when I finished it was, “Pulitzer Prize.” And I was right. Few books have been so deserving.

    My favorite pure thriller, without question and without equal, was I AM PILGRIM by Terry Hayes. If you need one book to define “edge-of-the-seat suspense,” this would be it.

    Other thrillers I enjoyed very much were, A BETTER GOODBYE by John Schulian, MAKE ME by Lee Child (in the cause of full disclosure, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series is my own personal guilty pleasure), THE REDEEMERS by Ace Atkins, HAVANA BAY by Martin Cruz Smith, GATHERING PREY by John Sandford, and MOONLIGHT WATER by Win and Meredith Blevins. I read lots of others I enjoyed: Jo Nesbo, Alan Furst, Michael Connelly, Bruce DeSilva, Paul Levine, Nelson DeMille, and Ian Rankin, but if I listed all those books, too, this post would be way too long.

    Along with thrillers, I enjoy noir mysteries. I’m currently re-reading an anthology of Black Mask stories, as well as Chandler, MacDonald, and Hammett, and the way-pre noir works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one of my all-time faves.

    Beyond that, my favorite reading is history and biography.

    Looking at this list, it’s a wonder I ever get any work done.

  3. On average I read a thriller every week. That represents about one-third of my total reading. I read everything I find by Lee Child, Robert Crais, and John Sandford. I’m also an avid reader of James Rollins and David Baldacci.

    I like to tell people that I cut my eyeteeth on Ludlum and Ian Fleming. Currently I am reading one of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels (Light of The World).

    I’m an eclectic reader in that I read just about everything westerns’ sci-fi, fantasy, and military novels as well as histories and biographies of the settling of the American west (usually with an emphasis on the storied villains such as tje James/Younger Gang and Butch Cassidy and his Hole-In-The-Wall Bunch).

    I’m also a fan of anthologies and spend many hours reading those compiled by Otto Penzler (Especially his Best American Mystery Stories series). There are times when I want to read something new without having to get involved in a novel.

    Like most writers I read every chance I get in order to keep abreast of the market as well as for entertainment. When I write, I’m trying to write a book that I’d like to read–therefore I read to determine what it is that I like.

    1. I read every Ludlum book I could find. By far my favorite was Materese Circle and its sequel. In fact, when I began reading thrillers back in the 90’s my trinity was Ludlum, Clancy and Cussler.

      Although a fan of the movies, it wasn’t until recently that I discovered the books, such great treasures.

  4. Before becoming a writer, and eventually an author, I was a reader first. I still read several books a month (Audible has cured a lot of boring driving time), and I average one thriller a month. So I’d say about 15% of the books I read are thrillers. Notable thrillers I’ve read in the past year include MAP OF BONES by James Rollins (I’m a huge Rollins fan, I even met him once…). And a new author to me, Fiona Quinn—I’ve read 2 books in her LYNX series. Her main character Lexi is smart and savvy. Another favorite was STAY CLOSE by Harlan Coben (you can’t go wrong with Coben). THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins was fabulous. Might read it again. NEVER SMILE AT STRANGERS by Jennifer Jaynes will completely creep you out—love! My all-time favorite reads of 2015 were the WWII novels ALL THE LIGHT YOU CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr and THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah; and a hidden gem about a group of people who become stranded on an island in WRECKAGE by Emily Bleeker; and finally THE BOYS IN THE BOAT by Daniel James Brown.

    1. Looks like the two of us are the audible ‘readers’ / listeners. Do you think it makes a difference listening as opposed to reading? I think I have more patience with an audio book as I’m doing something else at the same time.

      If the narrator is good, it can be refreshing to hear all the different voices with accents that aren’t flat Northern British (like mine) but if they’re not so good, it can be excruciating. The audible version of THE ICE TWINS wound me up no end as I hated the little girl voice the narrator used.

      GONE GIRL is the only thriller I’ve both read and listened to and it was equally good either way – but felt surprising reading it after listening to it!

      How about you, Heather?

      1. Audiobooks are great!
        I have trouble reading Huckleberry Finn. That was my nemesis, the book I started five times and couldn’t get past chapter 10. It was very difficult for me to read it with all that slang.
        Then, they sent me a free upgrade to Audible with the version narrated by Elijah Wood.
        Mission accomplished. 🙂

        1. I once met a woman whose father had been Ludlum’s editor. She told me that when her father finished removing all of thew unnecessary adjectives the manuscript was about 1/3 smaller. Must have been a hangover from his days doing TV commercials.

        2. I’m thinking about bringing my books to audio, Jose. Maybe someday soon we could have one of these discussions on who uses them, what they like and don’t like about them, and whether they boost sales.

  5. I always think myself as a slow reader, but just like turtle beating the hare in the fable, I manage to read over twenty books with nothing more than a steady pace and perseverance. I used to be about a dozen, or a book per month, but in the last few years I managed to up the ante with the help of e-readers.
    I guess following the advice of writing what you know I stick to writing thrillers because they represent a high percentage of my reading.
    Out of 21 books read in 2015, I can see 15 are sort of suspense or thrillers, so that’s about 70%.
    I pasted the list below so you can get an idea of my reading habits, you will find some recent titles, along with some classics. Since I grew up in Honduras where Spanish is the native language the “classics” that I read were different from the ones in the U.S., thus I’m still catching up in contemporary classics like Catch-22 and such. So this year in included a few old books like Othello, and David Morrell’s First Blood and even two Ian Flemming’s.

    A cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    Othello by William Shakespeare
    My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni
    Falling Under by Danielle Youge-Ullman
    Allure of Deceit by Susan Froetschel
    Tokyo Kill by Barry Lancet
    The Kraken Project by Douglas Preston
    The Silkworm by Robert Gobrain
    The Black Stiletto: Endings and beginnings by Raymond Benson
    Don Quijote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes
    Frist Blood by David Morrell
    El más grande vendedor del mundo by Og Mandino
    Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett
    Crimson Shore by D. Preston & L. Child
    Padre Rico Padre Pobre by Robert Kiyosaky
    El último vagón by Karlton Bhrul
    Moonraker by Ian Fleming
    Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
    The Black Stiletto by Raymond Benson
    Rey del Albor Madrugada by Julio Escoto

    You’ll notice some books are in Spanish because I still read in my native language. I guess I kind of have to, right? 🙂

    J. H. Bográn
    I never tell lies, I only write them
    A Dozen Shorts – A collection for $0.99
    The Assassin’s Mistress – FREE at

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