July 11 – 17: “Can you identify leading trends among this year’s crop of nominees for ITW awards?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5To celebrate the 11th annual ThrillerFest and thriller awards, we’ve gathered some of this year’s nominees to discuss story trends. We’re joined by Sandra Block, Robert McClure, Diane Capri, David Morrell and Caitlin O’Connell to answer the question: Can you identify leading trends – besides good story, thrills and suspense – among this year’s crop of nominees for ITW awards?





littleSandra A. Block graduated from college at Harvard, then returned to her native land of Buffalo, New York for medical training and never left. She is a practicing neurologist and proud Sabres fan, and lives at home with her husband, two children, and impetuous yellow lab Delilah. Her debut, LITTLE BLACK LIES, is a finalist for the 2016 ITW Best First Novel Award. THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME is her second Zoe Goldman novel.



jandjNew York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Diane Capri’s work is what the #1 worldwide publishing phenomenon Lee Child calls “Full of thrills and tension, but smart and human, too.” Margaret Maron, Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Award-winning MWA Grand Master, says: “Expertise shines on every page.” And Library Journal raves: “….offers tense legal drama with courtroom overtones, twisty plots, and loads of atmosphere. Recommended.”



Inspector of the Dead by David MorrellDavid Morrell write First Blood, the novel in which Rambo was created. His numerous bestsellers include The Brotherhood of the Rose, which became the only mini-series broadcast after a Super Bowl. An Anthony and Edgar finalist, Morrell has Inkpot, Macavity, Nero and Stoker Awards as well as ITW’s ThrillerMaster award. His Inspector of the Dead is nominated for this year’s ITW best hardcover award.



deadlyRobert McClure has a B.A. in criminology from Murray State University and a law degree from the University of Louisville. Robert is now an attorney and fiction writer who lives and works in Louisville, Kentucky. His novel Deadly Lullaby is a Thriller Award finalist for Best Original eBook.



ivoryDr. Caitlin O’Connell is a Consulting Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine and a world renowned expert on elephants and vibrotactile sensitivity. She is the author of the internationally acclaimed nonfiction science memoir, The Elephant’s Secret Sense (2007, Free Press.  Her novel Ivory Ghosts is a Thriller Award finalist for Best Original eBook.



  1. This year’s crop of Thriller Award nominees are an eclectic mix of creative plots, characters, and themes from new and familiar authors. Thrillers have always been one of the more flexible genres, but a quick pace and exciting plots combined with fresh ideas seemed to be the winning elements for the nominated titles.

  2. I agree with Diane! (And not just because we had dinner together and both didn’t win 😊) There was no particular trend that I could see, not even “Girl” in the title! There were adventure stories as well as techno thrillers. Domestic, Cormac McCarthy-esque and more horror-y as well.

    1. I agree Sandra and Diane ((And not just because we had dinner together and all didn’t win 😊). One of the things I love about the thriller category is how broad and inclusive it is and I think the thriller award nominees reflect that. Domestic thrillers, International thrillers, historical thrillers, literary thrillers, and more. I can’t discern any trends but what they all have in common is great writing and gripping stories.

  3. Certainly in the category of Best Original eBook you see that the modern thriller is pushing the envelope beyond what I’ve come to think of as the traditional thriller, that which focuses on a crime and the whodunit type of investigation that follows. This is exemplified in the winning book in this category, Chris Kuzneski’s The Prisoner’s Gold, a wonderful story about a team hunting Marco Polo’s lost treasure. Caitlin O’Connell’s Ivory Ghosts, also nominated for Best Original eBook, is quite different, too, a story about a wildlife biologist who goes undercover to investigate the illegal ivory poaching trade in Africa. The elements of adventure and international intrigue in these stories were refreshing.

    1. The Prisoner’s Gold and Ivory Ghosts both sound like great stories. I will check those out. That’s exciting to hear that you see elements of adventure and international intrigue as themes as those are the type of stories that I enjoy. I find the discussion of sub-genres in the thriller genre fascinating. Thrillers are often lumped together in one category when in reality there are such a variety of stories told under the thriller umbrella.

  4. Sorry I took a while to contribute. It takes almost 12 hours to go door-to-door from ThrillerFest in NYC to where I live in Santa Fe, NM. I’m only now managing to catch up. Like the other commentators, I didn’t see a trend in the Thriller Award nominees. They seemed to be healthily different from one another. Of course, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is part of a trend that began with Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL, and not just because girl is in the title. The latter set off a trend of what might be called “the person close to you is your worst enemy” subgenre. That book also started a trend of unreliable first-person narrators that go back to Henry James’s THE TURN OF THE SCREW in the 1890s. Agents and editors tell me that they’re getting a ton of these and are sick of them, which makes me conclude with my two primary mantras: 1.WE NEED TO BE FIRST-RATE VERSIONS OF OURSELVES AND NOT SECOND-RATE VERSIONS OF OTHER AUTHORS, and 2, DON’T CHASE THE MARKET. YOU’LL ALWAYS SEE ITS BACKSIDE.

    1. Thanks for the post, Mr. Morrell. Coming from the creator of one of the most iconic characters of all time, it is a point well-taken. Being a first-rate version of ourselves is truly all we can be.

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