February 6 – 12: “How is the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election going to change thrillers?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5Join ITW Members David Alexander, John Falbey and Jon Land as they discuss how the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election is going to change thrillers. You won’t want to miss it!


Jon Land is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of 41 novels, including eight titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series, the most recent of which is Strong Cold Dead. Most recently, he’s teamed with ThrillerMaster Heather Graham to pen The Rising, the first in a series that features two high school seniors who are that stands between the world and total annihilation. The next Caitlin Strong book, Strong to the Bone, publishes next December, followed by Blood Moon, a sequel to The Rising, in January.


David Alexander began writing early in life and began writing uncoaxed and spontaneously. His fledgling appearance in print dates to a sonnet published in a New York City daily newspaper when David was in elementary school in Brooklyn. Between then and today, he has written and published in virtually every literary category, including novels, novelettes, short fiction, poetry, essays and film scripts. He received his early education via the New York City public school system. He later attended Columbia University in New York City and Sorbonne University in Paris, France.


John Wayne Falbey writes techno-political spy thrillers and action/adventure novels. His debut novel, Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening, has become an international bestseller on Amazon.com and was endorsed by Compulsory Reads. He followed that up with Endangered Species, A Sleeping Dogs Thriller. THE YEAR OF THE DOG is the third book in the series. The fourth book, Junkyard Dogs, is expected to be published by early 2017. He also is the author of The Quixotics, a tale of gunrunning, guerilla warfare, and treachery in the Caribbean. A native Floridian and former transactional attorney, Falbey is a real estate investor and developer in Southwest Florida.


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  1. Let me get this started with a simple thesis: the election of Donald Trump has changed the landscape for thrillers of all kinds, but particularly political thrillers, forever. I, for example, have featured any number of ego-maniacal, narcissistic, ego-driven, power hungry types as villains over the years, particularly in my Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong series. But none of them even approach the caricature that is Donald Trump. No longer does the classic American power-hungry and power villain apply, because no matter what we conjure in fiction can never even approach what we are experiencing in fact. If I had written what we’ve seen so far of the Trump presidency, I dare say my editors would tell me it was too fanciful and farfetched to be credible. But here we are, just as we were on the tragic day of 9/11 when the Twin Towers came down and all of a sudden the villains of our imaginations were nothing compared to the villains whose work unfolded in horrific fashion before our eyes. So am I drawing a comparison between the Trump presidency and 9/11 and, similarly, how each has/will change how thrillers are written and perceived? Yes, I am.

  2. Very interesting comment, and analogy. As I don’t live in the US I’d stayed away from speaking my mind about politics, but it should suffice to say, reality can be stranger than fiction.

  3. Is the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election going to change thrillers?

    The answer to that question depends, I believe, on the subgenre of the thriller. Subgenres such as fantasy, romance, sci-fi, historical (past eras), medical, and horror thrillers, for instance, may be unaffected by what happens inside the Beltway. On the other hand, conspiracy, political, military, international intrigue, and spy or espionage thrillers easily could be required to undergo changes. This becomes especially challenging for authors of series that are grounded in one or more of these subgenres.

    For example, my Sleeping Dogs series combines elements of political, conspiracy, espionage, military, techno, and international intrigue. The books in the series have had a field day, thanks to the previous administration, by postulating a shadow government of patriots in the military and intelligence communities, as well as private industry. They’ve been working behind the scenes internationally to prevent the policies emanating from the Oval Office from weakening America to the point where it’s subsumed into a one-world government. (“Ain’t multiculturalism a bitch.”)

    Now, as a result of the recent election, my protagonists no longer have Obama and his cohort forcing their activities underground. Yet,despite all the sound and fury, it’s too early to determine accurately where and how the new administration will differ from the previous one. And, ultimately, will it be a significant difference? Will my protagonists be brought in from the shadows and incorporated into the mainstream, and sanctioned by the administration to continue to pursue and eliminate America’s enemies? I’m a half-dozen chapters from the end of the current novel in the series, and am in the process of going back and accounting for the results of the recent election in preparation for the books to follow.

    So, yes, the 2016 presidential election will change (and in my case has changed) some thrillers, particularly those that are part of a series, but not necessarily all thrillers.

  4. I think what we have here is somewhat of a repeat of what happened to the thrillers in the 70s. For the two decades prior, the genre had been dominated by Cold War tales like Le Carre’s THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD and Alistair McClean’s ICE STATION ZEBRA. The Watergate era spawned massive distrust of government, ultimately accounting for the popularity of Robert Ludlum’s conspiracy-based thrillers and, prior to that, books like Jame Grady’s SIX DAYS OF THE CONDOR. I think what you’ll see today, once again, is a move of not just mistrust of the government but downright disregard. I’d look for a spate of retro-thrillers that feature the likes of White Supremists taking power and conspiracy-based tales of mysterious cabals that hold the real power. Maybe even a tale or two about the rise of an authoritarian regime transforms the entire nature of government and the Constitution itself. Farfetched, you say? What were you saying a few months before the election about who you thought was going to win? And, hey, that’s why they call if fiction anyway!

  5. More random thoughts on the effects of the recent national election.
    For the first time in memory, the Oval Office is occupied by an unknown entity, someone who did not come from inside the Beltway or “politics as usual.” The new president has no history as a politician. Is he, as some fear, a loose cannon? Or is he possibly an invigorating breath of fresh air in a room too long sealed off from reality and fresh ideas? Certainly, there are those on the left who are trembling in fear that he is the personification of fascism. Others on the right proclaim him to be the savior of constitutional rights. But all these people react from emotion and not reason. Thinking people, especially writers of fiction, recognize the limitless opportunities this election has produced for them to explore new paths in their novels. This is especially true for thrillers that focus storylines primarily on the areas of geopolitical and international intrigue, conspiracies, military special operations, black ops, assassinations, terrorism, espionage, and a plethora of related themes that currently dominate the news. At this point, it’s an open book for creative minds. As a writer, I, for one, am delighted not to be burdened with the same old, same old yet again. Love him or hate him, think of the possibilities!

  6. I think John is raising an excellent point here, that being what just the kind of climate he describes begets in thrillers. Great political thrillers like SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (SIX DAYS in the book!), FAIL-SAFE, and numerous others were bred by a general distrust and disregard for government. Toward John’s point, I think at this stage a majority of Americans would definitely agree that, at the very least, the Trump administration has been relentlessly incompetent and has relied on outright lies to get its point across. Both of those are recipes to breed a comparable level of disregard and distrust to spawn the next generation of great political thrillers. In fact, I’m waiting for the first of what I suspect will be a long line of government overthrow tales that imagine either a military coup or something more subtle but equally pointed and also spawned by what can only be a continued decline in the regard of the American people toward the current administration.

  7. Jon’s latest comment raises a point that I had overlooked. During the abysmal years of the most recent previous administration, a number of thriller writers in the political, military, conspiracy, and intrigue subgenres penned stories that reflected a concern for America’s future well-being. The president had been raised and mentored by self-proclaimed Marxists and had been schooled for a time in madrassas. His administration gutted our military and intelligence communities, apologized for the era of Pax Americana, and cozied up to those who openly sought to harm us. No wonder thrillers were written that created protagonists and groups that sought to contain the damage. Rational Americans realize that, as time goes by, the newly elected administration may range from total wack job to the shrewdest of patriots or, most likely, something in between. But the point I originally overlooked is that those on the left, who now are the ones feeling disenfranchised, likely will assume the mantle of writing thrillers that focus on anti-administration themes. At least for the next four years. So, the effect of the 2016 presidential election on thrillers is simply to change the cast of those on the outside looking in from the right side of the spectrum to the left. The good news for readers of novels in these subgenres is they will continue to be written. As the old adage goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

  8. Hi All:

    A question not a comment if I might.

    Given the topic, do you feel that the presidential election will encourage a resurgence of the (“purer”) Allegorical Thriller?

    And if anyone still wants to share more views while they’re at it, go on over to the ITW Discussions and weigh in on writing rules and thriller conventions. (Yes, I realize it’s an unabashed plug, but we’re all one big happy organization, aren’t we?

  9. That’s a great question, Gary. I don’t know about “purer,” that might be expecting too much from fiction guided principally by irrational hatred. But I suspect there will be a surge in allegorical thrillers once the left reaches a point where it accepts the outcome of the election and ceases screaming, rioting, threatening, and generally disrupting civil discourse. Left-leaning writers, of which there seems to be no limit, will put their talents to work creating literary devices that depict the current administration, deservedly or otherwise, as the personification of fascist tyranny and all that’s evil under the sun. In the interests of full disclosure, it must be admitted that the election of Obama raised similar horror in the minds of conservatives. Allegorical thrillers were written in response, but not preceded by the childish acting out that the left currently is exhibiting. One thing is certain, throughout recent literary history, those believing themselves to be “disenfranchised,” have resorted to allegorical fiction to express their concern for social and political situations. From Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in The Republic to Dante’s Inferno to The Chronicles of Narnia and beyond, writers have been inspired by their perception of the world around them to pen allegorical prose in response. It should be interesting.

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