December 11 – 17: “What’s your favorite book or movie that combines thrillers with the Holidays?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5What’s your favorite book or movie that combines thrillers with the Holidays? Join ITW Members Cheryl Hollon, Colin Campbell, Jennifer D. Bokal, Ines Eberl, Lynn Cahoon, Jim L’Etoile, Victoria Gilbert and Luke Murphy as they dig deep into this week’s holiday-themed Roundtable. Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along!


Cheryl Hollon writes full-time after an engineering career designing and installing military flight simulators in England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, and India. Living her dream, she combines a love of writing with a passion for creating glass art in the small glass studio behind her house in St. Petersburg, Florida. Cheryl is an officer of the Florida Gulf Coast Sisters in Crime, and a member of Mystery Writers of America.


Victoria Gilbert, raised in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, turned her early obsession with reading into a dual career as an author and librarian. She has worked as a reference librarian, research librarian, and library director. A member of International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America, she lives in North Carolina with her husband, son, and some very spoiled cats.


James L’Etoile’s crime fiction work is recognized by the Creative World Awards, Acclaim Film, the Scriptapalooza Television Script Competition, Killer Nashville Reader’s Choice, and The American Book Festival Awards. At What Cost was released by Crooked Lane Books in 2016 and BURY THE PAST (a 2017 Best Book Award finalist in the mystery/suspense category) was published on December 12, 2017. James L’Etoile worked in prisons and jails for twenty-nine years before turning to crime fiction. He is an experienced correctional administrator, facility captain, associate warden, chief of institution operations, and director of state parole. He draws upon his experience to bring his crime fiction to life. He consults in prisons, jails and community corrections across the country and when he isn’t writing, he and his wife Ann-Marie participate in therapy dog programs for seniors in memory care and Read To A Dog children’s reading programs.


Winner of the Sexy Scribbler for 2015, Jennifer D. Bokal is the author of the best-selling Ancient World Historical Romance, The Gladiator’s Mistress and the second book in the Champions of Rome series, The Gladiator’s Temptation. She is also the author of Her Rocky Mountain Hero and Her Rocky Mountain Defender, both part of the Rocky Mountain Justice series with Harlequin Romantic Suspense. Jen holds a master of arts in creative writing from Wilkes University and is a member of both the Romance Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. Happily married to her own Alpha Male for twenty years, she enjoys writing stories that explore the wonders of love. Jen and her manly husband live in upstate New York with their three beautiful daughters, two aloof cats, and two very spoiled dogs.


Ex army, retired cop and former Scenes Of Crime Officer. Colin Campbell is the author of British crime novels Blue Knight White Cross, and Northern Ex, and US thrillers Jamaica Plain, Montecito Heights, Adobe Flats and Snake Pass. His Jim Grant thrillers bring a rogue Yorkshire cop to America, where culture clash and violence ensue.


Lynn Cahoon is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Tourist Trap cozy mystery series. Guidebook to Murder, book 1 of the series, won the Reader’s Crown for Mystery Fiction in 2015. She also pens the Cat Latimer series. A Story to Kill and Fatality in Firelight are available in mass market paperback. She lives in a small town like the ones she loves to write about with her husband and two fur babies.


Luke Murphy is the International bestselling author of Dead Man’s Hand (Imajin Books, 2012) and Kiss & Tell (Imajin Books, 2015). Murphy played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. His sports column, “Overtime” (Pontiac Equity), was nominated for the 2007 Best Sports Page in Quebec, and won the award in 2009. He has also worked as a radio journalist (CHIPFM 101.7). Murphy lives in Shawville, QC with his wife, three daughters and a pug. He is a teacher who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing and a Bachelor of Education (Magna Cum Laude). WILD CARD, a sequel to Dead Man’s Hand, is Murphy’s third novel.


Ines Eberl grew up in Berlin and Paris and earned her law degree at the University of Salzburg. She gained her first experiences as a journalist in the newsroom at the Austrian television network ORF, then she returned to academia to conduct research on German contemporary history, in particular the Third Reich and Nazi legislation, at the Institute for European Legal History. Today she works at a law firm as a lawyer whose passion for writing remains. After authoring several suspense novels, she is now a member of the ITW and belongs to the Crime Writers´Association of the U.K.


  1. Hello Thriller Writers! My all-time favorite Holiday thriller is DIE HARD. Not only is it an amazing, fast-paced, action-packed movie, but it was a turning point in my development as a writer. I had signed up for an on-line class on how screenwriting techniques can be used to create compelling stories. DIE HARD was used as our case study to analyze the three-act structure of story telling. It was the first time I had seen a movie script. The next lesson was to watch the movie and follow along with the script in my lap. It was a life-changing exercise and I’ll never forget the many ah ha moments I experienced.

  2. Sitting at my desk in Salzburg on a cold December morning, the snowy Austrian Alps glittering behind my office´s windows, and thinking about the right book to present to you, I realized that it was the Spirit of Christmas I was looking for. Maybe the most beautiful and thrilling peace of reading ever written about Christmas is not a book but – a novella. It is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Published on 19th of December in 1843 the first edition has been sold out by Christmas Eve. Since then the novella has never been out of print, it has been translated in several languages and there are adaptions for the opera, the film, the stage and other media.

    It is the thrilling story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an old business man, haunted on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his late partner who wanders the Earth after a lifetime of selfishness, entwined by heavy chains and money boxes. He wants to show Scrooge how to avoid the same fate. And so, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come appear and make Scrooge see his childhood, the people suffering from his lack of generosity and – his dying day full of loneliness and regret. On Christmas morning Scrooge awakens as a changed man. From this day on he treats everyone with compassion, generosity and kindness. He embodies the Spirit of Christmas.

    It is said that Charles Dickens built the story in his head while taking long night-time walks in London. When he was a boy of 12 years his father lost his fortune and Dickens had to pawn his book, leave school and go to work at a shoe-blacking factory. An experience that never left him. As an author he visited the Cornish tin mines and saw children working under appalling conditions. “A Christmas Carol” intends to make its reader open for those who are less fortunate, to encourage benevolence and to make aware of the danger created by social inequality to society. These are the days, I think, when Dickens´ message should be heard. Merry Christmas!

    1. This is also one of my favorites! The story really is a thriller in a lot of ways — certainly rather dark until near its end. It reminds me of It’s A Wonderful Life in that way. Everyone holds both of them up as “cheery” Christmas themed tales, but when you look/read closer there is a good bit of darkness in both. Which only adds to the overall impact, in my opinion.

  3. Although in some ways it may feel that I am “cheating,” I have to say that Susan Hill’s THE WOMAN IN BLACK in my favorite holiday thriller/mystery. In all fairness, the beginning of the book is indeed set at Christmas, and one is led into the more thrilling aspects of the tale when the narrator describes the British tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. (Also connecting it to another one of my favorites — Dickens’ Christmas Carol, which Ines Eberl has so eloquently spoken about above).
    A WOMAN IN BLACK has been adapted for television and film, but I feel it should be read, not watched — the TV version is currently unavailable, and the film has its own merits but it bears little resemblance to the book. Also, neither film or TV can capture the quality of the writing, which is essential to the success of the story. This is a book whose merits lie, I think, particularly within the realm of the written word.
    A WOMAN IN BLACK is a ghost story that possesses that unique quality rarely found in books that deal with the supernatural — the sense that perhaps none of this is real, or all of it is. In this aspect, it shares a lineage with one of my favorite stories in any genre: Henry James’ A TURN OF THE SCREW. Both can be read by believers and non-believers alike, and a case can be made that in both the ghost(s) are real, or all in the mind of the characters. To me, this displays a tremendous level of pure writing skill, as well as a deep understanding of human psychology. Both are elements I admire in any work of fiction.
    Also, I believe that Hill didn’t choose the Christmas season to start her book lightly — she made good use of the holiday setting as a counterpoint to the more thrilling and frightening aspects of the rest of the book. It’s particularly clever, I think, that genial, family-oriented Christmas atmosphere of the start of the book is shot through with threads of dread. It’s a masterful way to set up the reader’s expectations. You are slowly taken deeper and deeper into the terror of the narrator’s tale, rather than being cast directly into the abyss. To me, this is the more frightening way to present any type of thriller, as it lulls the reader into a sense of identification with the characters before the true horror engulfs them.
    So, if you want to scare yourself, in a delightful way, this Christmas Eve, pick up a copy of Susan Hill’s A WOMAN IN BLACK!

  4. Okay, since Cheryl stole my DIE HARD answer, I’m going with THE SANTA CLAUSE – 3 . This is the thrilling story of a normal guy who falls into the role of Santa. But with all his normal life pressing in, he wants to give up his day job. Jack Frost plays a believable villain who tricks Santa into saying those magic words- I wish I’d never been Santa at all. This of course throws Scott/Santa into an IT A WONDERFUL LIFE time loop and he has to trust a kid to help him get back to his real world where everyone is waiting for him.

    Full of action, adventure, and snow filled fight scenes, this movie isn’t for the faint at heart.

    1. I ran across The Santa Clause 3 on TV this weekend.It’d been years since I’d seen it last, but I agree– it’s a great movie!

  5. I must confess that when it comes to Christmas Thrillers I lean towards movies not books. Maybe it’s because I’m a slow reader so a 400-page novel takes me into spring. Having said that, when it comes to festive season action there is only one. DIE HARD. Kicking ass in Nakatomi Towers with Christmas lights and festive explosions warms my cockles. Throw in a yippee-ki-yay and a winter closing credits song and it gets me every time.
    My other favourite is more festive than thriller but is exciting non-the less. RARE EXPORTS, is a subtitled snow bound action movie with a hostage Santa, nasty helpers and an explosive finish. All in less than 90 minutes.
    Throw in, Long Kiss Goodnight, Lethal Weapon and Iron Man 3. Practically anything written by Shane Black. Then when it comes to New Year, turn your boat over with, The Poseidon Adventure. Ho ho ho.

  6. When I was asked to participate in the Big Thrill roundtable this month and that the topic was a movie or book that combines thrillers and the holidays, I knew that I had to say yes. I also knew which book or movie I’d recommend—Die Hard. If you’ve never seen Die Hard, or haven’t seen it recently, it’s a much-watch. More even than seeing Bruce Willis with hair, the late, great Alan Rickman gives an amazing performance. The movie is definitely an eighties production. The fashion and views—perms, shoulder pads, cell phones the size of bricks, and egad; did people really smoke constantly back then—aren’t enough to change the fact that Die Hard is an amazing story.

    Having traveled from New York to L. A. to visit his relocated wife and children, NYPD detective John McClane, played by Willis, shows up admits his wife’s company Christmas party. Within minutes, a group of terrorist, led by Rickman’s Hans Gruber, takes all the party goers hostage—McClane notwithstanding. What unfolds from there is a pure adrenaline rush and all the while, the holidays are woven throughout.

    Die Hard, a 1988 release, is based on Roderick Thorp’s novel and was directed by John McTiernan.

  7. I get a lot of flak from my wife for this. She likes to argue that my favorite Christmas movie isn’t in fact a Christmas movie at all. I like to debate with people on it, so I welcome all comments on my selection. It seems that many authors share my POV, which I’ll make sure to point out to my wife.

    My favorite Christmas (thriller) movie is DIE HARD, starring Bruce Willis. This is a Christmas classic. For those of you who would disagree that this is a Christmas movie because Christmas isn’t a main theme of the movie, I’ll remind you that the story takes place around Christmas time, and the only reason why Bruce Willis is in the Nakatomi Plaza, a high-rise office building in Century City, Los Angeles, California that houses the headquarters of the California branch of the Nakatomi Corporation, a Japanese company, is because he was invited by his wife to her company Christmas party. So even if the rest of the movie: guns, bullets and bombs, have nothing to do with Christmas, just the fact that he’s there for a Christmas party, in my mind, makes it a Christmas movie.

  8. The holiday season finds us with forced family gatherings, Black Friday shopping riots, bell ringers, and a rush to install Christmas lights inspired by the Griswold Family in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

    I’m not particularly fond of crowds (family or otherwise) and the notion of a cage match brawl over the latest doorbuster deal isn’t my idea of a joyous holiday celebration. I find myself more aligned with Dashiell Hammett’s Nick Charles in The Thin Man, who cools his heels in a speakeasy while Nora is out doing the Christmas Shopping. Jo Nesbo’s The Redeemer involves an assassin taking out a Salvation Army officer during a Christmas street concert. I substitute bell ringer in my dark little mind.

    However, you choose to celebrate the season, remember your third cousin-twice removed, the one who won’t give up the television remote because he’s watching the Honey Boo Boo marathon, is going home–someday.

    Your holiday may resemble Bad Santa more than a Miracle on 42nd Street, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take some time to enjoy it. Maybe, just maybe if we were nicer to one another all year long, the holidays wouldn’t seem as much of a challenge. However you celebrate, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Krampus, I wish you health, happiness, and thrills to come in the year ahead.

  9. Elizabeth. Another one written by Shane Black. Also try, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He said in interviews that he will try and set one away from the festive season and I think he did with, Nice Guys. Another great movie.

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