December 17 – 23: “Christmas themed thrillers, yes or no? And why?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5‘Tis the season to….write a thriller? ITW Members Lisa de Nikolits, Lee Gimenez, C. Derick Miller, Lynn Cahoon, J. H. Bográn and Les Edgerton are taking time out of their holiday prep to discuss Christmas themed thrillers: Yes or no? And why? Scroll down to the “comments” section below to follow along. You won’t want to miss this!


Lynn Cahoon is the author of the New York Times and USA Today best-selling Tourist Trap cozy mystery series. GUIDEBOOK TO MURDER, book 1 of the series, won the Reader’s Crown for Mystery Fiction. She also pens the Cat Latimer series available in mass market paperback with SLAY IN CHARACTER coming in late 2018. In addition to releasing WHO MOVED MY GOAT CHEESE in March as part of the new Farm to Fork series, KILLER GREEN TOMATOES released July 3rd, 2018.


Les Edgerton is a full-time writer. He is an ex-con, having served two years at Pendleton Reformatory on a 2-5 sentence for second-degree burglary back in the late sixties. His work has been nominated for or been awarded: the Pushcart Prize, O. Henry Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, Derringer Award, Spinetingler Magazine Thriller of the Year, Jesse Jones Book Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award (short story category), Violet Crown Book Award, and others.


Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has lived in Canada since 2000. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and has lived in the U.S.A., Australia and Britain. No Fury Like That, her most recently published work, is her seventh novel. It will be published in Italian, under the title Una furia dell’altro mondo, in 2019. Previous works include: The Hungry Mirror (winner 2011 IPPY Gold Medal); West of Wawa (winner 2012 IPPY Silver Medal); A Glittering Chaos (winner 2016 Bronze IPPY Medal); The Witchdoctor’s Bones; Between The Cracks She Fell (winner 2016 for Contemporary Fiction); and The Nearly Girl. Lisa lives and writes in Toronto. Her ninth novel, The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution is forthcoming in 2019.


J. H. Bográn is an international author of novels, short stories and scripts for television and film.  He’s the son of a journalist, but ironically prefers to write fiction rather than facts. His genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. He also writes freelance for various magazines and newspapers across the globe. He lives in Honduras with his wife, three sons, and one Lucky dog. Get a free copy of the short story collection A Dozen Shorts when you sign up to his Newsletter.


Lee Gimenez is the award-winning author of 14 novels, including his highly-acclaimed J. T. Ryan Thriller series. His latest novel is FIREBALL, a J. T. Ryan Thriller, which was published in 2018. Several of his books were bestsellers, among them FBI Code Red, The Media Murders, Skyflash, Killing West, and The Washington Ultimatum. Lee is a multi-year nominee for the Georgia Author of the Year Award and is a Finalist in the prestigious Terry Kay Prize for Fiction. His books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other retailers in the U.S. and Internationally. Lee is a member of the International Thriller Writers Association (ITW), the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), the Georgia Writers Association, the Southeastern Writers Association, and the Atlanta Writers organization.


C. Derick Miller is a dark fiction author, freelance A&E journalist, poet, ordained minister, and ASCAP songwriter born in the town of Greenville, Texas. A seasoned paranormal investigator and traveler for the art industry, his influences include Hunter S. Thompson, Kevin Smith, Shawn Mullins, and Del James. He is currently signed with Black Rose Writing, Death’s Head Press, and is an Arts and Entertainment Contributor for several Northeast Texas newspapers and magazines.


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  1. Hello thriller writers and readers. First off I want to wish everyone a good holiday season. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
    Regarding our question for the Roundtable about Christmas themed thrillers, my opinion is that they’re great if used in a short story, but that they usually don’t work as well for a full-length novel. I think that if you have a holiday themed novel, you may limit your audience during the other eleven months of the year.
    To date I’ve had 14 thriller novels published. Of those novels, only one, The Washington Ultimatum, had a holiday theme in it. In this book, the villain, a rogue CIA agent named Angel Stone, is threatening to blow up Washington D.C. with a nuclear weapon unless her ransom demand of one billion dollars is not paid. In the novel, there’s a race against time to catch this criminal and the backdrop is the Christmas holiday (which is the deadline for the ransom payment). The book was a success, I believe, because it was a race against the clock, with the days and hours counting down to Christmas day.

    1. Dear Lee, you are so right – when I told my husband I was participating in this Roundtable and that I was working on a Christmas-themed novel, he said “Well, you’re not really working on a Christmas novel, it’s more that your pivotal moment happens on Christmas Day and it all leads up to that – but the novel isn’t about Christmas!”

      So I agree and it does add a nice race against time. This is the only novel I’ve written with any kind of Christmas link and I used a short story as a base, where a man struggled to be the perfect husband and father and he finally cracked on Christmas Day. It’s very dark and twisted and it’s mostly about human emotions and second chances and the mistakes one makes under pressure and lives to regret…. murderous mistakes.

      It’s also a time travel story with touches of horror and it’s being pretty tough to write! My biggest Christmas self-gift will be getting the first draft done in time for Christmas so I can put my feet up and relax!

      Happy Holidays to you and All!

    2. This past weekend, I went to an antique market in St. Jacobs and there, just in time for this blog post, was a table of Christmas reads!

      Here are some of the books: Nora Roberts, The Christmas Wish, Mary Higgins Clark/Carol Higgins Clark, Deck the Halls, Fern Michaels, Secret Santa, Debbie Macomber/Brenda Novak/Cherryle Woods, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Debbie Macomber, Twelve Days of Christmas, Debbie Mason, It Happened at Christmas and a dozen more!

      You can check out the pic on Twitter, @lisadenikolits, I couldn’t post the pic here but I thought it was very timely, given our discussion!

    3. Dear Lee, to your point, I mentioned to my husband that I am writing a Christmas-theme novel and he said “No, you’re not, your pivotal crisis moment takes place on Christmas Day but the novel isn’t about Christmas at all!”

      And yes, the race against the clock is very handy, the countdown to Christmas!

      My race to Christmas is to try to finish a first draft of this novel – that would be the best gift ever! When it comes to writing, I do believe in magic, that the writing gods smile benevolently upon with us with story ideas (although I am quite like a pit bull, in going out and doing my own hunting for those ideas but luck certainly helps!) and I’ll very happily take the gift of Draft One!

      Wishing you and your readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

    4. It’s an interesting point, Lee. I seem to remember (brain fuzzy this morning!) that either Agatha Christie or Georgette Heyer did a crime novel set at a Christmas house party, and of course it works for Die Hard!! But I wonder if those are generic mysteries/thrillers that just happen to be set at Christmas and still work for the rest of the year. In which case, is it possible to write a crime novel that is *just* a Christmas book? And if so, what would it be?

  2. I love Christmas themed thrillers, or at least, cozy mysteries. One, I love the titles, and how many issues do we all have with our relatives? Friends, family, the pressure of a perfect holiday, maybe a snowed in locked door mystery? The ideas are multiple. And if you add in the magic of Santa, you have something that can go year after year, gaining new readers.

    In reality, Christmas and the holidays are a tough time for some people. When I worked in a nursing home, several patients would hold on for the holidays, then let go at the first of the year. Maybe it’s the cold, or maybe, they just wanted one more Christmas with family and loved ones.

    Having stories to read where Christmas isn’t the perfect Hallmark moment for everyone might just help the sadness some people feel.

    And did I mention the titles?

    Of course, since I just wrote 6 Holiday Novellas for my Tourist Trap series, I might be bias in this answer.

    Happy holidays writers and readers.

    1. Dear Lynn, I found that very moving about how people hold on for the holidays. One more Christmas… that’s very poignant.

      I agree, the ideas are multiple!! And the titles! Just this past weekend, I went to an antique market in St. Jacobs and there, just in time for this blog post, was a table of Christmas reads!

      Here are some of them:Nora Roberts, The Christmas Wish, Mary Higgins Clark/Carol Higgins Clark, Deck the Halls, Fern Michaels, Secret Santa, Debbie Macomber/Brenda Novak/Cherryle Woods, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Debbie Macomber, Twelve Days of Christmas, Debbie Mason, It Happened at Christmas and a dozen more!

      Readers can check out the pic on Twitter, @lisadenikolits, I couldn’t seem to post it here.

      Wishing you and your readers a very Happy Holidays too!

  3. Christmas themed thrillers – I definitely vote for yes! Christmas creates so many opportunities for complicated plots and twisted and crazy spontaneous actions driven by a feast of dark and desperate emotions.

    The novel I’m currently writing (aka grappling with, trying to wrestle to the ground!) has its climatic moment on Christmas day, so I guess that’s proof of my faith in the theme.

    Families are reunited in the season of financial difficulties, with romantic intrigue and you can throw in exotic locales! Christmas can add a twist to stay-at-home thrillers and, while supposedly the season of goodwill, there are underlying currents of greed, the fear of the year to come and the repercussions of actions from the year past.

    The art director in me loves the cinematic aspect of the décor – snowy blizzards create the potential for strangers to be trapped together in an isolated spot – or you could do the exact opposite and have Christmas in a hot, tropical locale – take your characters right out of their comfort zones, make them vulnerable, exposed, lonely and easy prey.

    I often visit Australia during Christmas time and Santa on a surf board in Bondi never fails to amuse me! So there is the comedic element, should you so desire. Then there is the onslaught of carols in every store, the repetitive holly and tinsel bludgeoning that tackles us like linebackers in red suits with fuzzy foamy beards. Who wouldn’t go insane and commit murder most vile?

    And I can’t wait to read The Christmas Scorpion by Lee Child, it’s going to be my Christmas treat read!

  4. Christmas is such a pure, white canvas, it makes people a little uncomfortable when you spread a little red paint on it. Perfect! It’s the ultimate case of disturbing the peace! Take readers out of their comfort zone and they’ll never forget it. Films like Krampus have become some of my favorites lately. It’s the counter equivalent to a Halloween love story! Personally, I haven’t been a big fan of Christmas since becoming an adult (or at least my version of an adult) and I love experiencing stories that introduce me to others who feel the same way.

  5. I’m a great fan of anthologies because they present so many points of view on a topic and I’m part of a writing collective called The Mesdames of Mayhem. Some years back, a few of the members contributed to an anthology called Blood on the Holly (and the wonderful Peter Robinson has a story in it, so that’s more proof that Christmas is a fab theme!) and I’m hoping that the Mesdames will have a Christmas-themed anthology at some point.

    Next year’s offering is music, In the Key of Thirteen and I have a story called Hit Me With Your Pet Shark, riffing off Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot and I’d love to have fun with a Christmas-themed tale of noir!

  6. Interesting point, Lisa. Anthologies are a good way to present multiple viewpoints. The ones you mention sound like a cool way to incorporate Christmas themes.

  7. There are probably more, but the only thrillers I can remember with a Christmas theme are the movies Die Hard and another movie (can’t recall the title) which was a heist job on an Indian casino where all the bandits dressed as Santa. Never really thought about it, but in response to the question, I wouldn’t have any opinion either way. If it works, fine; if it doesn’t, not so fine. Kind of an odd question, isn’t it? Like, yay or nay, Easter-themed thrillers, or Boxing Day thrillers or Fourth of July day thrillers. I seem to remember more comedies with a Christmas theme. Not trying to be a Grinch, but it’s hard to imagine picking Christmas for a theme for a novel. However, as an ex-con, Christmas Day is the best day of the year to pull an armed robbery or burglary–police forces are usually just skeleton crews. New Year’s Day is just the opposite…

    Christmas doesn’t hold any fond memories for me. My mother was a hardcore Baptist and didn’t believe in it so we didn’t celebrate it. Mostly, what I remember was going to school and lying to the other kids about presents I didn’t get. Didn’t want to come across as “different.” That’s a big deal to kids…

  8. Usually around this time of year an old debate rages again. People can’t seem to agree whether the film Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not. Of course it is one, but most importantly, the source material is the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp.

    The novel’s hero is somewhat different from the movie version. Not only is the man older, but goes by a different name–Joe Leland–and he gets involved to protect his daughter and not his wife. You can read more about the novel here:

    That is an example of a novel, and corresponding movie adaptation, that is Christmas-themed and still considered a thriller. So yes, it can be done, but it takes plenty of skills, charms, and most important, come in small dosis. So while it can be done, it’s just not for everybody, and as Mr. Gimenez correctly pointed out, it may alienate readers for 11 months out of a year.

    1. Dear José, our family household definitely counts Die Hard as a Christmas movie!

      I had no idea it was based on a novel (clearly I’ve never taken notice of the credits or done any research, so thank you, this is fascinating!)

      Yes, small doses are key!

      Wishing you a very Happy Holidays!

  9. Just remembered the title of the other movie–“Reindeer Games.” Does anyone know if that was adapted from a novel also?

    1. Apparently not.

      And my long-time crush Charlize Theron was the only memorable thing from that movie. 🙂

      But yeah, it was Christmas themed.

      Author Raymond Benson reminded me that the movie is similarly themed with James Bond even proposing on Christmas. Read the source novel a few years ago and can’t remember if Christmas is also a theme there.

      1. Ah Charlize! One must love a fellow ex-South African! (I am one!)
        My mother thought Charlize would be a great lead for my last book, No Fury Like That – one can dream!

        I know this is wildly off topic but does anyone have suggestions for some good binge watching this Christmas? New crime-riddled narratives while eating turkey (or in my case, tofu!)

        We recently watched The Sinner with Jessica Biel and loved it – The Haunting of Hill House, and currently, Dark Tourist (some crazy people out there!

        So I know I am off topic but since watching crime-related TV counts as ‘research’ in my book, I’m open to suggestions for this holiday season!

        1. Hi Lisa,
          You can’t go past Nordic crime. My husband didn’t watch The Bridge when it was on so we watched it on catch up TV–all 4 seasons. At the moment we’re working through all 4 seasons of Bosch. Killing Eve is fantastic too!

          Happy thrilling Christmas to you hahaha.

  10. Regarding Christmas themed thrillers, my novel The WASHINGTON ULTIMATUM, a J.T. Ryan Thriller, takes place during the Christmas season. The book is not a Christmas novel, but the backdrop for the plot takes place during that time. In the novel a rogue CIA agent named Angel Stone (she’s the woman shown on the cover of the book), threatens to set off a dirty nuclear bomb in several American cities unless she and her shadowy group of terrorists are paid a ransom of one billion dollars. There’s a race against time as John (J.T.)Ryan (the hero of the book) tries to locate the terrorists. In the novel Angel Stone plans to bomb Washington D.C. on Christmas Day if her ransom demands aren’t met. I won’t give away the ending but will say it’s explosive. By the way, this was the first of my J.T. Ryan novels; the rest are SKYFLASH, The MEDIA MURDERS, FBI CODE RED, and my latest novel FIREBALL.

    1. Interesting, Lee. I think that by that description several other books would claim they are not a Christmas story per-se.

      So, here’s a new question that I toss out there:
      What makes it a Christmas story?

      1. Hello, Jose. It’s good to hear from you. I’d like to answer your question this way. There are many books that use Christmas as a backdrop for the action (such as in the movie DIE HARD, or my novel The WASHINGTON ULTIMATUM. Then there are others that are truly Christmas stories in which the whole book or movie revolves around the holiday. The movie that comes to mind is WHITE CHRISTMAS. This movie was made in the 1950’s and stars Bing Crosby. In it, there’s quite a bit of singing of Christmas songs, and the plot takes place during Christmas. Another movie is CHRISTMAS CAROL, which is about Scrooge and the magic of giving during the holiday.

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