February 18 – 24: “Do you remember when you fell in love with the thriller genre?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5Love is in the air this week with ITW Members Russell James, Timothy Jay Smith, Ronnie Allen and J. H. Bográn! Join us they discuss when they fell in love with the thriller genre. Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along – you’re going to love it!


Ronnie Allen is a New York City woman who transplanted to Central Florida eleven years ago. A teacher for thirty-three years in the New York City Department of Education, as well as Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, she has an MS Degree in School Psychology and a PhD in Parapsychic Sciences. Ms. Allen holds children and family close to her heart and includes stories of survival in her plots. She specializes in healing on the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical levels which appear in threads running through her books.


Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching late night horror. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida. After flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales, including paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, Dreamwalker, and Q Island. His Grant Coleman adventure series covers Cavern of the Damned, Monsters in the Clouds, and Curse of the Viper King. His wife reads his work, rolls her eyes, and says, “There is something seriously wrong with you.”


Timothy Jay Smith is an award-winning writer of novels and screenplays. His first novel, A Vision of Angels, won the Paris Prize for Fiction. Kirkus Reviews called his novel Cooper’s Promise “literary dynamite.” Tim was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize for his short story, “Stolen Memories.” He is the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theater and lives in France.


José H. Bográn is a bilingual 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. As a freelance writer, he has several articles published in a wide range of topics. Currently divides his time as Resource Development Manager for Habitat for Humanity Honduras, teaching classes at a local university, and writing his next project. He lives in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with his wife, three sons and a “Lucky” dog.



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  1. I can’t say precisely when I fell in love with thrillers. I know how my reading tastes evolved, but I don’t recall my “Aha!” moment when I embraced thrillers as my genre.

    When I was growing up, the word itself wasn’t as frequently used as it is today. There were bestsellers, spy novels, mysteries, literature, and the “really exciting books that you must read”—and those were the thrillers.

    I was always an avid reader as a kid. Not a bookworm, but a steady reader, and always completed the local library’s summer challenges to get kids to read. I was almost always the oldest in my class (a fluke caused by my birthdate), and what that meant was that I was often restless or bored in school. In third grade, it started to become a problem, until the teacher hit on a solution: let me sit in the corridor and read.

    I did. I had just discovered Perry Mason novels, and binged on them that year. I remember distinctly how I liked their combination of drama and danger. They solved crimes, but they also showed how people’s lives had been affected by the crimes, or so that was my takeaway on them.

    That duality stayed with me in terms of my lifelong reading preferences, and ultimately my writing preferences, because I write the kind of books I like to read. I take thriller-ish premises and develop them, not only through actions, but how they change characters. A suicide bomb plot in Jerusalem weaves together the lives of four families. An arsonist in a Greek island village unearths conflicts dating back generations. In my latest book, The Fourth Courier, a nuclear smuggling ring in the immediate aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union reveals how average Polish families coped with the country’s collective hangover from communism.

    1. Hi Timothy, glad to hear who had a teacher who understood you. I taught for 33 years in NYC. And yours set up a life long interest. Did you ever tell him or her how that affected you and what you do now?

      1. Hi Ronnie,

        Unfortunately I never did thank her. I grew up in a relatively small town (Palm Springs, CA – at that time, 18,500 population) and went from K through 12 there — so I was able to keep up with a lot of teachers. In fact, I am still in frequent contact with two high school teachers. But my third grade teacher moved away and I never saw her again.

        1. Hi Timothy, I grew up and taught in Brooklyn. All of my teachers I’m sure passed on. My students are in their 30-50s now, lol. I have met a few on FB and they know I’m an author. Way back then I was in screenwriting and I taught my 4th graders how to write scripts. I started writing my novels in 2011. I was retired since 2003.

  2. In high school, I was a horror reader, having been drawn into the genre by Stephen King. During college, the academic workload ground pleasure reading into dust.

    After graduation, while on active duty with the U.S. Army, I heard a lot of buzz about a new book The Hunt for Red October. I gave it a shot. The combination of the military environment and the edge-of-the seat writing hit the mark for me. Military thrillers led to spy thrillers and shelves full of books in those pre-Kindle days.

    I still love to read (and write) horror as well as thrillers, and there are a lot of commonalities between the two in the best written works.

    1. Hi Russell, My experience was just the opposite. Spy thrillers led me to military thrillers. There were a lot more spy novels (I think). Clancy’s Red October, as I recall, was considered somewhat groundbreaking, and not thought to be especially commercial. It was first published by the Naval Institute. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was published in 1963, and Hunt for Red October in 1984. There were a lot of spy novels written in those intervening two decades.

  3. Good morning, everyone! Yes! I do remember when I fell in love with thriller genre. It was way back in the late 70s and 80s when I watched the TV episodic’s. Living in New York City in the late 70s—actually my entire life except for the past 11 years—I was teaching and I decided to go to acting school at night. I did a few acting showcases and began to learn screenwriting. I loved the TV series Miami Vice and Wiseguy, and created practice scripts for those series. I did analysis of the plots, timing, commercial breaks, plot points, cliffhangers, set ups, pay offs, and brought what I learned and discovered into my novel writing. All of the feature films I created were also crime-based even if they were comedic. I think I must’ve been a detective or an FBI agent in a prior life because those characters became me or actually I became those characters. I believe I get high on the action. I haven’t wavered in my genre preference and my four novels thus far, are all present day crime fiction, set in New York City and down here in rural Central Florida where I live. Also my formal education is in psychology through my Masters degree, so studying the criminal mind and behavioral sciences were always interests.

    1. Interesting shows you watched. I didn´t like Miami Vice because I thought it was over-hyped, and preferred shows like Magnum, Remington Steele, and one I think I’m the one of the few who remember, called Cover Up-with the theme song Holding out for a hero by Bonnie Tyler.

      For a while I was into mysteries and loved trying to figure out who did it in the show Murder, She Wrote.

      So I guess TV shows were also an influence in me. 😉

      1. Hi José
        I watched the ones you mentioned too, they slipped my mind as I was writing the post. I also liked Matlock and continued to watch the re-runs till recently actually. Now I like Blue Bloods, still watch SVU. Though I’m doing so much now, I’m not a regular with those series. Different interests take us into different directions. We need to prioritize.

  4. I can pinpoint the event that made me realize thrillers were my thing to a novel I felt compelled to continue reading through the night.
    Triple by Ken Follett.
    Before that I used to read plenty of mysteries, suspense, and even some romance. After that I discovered Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsythe, Tom Clancy and Clive Cusslers and I was converted.

  5. Enid Blyton and the Famous Five aside, I think I eased into thrillers through mysteries and adventures. Things Like King Solomon’s Mines and The Count of Monte Cristo, Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, Jamaica Inn and The Scapegoat, short stories by Du Maupassant. I remember Lord of the Flies had a profound effect on me when we read it at school and Mum never forgave me for making her go to the movie with me.

    As I got older and read more widely the stories got darker. Audience tolerance for gore and horror has increased incredibly in my lifetime. What was thrilling back in the sixties is tame by comparison now.

    1. I agree, Elizabeth. It’s gotten darker in film. Scripts I wrote in the 80s would be Disney films now.

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