May 11 – 17: “Can you identify leading trends among the books coming out this year?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week we’re joined by ITW members Elena Taylor, Michael Ledwidge, J. H. Bográn and Arthur Kerns as they tackle the question: Can you identify leading trends – besides good story, thrills, and suspense – among the books coming out this year? Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along. You won’t want to miss it!


Elena Taylor wrote the humorous Eddie Shoes Mystery Series under the name Elena Hartwell. Now she returns to her dramatic roots—she spent over 20 years in the theater—with this darker, more psychological tale. When she’s not writing, she’s either working with writers one-on-one as a developmental editor with Allegory Editing, or spending time with her two horses at the stables or her two cats, one dog, and one husband at their home in beautiful Snoqualmie Valley, Washington.


Arthur Kerns joined the FBI with a career in counterespionage and counterterrorism. On retirement, he became a consultant with the Director of Central Intelligence and the Department of State. His lengthy assignments took him to over 65 countries. He earned degrees in International Relations from St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia and an MBA from New York University. He spent a year studying Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. A past president of the Arizona chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, he is married with two sons. His award-winning short stories have been published in a number of anthologies.


Michael Ledwidge is the author of seventeen novels, the last dozen being New York Times bestsellers co-written with James Patterson. With twenty million copies in print, their Michael Bennett series is the highest selling New York City detective series of all time. One of their novels, Zoo, became a three-season CBS television series. He lives in Connecticut.


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 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. His motto is “I never tell lies, I only write them!”


  1. Such an interesting question with a lot of directions to go as an answer.

    One of the additional “hats” I wear is that of a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books. This gives me access to books that have not yet hit the shelves, as well as to see what’s on the horizon.

    Here’s what I’m seeing: Series continue to be popular. Small presses are very active. Rural locations are hot. Cozies continue to have a strong readership. Domestic suspense is still popular. Lots of female authors.

    These are all things that I enjoy reading as well, so lots of good titles coming up! My most recent review, coming out May 19, is for The Silence, by Susan Allott. Terrific debut.

    What are some of your favorite sub-genres and conventions that you enjoy in the Mystery/Thriller world?

  2. I predict we’ll see a plethora of Pandemic-related books, including some top-notch fiction. Think of the possible themes and storylines. Just in the medical field, there is drama, sacrifice, hardship, and death. Leading character choices are doctors, nurses, technicians, ER personnel, drivers, and support staff and how all of them have adjusted their lives and relationships. What about people sequestered for months? Tensions, long-held resentments never spoken, and slides into mental instability of couples in close quarters. The dynamics of the change in living in a long-term care facility and the attending staff when the virus appears. How about the people who refuse to cooperate and abide by the separation parameters? Are they rebels or harbor a death wish? Think of the possibilities.
    It will be difficult for us as writers to create a modern-day story without taking in COVID-19 and its effect on our fellow humans and us. Let’s face the fact; this pandemic is a game-changer. It has jerked the course of our civilization in a different direction. The world we knew left us.

  3. I wonder if books about the pandemic and its consequences will sell. Will people want to relive the horrible times? That said WW2 is still a great source. Maybe there’ll be more interest in how it started and what not to do next time. Or maybe people will want to read other less reality based stories.

    1. Exactly. I think at first they will be reluctance, then some acceptance. In particular about the new normal that we’re supposed to define after the lockdowns conclude.
      Social distancing will be a part of living. Wether we like it or not, it’s going to define the generation.

      1. I was just just having this conversation with a couple writers this morning. I think so much depends on how long this pandemic lasts and how well we recover, emotionally, financially, physically. What I think is interesting to consider is that a “contemporary” novel will now have two categories, “contemporary” but pre-COVID and “contemporary” and post-COVID.

        If I set a book in Feb 2020, I don’t have to take the pandemic into account, but later than that and I do. But I can’t write a book too far post pandemic and have it be “realistic” as I don’t know what the outcomes are going to be.

        Because there’s typically a big lag between writing a manuscript and having it hit the shelves, what we think might happen is potentially all wrong, whereas ignoring it, and having it set after early 2020 doesn’t work either. So much to consider as we move forward with current stories.

        1. So true Elena. I’m right at then end of my current story. I started in about November and set it in a rural area subsequently devastated by bushfires. By Feb I was wondering how to deal with that aspect so set it the following November leading up to Christmas when the communities were coming through the recovery.

          Then along came the virus. I decided to write about it the way I have the fires—it happened and we’re getting on with life now.

          No doubt that aspect will need revising in the months ahead but my story is about other things.

          1. Yes. I’m finishing up my first draft of my next book, but it’s set before the virus started. When I tackle book three, time will have passed and I’ll have to decide how to deal with it. Hopefully by the time I start working on that one, this will have passed into a “post” virus phase.

  4. In thinking about upcoming trends my guess is that as this pandemic wanes people will not be very excited about reliving it in fiction. I’ve seen on twitter where it was asked if writers will include the pandemic in their fictional worlds. I won’t be. I read thrillers in order to take my mind off the aggravations and depressing uncertainties and petty irritations of the real world. Let’s face it, science to most people, especially those who read popular fiction is dreadfully boring. If medical biology and viral diseases were actually interesting to regular people Fauci and Bill Gates wouldn’t need a worldwide pandemic for people to pay attention to them. Gunfire grabs people’s attention. Ticking time bombs. Car chases after serial killers. Readers want a fun rollercoaster. Sheltering in place waiting for a vaccine is about as fun as watching paint dry.

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