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Book Review: Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, Edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner

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As a writer – well, fine, as a wannabe writer – one of my dreams has always been to meet a favourite writer of mine and chat up a storm. One of the things we’d talk about, apart from the weather, the awesomeness of Canada, and the many ways to enjoy chocolate would be a piece of literature we both particularly like. We wouldn’t only talk about why it’s our favourite piece of literature; we would also talk about its various themes and subthemes, its philosophical implications and the impact it has both on the times it was published as well as today, all the while sipping on nice, hot, homemade mochas.

Hey, nerds can have dreams, too.

Since my network of friends and acquaintances doesn’t include any of my favourite authors, reading a book such as Thrillers:100 Must-Reads is definitely the next best thing. It’s a collection of 100 essays by 100 of today’s best thriller authors about the 100 best thrillers of all times. Contemporary authors such as R.L. Stine, Michael Palmer, Janet Berliner, Sandra Brown and Hank Wagner write about thrillers such as Macbeth (yes, the one by Shakespeare), Mysterious Island, King Kong, And Then There were None. Excuse me while I go a little fangirl here, but oh, my, GOD – it was like having 100 dates with 100 great authors talking about 100 great books.

There are many people who should read this book, most obvious of which are fans of the genre. Some of the books you will recognize; some of the authors you will recognize; and, amidst these 100 essays, you are bound to discover a couple of new ones you might want to give a try.

Another reason for fans of the genre to pick up this book is to acquire new perspectives even on book you have read a million times. One of my favourite books is Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte-Cristo. I really thought I knew everything about the book, not because I’m smart or anything (oh how I wish that were the case) but rather because I have read so many essays and opinion pieces about it, and also because I have read it so many times. Francine Matthews’ insightful essay pointed out many points that I hadn’t quite seen in that light before, making me put her on top of the list of authors I’d love to talk about a book with.

Give a girl a break for having a bias – it is, after all, Alexandra Dumas!

Authors, wannabe or real, for that matter, should also pick up a copy of this book as they hone their craft. Many of the details which make the 100 titles covered in this book timeless classics are brought out in such ways that — were you to pay attention to each of them and apply them to your own manuscript — you just might be able to make it a lot better.

Then there are those out there who like philosophical discussions. Such discussions abound in this volume in essays about books such as The Great Impersonation, The Most Dangerous Game, Dracula, Frankenstein. Even if you haven’t read these titles – I haven’t read some of the aforementioned – the essays include a short summary setting the context just about enough to thoroughly enjoy the essay.

If you are looking for very well written deep insights into some of the most influential works of the genre, then Thrillers:100 Must-Reads is for you. Just be prepared to spend a lot of money purchasing the books covered in this volume that you have yet to read. Trust me – after reading these essays, you are going to have an unstoppable urge to pick them all up.

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