action thriller

Author Rating: A

Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins, or Anthony Hope as he was known to his readers, was born February 9, 1863, a young contemporary of Thomas Hardy. While Hardy is remembered and celebrated today, Hope is largely forgotten as a writer. I only discovered him by chance while looking through Andy Minter‘s Librivox catalog. I am delighted to have discovered Hope. His writing is quick and engaging.

His tenth novel, published in 1893, The Prisoner of Zenda put Hope firmly on his contemporaneous public’s map and then further popularized when it was made into a movie in 1913, again in 1922 and 1937. Even though he’s forgotten as a writer, his storytelling has influenced movies and TV shows well into the late 20th century. Hope published 32 novels by 1925 and died July 8, 1933.

The Prisoner of Zenda: being the history of three months in the life of an English gentleman (Listened 09/2016) Recommended

Rupert of Hentzau: being the sequel to a story by the same writer entitled the Prisoner of Zenda (Listened 11/2016) Recommended

I listened to both of these as audio recordings, read by the wonderful Andy Minter who brings the stories alive with his deft chracterizations.

The two novels are set in the imaginary central European country of Ruritania, where adventure and true love and heartbreak await.


Author Rating: A

The Thirty-Nine Steps (read 9/6/2014)

First published as a magazine serial in the last half of 1915, this is the first of five novels featuring Richard Hannay, adventure hero.

The Thirty-Nine Steps is one of the earliest examples of the ‘man-on-the-run’ thriller archetype subsequently adopted by Hollywood as an often-used plot device. In The Thirty-Nine Steps, Buchan holds up Richard Hannay as an example to his readers of an ordinary man who puts his country’s interests before his own safety. The story was a great success with the men in the First World War trenches. One soldier wrote to Buchan, “The story is greatly appreciated in the midst of mud and rain and shells, and all that could make trench life depressing.”

Richard Hannay continued his adventures in four subsequent books. Two were set during the war when Hannay continued his undercover work against the Germans and their allies the Turks in Greenmantle and Mr Standfast. The other two stories, The Three Hostages and The Island of Sheep were set in the post war period when Hannay’s opponents were criminal gangs.

I listened to the Librivox recording read by Adrian Praetellis and enjoyed it very much. I will be on the lookout for Buchan’s other novels.

Author Rating: A

Bonecrack (read 3/20/2013) Recommended

What a wonderful quick read! Originally published in 1971, this terrific short novel of mystery and suspense has held up well. Before trying his hand at novel-writing, Dick Francis had a career as a jockey and he brings that inside knowledge to bear without becoming bogged down in the minutiae of the sport. The only disappointment comes from not wanting the story to an end.

The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service (not yet read)

An early example of the espionage novel, this 1903 novel by Erskine Childers “owes a lot to the wonderful adventure novels of writers like Rider Haggard, that were a staple of Victorian Britain. It “established a formula that included a mass of verifiable detail, which gave authenticity to the story – the same ploy that would be used so well by John Buchan, Ian Fleming, John le Carré and many others.” Ken Follett called it “the first modern thriller.”


Available at Project Gutenberg to read online or to download to Kindle.

This is also available at Librivox but after reading the few reviews I’ll likely never read it. The first half is very technical about sailing the German North Sea coast, requiring following along on maps provided in the print version. The whole thing is described as slow and somewhat dry, with some excitement toward the end. Oh, well.

Author Rating: B+

Echo Park (read 10/28/09) recommended

LAPD Detective Harry Bosch didn’t like retirement and is back on the force, working in the open unsolved case unit and haunted by the unsolved murder of a young woman 13 years earlier. When the DA’s Office calls to say they have a confession to the murder, Harry is skeptical.

It’s a well-paced detective novel, with a likable but hard-boiled protagonist. I look forward to reading other novels by Michael Connelly.

Chasing The Dime (read 11/3/09) recommended

What a delightful read! This is a stand-alone mystery (not Harry Bosch) set in the bio-computing research field. Henry Pierce has a project coming close to fruition that will revolutionize the computer and pharmaceutical industries. His girlfriend having broken up with him, he moves into an apartment and discovers his new phone number is posted as a contact number in the internet ad of a prostitute. Instead of just having the number changed, he tries to contact the woman, learns that she’s been missing for several weeks and sets out to discover what happened to her.

I don’t want to say any more, because I don’t want to give anything away, but things get worse for poor Henry before they get better. It’s a terrific edge-of-your-seat story about family, friendship, trust and betrayal. I liked this even better than Echo Park.

I have not personally read anything by Stephen Hunter but my nephew thinks he’s all that, so I took a look at what he’s written.

His fiction novels (of which there are currently 14) appear to be too violent for my taste, but he also writes non-fiction, including one that took me by surprise by its subject.

An attempted assassination of President Harry Truman:

Harry S. Truman, c1945. (Library of Congress)

Harry S. Truman, c1945. (Library of Congress)

On November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, nearly assassinated President Harry Truman. If this historical fact surprises you, you’re not alone. American Gunfight, a new account by suspense novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Stephen Hunter and journalist John Bainbridge Jr., examines this largely forgotten episode in meticulous detail, including the conspiracy surrounding it and the misconceptions associated with the would-be assassins. As the book makes clear, it’s remarkable that these two men even came close to succeeding, given the disorganized nature of the plot. Intending to attack the president at the White House, they only learned in passing from a cab driver that it was being renovated and that Truman was in fact living at the nearby Blair House. When they made their assault on Blair House, they quickly lost their element of surprise when Collazo’s gun misfired, leading to a 38-second shootout in front of the residence that left Torresola and one policeman dead. Meanwhile, Truman witnessed the action from an upstairs window.

At his ensuing trial, Collazo was depicted as a crazed fanatic, but the authors argue that this simplified assessment unnecessarily dismisses a potential political conspiracy involving Puerto Rican nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos, who was believed by some to have masterminded the plot in an effort to bring attention to his cause. Hunter and Bainbridge provide in-depth portraits of Collazo and Torresola, as well as the Secret Service agent and three White House policemen who saved Truman’s life. The descriptions of the remarkably light presidential security of the era reveal much about 1950s Washington, D.C., a time in which the president would take a daily walk around the neighborhood with just a bodyguard or two in tow. As a result of the attack, the Secret Service would forever change the way it guarded the president. This fast-paced book reads like a detective thriller, shifting quickly between various story lines and characters, including a second-by-second breakdown of the gunfight itself. The potboiler narrative may seem over the top at times, with its conjecture and imagined internal dialogue, but this comprehensive account succeeds in bringing this unlikely plot vividly to life. — Shawn Carkonen

Author Rating: A

The Gun Seller (read 11/06) Recommended

Hugh Laurie is indeed a man of many talents. Somewhat surprisingly, this is not humor fiction but is an action thriller with international arms dealers, terrorists, the CIA, the British Ministry of Defense, beautiful women and fast motorcycles.

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