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The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks, and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  48 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
There’s been a revolution in American popular fiction. The writers who dominated the bestseller lists a generation ago with blockbuster novels about movie stars and exotic foreign lands have been replaced by a new generation writing a new kind of bestseller, one that hooks readers with crime, suspense, and ever-increasing violence. Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post’s m ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by Random House (first published 2007)
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Joe  Noir
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Even those few times when I disagreed with the author, I realized he was probably correct in his assessment. An excellent book about the morphing of the detective novel into today’s thriller and how the thriller rules the best-seller lists. Along the way, the author gives us lists of his favorites, books to read, books not to read, and a few that are downright awful. Spoiler alert: there are many spoilers in this book, not every book mentioned, but quite a few.

There are a few typos someone shoul
...more
Jim
Aug 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
Patrick Anderson, book reviewer for the Washington Post, provides a chatty overview of the current state of crime fiction with lots of recommendations and plot summaries and discussions of a few past masters.

If you are looking for serious literary criticism or a consideration of the thriller phenomenon, this isn't it. He has a tendency to summarize plots and end saying empty things that don't convey much information like "Her books have won numerous prizes, and this one shows why" or "Her plot i
...more
Phair
I don't particularly like thrillers & seldom read them but was interested in what makes them so popular. This was an interesting look at the history and development of the genre. I took 5pp of notes in my journal. He says some pretty nasty stuff about some of the most popular and prolific recent thriller authors but also compliments other authors for bringing something new to the genre. Interesting and enlightening for an "outsider".

(p266) "Too many people . . . fear that if they don't unde
...more
Karen Stensgaard
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent history of the thriller. Enjoyed his analysis with some more thriller novels on to read list. I hope he will published an update eventually. Not many women authors discussed but that's a genre issue, and some women authors still hide behind their initials. I'd subscribe to the Washington Post just to read his book reviews.
Nader Elhefnawy
Feb 10, 2012 rated it liked it

As Washington Post book reviewer Patrick Anderson notes at the start of his book, thrillers have largely replaced genres like the historical epic, the family saga and stories of the rich and famous (books like James Michener and Harold Robbins and James Clavell used to write) on our bestseller lists – and this book promises to tell how that happened.

Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed by what it delivered, for two principal reasons. The first is that the title implied a portrait of the trans
...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Sometime novelist and Washington Post book reviewer traces the history and state of "Thrillers"--the crime, spy, and legal novels that dominate the fiction bestseller lists these days (by Anderson's count, 40% of the 130 novels that sold more than 100,000 copies in 2005).

Anderson is a reviewer, not a historian, so the focus is on current writers, their backgrounds, their inspirations, and their stories ("stand-alones" or series). It is interesting how late in life many of even the most successfu
...more
James Piper
A Washington Post book reviewer gives his take on thrillers since its inception--sometime in the late 19th centurty with a Poe detective story. He focuses on the certain authors of the genre and their key books. Prominent bestsellers are ignored because the reviewer doesn't like their writing (e.g., Ludlum, J. Archer, Patterson, Grisham and more).

His concept of thriller is much broader than my idea of it. A thriller is another word for suspense and the story is about what's going to happen and o
...more
James Foster
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable read covering the development of the modern thriller. It starts with Poe and the Sherlock Holmes stories but focuses more on the last 60 years and American thrillers post-Chandler/Hammett. Not really a scholarly study, it's more conversational in tone but I still found it very informative and a useful survey of the "thriller" terrain. And that's not to be dismissive because the author is a professional critic with a literary background; so in sharing his opinions he's very able to ...more
Emjay
Apr 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Mystery writer and crime fiction reviewer for the Washington Post, Anderson has written a witty history of late 19th and 20th century crime fiction. His interviews with and assessments of present writers such as Clancy, Grafton, Turow, Pelecanos, Connelly and Lehane as well as many others are on the mark. For those who are venturing into crime fiction, this is a useful tool. For those who want to add to their book list, there's much to be gleaned.
Derek
Aug 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Anderson's book is less an examination of the thriller as a popular genre than it is a collection of books he has liked, and some he has not. Though he makes a stab at the genre's history, he doesn't actually define a thriller, nor does he provide much analysis of the genre's tropes, focusing instead on writers who have achieved some success in America and in England writing works with the nebulous form of "thriller." Still, it's an entertaining, if slight, read.
Beverly
Oct 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Thriller write Partick Anderson also reviews thrilers. Here he traces the contemporary thriller from detective writers like Hammet and Chandler through McBain and McDonald, Pelecanos and Connelly, to newcomer Peter Craig. Great for developing a reading list, but weak on true exploration of the genre. Does not answer questions like "What is a thriller?", and neglects to identify and define thriller sub-genres. However, great appreciatin of thrillers and the best of popular fiction writers.
Andrea
Apr 23, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of thrillers
This a fun read on the history of the thriller, starting with Edgar Allan Poe and covering Doyle, Chandler, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Thomas Harris, etc. The author (a literary critic and author himself) does a great job of breaking the genre down and reviewing some of the top names in the field (some he admires and some he abhors).
J.D.
Apr 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Hey, the guy says nice things about me. How can I NOT love it?
Rae
Mar 14, 2011 rated it liked it
This is an opinionated, but fair, survey of thriller fiction. I found it quite useful.
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Patrick Anderson is the weekly thriller reviewer for The Washington Post. He is also the author of nine novels and three previous works of nonfiction and was at one time a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, Vice President Al Gore, and others. In addition to the Post, he has reviewed books and written articles for The New York Times Book Review, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Fort Wort ...more
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