By Will Griggs
This is the first of four posts where I will highlight my favorite book series within specific genres. This week I target the thriller/mystery genre and bring some great characters and writers from the shadows to the spotlight. Be sure to check back next week when you find out which young adult/children series make the cut!
Dirk Pitt (Clive Cussler)
Number of Books: 23 + 1 Companion
Have you ever wondered what the masculine equivalent of a Harlequin romance novel would be like? Look no further. Clive Cussler has created an aquatic world of adventure where the hero—Dirk Pitt—saves the world, drives the coolest cars, romances the most beautiful exotic women, while still having a long-term relationship with a strong, independent woman who understands the hole in his heart left by the death of his first true love. Sound too good to be true? It is, yet Cussler makes the fantastical fantastic.
Peter Fallon (William Martin)
Number of Books: 5
William Martin’s unique novel structure creates a back and forth struggle between the past and the present. Peter Fallon, a modern-day antiquarian, leads the story as each chapter changes between his search for a historical artifact or document and the trajectory of said artifact or document through history. Mostly centered in the Boston area, the Fallon books are equally a love affair with the American Dream and a treatise of rebellion against modern day mindsets on topics ranging from the economy and the right to bear arms… oh, and he throws in a little Shakespeare, too.
Cotton Malone (Steve Berry)
Number of Books: 10 + 4 e-novellas
Cotton Malone is my favorite current literary protagonist. He is a formal federal agent, retired and living in Copenhagen as an antique books dealer. Yet, his particular set of skills is constantly needed by friends and allies alike to rid the world of subversive groups and devilish despots. Rather than focus on a particular region or time period in history, Berry focuses on many locales and historical figures. Originating with a search for Templar treasure and working through Central Asia, Tudor England, Renaissance Italy, and revolutionary America, the Cotton Malone stories grab you and don’t let you go until you turn the last page, eagerly anticipating the next installment.
Robert Langdon (Dan Brown)
Number of Books: 4
Nobody needs to be reminded who either Dan Brown or Robert Langdon are, but it is worth noting that although he didn’t invent the genre, Brown did bring it to the forefront. Worldwide bestsellers and box office smashes may allow Brown to pick and choose when he releases new stories, but that doesn’t alter the fact that the world is constantly looking forward to the next Langdon adventure.
Camel Club (David Baldacci)
Number of Books: 5 + 1 short story
Imagine if an American disaffected former assassin not only become hip-deep in government conspiracy theory, but befriended some of the most powerful people in Washington while making enemies out of the rest. That is the basis of this series, which centers around a small group of former and current long-term government employees who choose to buck the system and do what is right.
Jack Ryan (Tom Clancy)
Number of Books: 10 + 3 John Clark + 5 Jack Ryan, Jr.
On top of all of the books and series to be generated from the Jack Ryan franchise, there are major motion pictures that star the biggest names in Hollywood: Baldwin, Ford, Affleck, and Pine; not to mention Dafoe, James Earl Jones, and many others. While the movies have been turned into big-budget action flicks, the books are richly detailed treatises on the Cold War and the effects of its ending. It’s not too often you can say page-turner about the inner workings of the inner workings of the Cold War, but Clancy makes it happen.
Kinsey Millhone (Sue Grafton)
Number of Books: 24 + 1 short story collection
Yes, Kinsey Millhone is my sole female entrant on this list, but she outdoes most of the men. A kickass private eye from the fictional town of Santa Teresa (based on Santa Barbara), she doesn’t take any shit from anyone and she lives for the moment. Of anyone on this list, she exhibits that “everyman” quality with which every reader can connect. Grafton bases her titles on the alphabet and she is almost to Z so it will be interesting how she—and Kinsey—deal with that threshold.
Mitch Rapp (Vince Flynn)
Number of Books: 14
Mitch Rapp is the second former assassin to make this list, but, unlike the protagonist in the Camel Club, Rapp stays within the system and becomes a force for good while fighting the bureaucratic mess in Washington. Also, while other authors on this list have passed on (Crichton and Clancy), Flynn died very young and in the prime of his career.
Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton)
Number of Books: 2
Nothing needs to be said about Crichton’s pedigree, nor what happened once these novels ended up in Spielberg’s hands, but it is important to note that the second book got a bad rap after the film was rushed into production before the novel was even finished. Enjoy the story you know (with some added surprises that never made it into the film) and conclude with the second part while keeping an open mind.
Southern Victory or Timeline-191 (Harry Turtledove)
Number of Books: 11
Harry Turtledove is the master of alternative-history. He takes a simple event, tweaks the outcome, and lets the story unfold from there. In the Southern Victory or Timeline-191 series, Turtledove changes the historical event of Union soldiers discovering Robert E. Lee’s Secret Order 191, which details his army’s plan for invasion of the North, and then follows the unfolding events for the next eight decades. Find out how American history would have been different between the Civil War and World War II if the Union and the Confederacy had developed into different nations.