It's easy to see that we're currently living in a golden age of thriller writing. Any era in which James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman, T. Jefferson Parker, Megan Abbott, Don Winslow, Gillian Flynn, and John Connolly (and you can add your favorites--these are just some of mine) are all writing is hard to beat.
But what are not getting as much attention as they deserve, in this golden age, are what I consider the last golden age of thrillers--the decade spanning the mid-60s to mid-70s. Because the signature of the Bookbinder--the serial killer whose capture elevated protagonist Danny Mansfield's father to local fame and national prominence--involved choosing victims based on physical characteristics described in thrillers of his day, and rebinding those books in the flesh of his victims, my thriller Flesh of All Sorrows is somewhat of a love letter to some of the great thrillers of the day.
Here are just a few of my favorites (which, coincidentally, also appear in the novel).
Most people know Roderick Thorp today, if they do at all, because his 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever was adapted into a little movie called Die Hard, starring Bruce Willis as John McLane (called Joe Leland in the novel). It was a good, taut thriller, as one might expect given the nature of the story. But Joe Leland also appeared in an earlier Thorp novel, 1966's The Detective, which is my favorite of Thorp's works. It's a much, much longer book, with Leland investigating a case with more twists and turns, as well as being a character study of Leland himself. This one was also made into a movie, with Frank Sinatra as Leland and a terrific cast that included Lee Remick, Jacqueline Bissett, Robert Duvall, William Windom, and Jack Klugman. The Detective makes an appearance relatively early in Flesh of All Sorrows.
William Goldman is one of my favorite novelists and screenwriters. Not everything he wrote was brilliant, but his batting average was better than most in both fields. My personal collection includes all of his novels, most in first edition, and they're some of my most prized books. The Bookbinder was a fan, too, particularly of Goldman's best thriller, the 1974 novel Marathon Man (he also wrote the screenplay for the hit 1976 film with Dustin Hoffman, Roy Scheider, and Laurence Olivier). Both works still stand up today. Many years ago, I was on a long car ride with another great thriller writer, Joe R. Lansdale. We were talking thrillers, and he opined that the Marathon Man novel was a perfect thriller. I have to agree.
Goldman is one of the three Gs who were writing fantastic thrillers in the 60s and 70s. One of my favorites who didn't make it into the book was Thomas Gifford, whose first novel, The Wind Chill Factor (1975), which was published by G.P. Putnam's after winning the $15,000 Putnam Award. The book pitted John Cooper against Nazis and an international conspiracy, and it led to other great novels including The Cavanaugh Quest (which, in turn, provided a last name for my character Cody Cavanaugh, soon to appear in his own series of Western novels), Hollywood Gothic, and The Glendower Legacy. Gifford is largely forgotten today, but he shouldn't be.
The third G is James Grady, who I'm delighted to call a (Facebook) friend. He exploded into American consciousness with 1974's Six Days of the Condor, which was adapted in 1975 as Three Days of the Condor with Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow, and Cliff Robertson. He's written more about Condor, as well as several standalone thrillers and a brief series about private detective John Rankin that I hoped would go on longer, and he's still going strong. Six Days makes a visceral appearance in Flesh of All Sorrows.
Danny Mansfield's mother in the book, Drew Laurel Winter, is also a novelist, though she only wrote one book, the semi-autobiographical The Strawberry Roan. It became a bestseller and enjoys new bursts of sales every time the Bookbinder's case hits the news again. The Strawberry Roan is fictional, but it also plays a role in the story.
A thriller about books--what could be better? Flesh of All Sorrows is now available on Kindle Vella. Please check it out, and spread the word. Thanks!