by Lee Matthew Goldberg
I may be biased because I’m a thriller writer, but no other books allow to escape as thoroughly if they’re done well. A thriller requires the right amount of tension and suspense, believability even if the plot veers into out-there territory, a good hook or a plot that we haven’t read exactly before, and like any good novel, characters we care about. Sometimes in thrillers, these characters can be despicable human beings, but it’s a testament to the author that we root for them in the end. These books were so well done that they became great films as well. Here’s a list of my top 5 thrillers.
- The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.
Patricia Highsmith is a master at thrillers from Strangers on a Train to her Ripley novels. The best of which is The Talented Mr. Ripley. The cringe-factor when you’re reading is what holds the novel together. The worse Tom Ripley becomes in taking over his friend Dickie’s life, the more you root for him to get away with it all. The film version happens to be just as good, beautifully directed by Anthony Minghella with the Mediterranean as a perfect backdrop to the horror.
- Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Another classic on the list, Rebecca is inspired by Jane Eyre but with a darker twist. A nameless narrator has married a European playboy and moved into his vast mansion, but she finds herself haunted by his dead wife, Rebecca, and her still loyal servant, Mrs. Danvers. The prose is lush but biting and the book has never gone out of print since 1938. Also adapted into a film, one of Hitchcock’s best that helps it maintain its chilling legacy.
- Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
More noir than thriller, but equally suspenseful Double Indemnity is best known for Barbara Stanwyck as the villainous femme fatale who coerces an insurance agent into offing her husband. The book is really a novella, but packs a lot in its slim tone, and the black and white film directed my Billy Wilder and written by Raymond Chandler crackles with its hard-boiled dialogue. The ending is different in the film, but both somehow work to deliver a cold punch to the audience.
- Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
A more modern thriller that veers into horror, Thomas Harris built a career around his antagonist/anti-hero Hannibal Lecter. He’s so over-the-top as a villain, that we read and watch to see what he’ll do next. The film actually improves on the novel of an FBI agent who uses the mind of an imprisoned serial killer to track down a current one, because of the excellent performances of Anthony Hopkins in the role of a lifetime and of Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling. The sequels and prequels are not as successful, except for Manhunter, which was adapted from Red Dragon.
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The last book on the list, The Secret History, was never adapted into a film but should. It follows a group of students at a grad school that form a cult-like clique and kill one of their members. The book opens with the killing and then dials back so the readers can discover why. Of all the novels on this list, this one is closest to literary fiction and begs to one day become a great film or at least a well-done miniseries.
Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of eight novels including THE ANCESTOR and THE MENTOR, currently in development as a film off his original script, and the YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. STALKER STALKED will be out in Fall ’21. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared as a contributor in Pipeline Artists, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, Hypertext, If My Book, Past Ten, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com
Lee Matthew Goldberg
Release Date: 9/17/21
All Due Respect, an imprint of Down & Out Books
Lexi Mazur is a depressed, alcoholic, pill-popper whose only joy has become her reality TV shows, often fantasizing that the people on TV are a part of her world. After her boyfriend Steve leaves her, she fixates on the show Socialites and its star Magnolia Artois, following every facet of the girl’s life on social media in the hopes of befriending and becoming more like her.
But stalking isn’t new to Lexi. She ultimately won over her ex Steve by following and manipulating every minute detail about him so he’d fall for her. In fact, she landed her other ex-boyfriend Jeremy in the same way. Being a pharma rep, she’s used to manipulation to get doctors to buy her drugs, along with the perk of saving pills for herself.
But what happens when the stalker gets stalked?
Recently, Lexi has felt someone watching her: in her apartment in Queens, at her job. At first, she thinks her mind’s playing tricks, but the watcher is behaving just like she would. And soon they begin leaving threatening clues like she starts to do to Magnolia once her obsession grows more dangerous. Is it one of her exes out for revenge? Her only real friend from childhood who she’s always had an unhealthy rivalry? A detective who may have figured her out? The reality star Magnolia trying to turn the tables? Or even someone she might not know?
Lexi learns the only way to beat her stalker is to use her own stalking prowess to outsmart them at their own game. But has she finally met her match?