Arthur Hailey was a British-Canadian writer born in 1920, who became a full-time novelist after the success of his television series Flight Into Danger. He juggled writing thriller novels with writing screenplays for television dramas and received huge praise for his contribution to television throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s.
His first novel, The Final Diagnosis, was adapted from one of his teleplays which was named No Deadly Medicine. It received huge amounts of positive feedback in both forms but continued writing best-selling novels such as Hotel, Airport, and Overload.
Airport was arguably his most successful work, receiving the ‘top-selling novel of the year’ award and being transformed into a film adaptation with the same name, which soon became the second highest-grossing film in 1970.
Arthur Hailey’s novels are known for their intricacy. The level of detail used in each novel is remarkable and most likely down to his research period. He claimed he spent over a year researching each of his novels, leading to accurate and believable stories that each centered on a different industry.
He produced significantly more films than he did books and his films were better received than his novels were. Many found the nature and writing style of his novels difficult to follow, which led to paradoxical reviews, leaving readers on either side of the scale. Readers either loved or hated his books, which is why Hailey’s novels have never gone down as critical favorites.
However, his novels have a large fanbase for a reason! Many readers love Hailey’s story-telling abilities and enjoy his nail-biting, suspenseful plotlines.
His works have been translated into over 30 languages worldwide and are still read and loved by many people across the globe. If you’re looking for a new thriller author, Arthur Hailey is a great choice. However, if you don’t like the sound of these exciting stories, do not worry! There are plenty of options on this list, you’re bound to find a new author that you love.
Here are 20 of the best thriller book authors out there to help you find a new suspenseful favorite.
This French author was, like Hailey, a screenwriter, and filmmaker. His real name is Jean-Baptiste Rossi, an anagram of the pseudonym he used.
He was writing at a similar time to Hailey, so if you enjoy the nostalgic writing style of the ‘50s to the ‘80s, this may be a good choice for you.
Marco Puzo was an American journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He famously created The Godfather, which was adapted into a hugely successful film series starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.
His novels frequently center around the Italian-American mafia and are riddled with tension, complex relationships, and action. These novels are a must-read if you’re looking for fast-paced thrillers.
Even if you’ve watched the films and you know the storylines, these novels are jam-packed with details left out in the films and dive deeper into the characters and the story.
Lawrence Sanders, who also wrote under the names Lesley Andress and Mark Upton, has written a plethora of mystery and thriller novels. His works can be categorized by series and include over 20 best-sellers.
The American novelist was writing at a similar time in the mid-20th century and is most famous for his ‘Deadly Sins’ novel series. Known for his fantastically engaging writing style and brilliant use of suspense and mystery, Sanders’ work are great read if you’re into thrillers.
David Liss is not an author that sits specifically in the thriller genre. His novels often explore horror, fantasy, history, and mystery but are all fast-paced, gripping, and highly rated.
He has written a 4-book series following protagonist Benjamin Weaver, who circulates in eighteenth-century London as a religious and political outsider.
This American novelist is also a physician and has heaps of experience in the medical sector. Using this knowledge, Cook produces some of the highest quality writing that merges medicine, disease, and psychology with suspenseful storylines that will keep you gripped until the very end.
These intelligent novels have plenty of accurate medicinal elements which help to strengthen the plot and character development. A brilliant read for anyone interested in science or medicine, but equally as enjoyable for those who simply love the thriller genre.
Tom Clancy was an American author predominantly known for the Jack Ryan novel series. These books are politically and historically charged and follow the protagonist through danger, turmoil, and adventure.
Brilliantly tense and excellently written, there’s no wonder why all of Tom Clancy’s novels have reached the New York Times best-seller lists. His most popular thriller novels include The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and The Sum of All Fears.
Similar to Robin Cook, Tess Gerritsen’s novels intertwine strong medical knowledge with suspenseful plotlines. As a retired physician, Gerritsen places a huge emphasis on psychology and illness, allowing these themes to drive her stories and create engaging characters.
Gerritsen is an international best-selling author, whose harrowing novels have received a range of positive reviews over the years.
John le Carré
Despite his French-sounding name, John le Carré, whose real name was David John Cornwell was a British-Irish author who wrote thrillers particularly centered around espionage.
Known for his famous book Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, le Carré’s writing style is sophisticated, intricate, and extremely engaging.
Many reviewers have made comments that they struggled to put his books down, which is exactly what thrillers are all about.
Dean Koontz is another author who likes to experiment with genre. Although almost all of his books are categorized as thrillers, he ensures to weave in components of fantasy, horror, science fiction, mystery, and comedy and creates one of the most wide-ranging selections of books available.
Known as the ‘international best-selling master of suspense’, Dean Koontz should be one that you add to your reading list. His popular works include The House at the End of the World, Watchers, and The Big Dark Sky.
Martin Cruz Smith
This American author is best known for his mystery novels that flirt with Russian history. Set within turbulent and tense Russian historical periods, Smith often creates deep characters and vivid storylines that bring to life the horrors of Soviet structure.
If you’re more of a romantic but fancy dipping into the thriller genre, Nora Roberts could be a fantastic place to start. Her novels frequently center around a romantic relationship or tackle complex romantic situations, but have the same drive and enthralling feel of a thriller novel.
Her work remains fast-paced like many thrillers and often encapsulates action and mystery, but the novels predominantly revolve around a love story. A brilliant writer to use if you want to dip your toes into the thriller genre, without taking the full plunge.
James Lee Burke
James Lee Burke is an American writer who has received the Edgar Grand Master Award for Mystery Writers of America. If that’s not enough to highlight his credibility, Burke has also been awarded the Gumshoe Award for best mystery novel and was the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts.
This American author is perhaps best known for the romance novel Love Story, but what many readers don’t know is that Segal has also written some fantastic, gripping thrillers.
Often focusing on murder trials and incorporating legal elements, Segal’s thrillers are often overlooked in favor of his best-selling romance novel. His famous works include Doctors, The Class, and Oliver’s Story.
James Patterson is one of the big names in modern thriller writing. He is a versatile, highly-rated, and skillful author, whose major books include The Perfect Assassin, Three Women Disappear, and 3 Days to Live.
His books are wide ranging in genre, plotline, and character type, but are all enthralling reads. Patterson’s writing style is bound to keep you on your toes and he has produced some of the most well-rated thrillers out there.
Like Hailey, Attica Locke has a background in film writing before becoming a fiction writer. Her range of novels is less wide as opposed to some of the bigger and older names on this list, but she is an active writer and continues to write harrowing thrillers today.
She is an Edgar award-winning novelist, with famous favorites such as Bluebird, Bluebird, The Cutting Season, and Heaven, My Home. She has also dipped in and out of different genres, particularly experimenting with historical fiction.
The English journalist and author Frederick Forsyth has made a name for himself writing mystery thrillers using a journalistic tone.
His thriller novels often follow political events and figures and create fast-paced narratives that are unlikely to leave you bored.
His books are based on adventurous places that he’s visited and the political turmoil he’s lived through, generating over 70 million book sales over his career.
This wouldn’t be a thriller authors list without one of the biggest names in the genre. The best-selling American novelist is well-known for her psychological thrillers, which are engaging, complex, and extremely well-written.
This author has been highly praised since she began writing in 1950 and continues to be a favorite among many readers. Her best-sellers include Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, which have since been adapted into popular films.
This American author is famous for merging thrillers with detective fiction. Her novels have been translated into over 30 languages and are enjoyed by readers worldwide. She is highly rated and has written numerous best-sellers, so she’s a well-established author with a fantastic reputation for detective thrillers.
Val McDermid has written a plethora of crime thrillers following psychologist Dr. Tony Hill. This Scottish writer fantastically blends the suspense of thrillers with the intensity of crime and the complexity of psychology.
There’s no better way to finish this list than with this huge name. The former American lawyer and Mississippi State Representative uses his legal expertise to fuel his gripping crime thrillers.
Using complex relationships, twisted cases, and fast-paced narratives, John Grisham’s novels have been enjoyed by millions worldwide and he maintains a fantastic reputation as an award-winning best-selling international author.
Any of these authors are fantastic choices if you’re looking for book recommendations or want to delve into the thriller genre. We hope this list has provided you with some inspiration!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best-selling thriller ever?
Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train is definitely near the top of the best-selling list.
What makes a book a thriller?
Thrillers are typically suspenseful, action-packed, and fast-paced.
Are thrillers scary?
Some can be if the author chooses to merge the genre with horror but most are just gripping.
What are the benefits of reading thriller novels?
Thrillers can frequently incorporate medical, legal, criminal, and psychological components, which can be educational. Thrillers also take less time to read because they are fast-paced, so if you want to read more, this is a great genre to invest time in.
Why is it called a thriller?
Simply because it should ‘thrill’ the reader.
What are the most popular bestselling thriller books of all time?
1. “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie (1939)
2. “Faithless in Death: An Eve Dallas Novel” by J.D. Robb (2021)
3. “The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris (1988)
4. “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts (2005)
5. “Blue Moon” by Lee Child (2019)
6. “The Stand” by Stephen King (1978)