The 'L' word and the Literary Thriller.

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Full Member
Sep 25, 2014
There is art and then there is craft, and writing demands both. First a distinctiveness of vision, an originality, and then the skill of execution, the hard graft.

There may be no new stories under the sun but there are always new voices, and ways of telling them.

We as readers can tell pretty fast when an emerging writer has not yet put in the writing time, nor read a great deal in their chosen arena of writing. Or not read a great deal, full stop. They have not yet quite worked out their story, and the bits are all over the place. The thing doesn't gel, hasn't bedded down, lacks assurance. We see it on Pop-Ups.


Like Nosferatu smoking, caught in sunlight (sorry, Peter, you're so much better looking of course :)) our @AgentPete shies away from the 'L' word, both as an affectation, not something that a writer claims for themselves in their own writing, and as a limitation of the potential market before the thing is even off the starting block.


But. The 'literary thriller'. It has been done. It can be done. 'The Day of the Jackal-...Frederick Forsyth remains one of my favourites.

'Lebel!' (We meet at last)


Lebel. The Jackal's last word, pretty much.

And now look what just came....I have here in front of me, Stallion Gate by Martin Cruz Smith....a story about the building of the atom bomb.

Tagline - Can the world be changed in ten seconds?

So here goes. Cruz has terrified me before with Gorky Park and Nightwing (more vampires...real bats, and imagine drowning in bat-shit because...well, no, you won't want to, but you'll have to read it to find out...).

The opening sentence tells me it is a thriller.

"The cell at Leavensworth was four feet by eight feet, barely large enough for Joe to sit at one end on an upended pail."

We hit the ground running with the where and the who. No what or why or how yet. But still on page one, the language lifts the writing above the everyday (to the L level) in describing the other people in there with him.

"There was a girl with the body of a bird, a swallow. She had a beautiful triangular face....".
"Across from her was a minotaur, a blue man with a shaggy buffalo head. At the far end was an officer who had brought his own chair to sit in."

Control, the language of everyday segues into poetic metaphor, but it's kept on the firmest leash.


Stallion Gate by Martin Cruz Smith ....

"Cruz Smith writes extraordinarily well in a genre not usually considered literature" He is not merely our best writer of suspense, but one of our best writers, period. New York Times

'One of those writers that anyone who is serious about their craft views with respect bordering on awe,' Val McDermid

"Cruz Smith understands pace, plot, character, not wearing your research on your sleeve....In short, he can write." Independent. "Dogged research lifts him high above the hack thriller writer. "

"He has a gift for characterisation of which most thriller writers can only dream," Mail on Sunday

His dialogue is a marvel, dry,observant, melancholic,' Evening Standard.

Stallion Gate.jpg
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