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The Art of Suspense

A history of the thriller

I’ve been reading thrillers for longer than I’ve been writing them. Over time, I’ve put my ideas on how thrillers work and why we love to read them into a lecture – The Art of Suspense.

Starting with the first real thriller – Erskine Childer’s The Riddle of the Sands, and covering the works of John Buchan, Zane Grey, Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming and Thomas Harris (amongst others) I trace how thrillers have developed.

The historical events that helped drive the development of thrillers, the effect of the Dreyfus trial, Hamlet as an assassin, the impact of the world wars on how we see ourselves… this history of the thriller will be of interest to students of literature and would-be writers.

Art of Suspense at the 92 St Y

I delivered The Art of Suspense at the famous 92nd St Y in New York in 2006 (on Halloween!), and it was filmed.

The Art of Suspense ‘Chapters’

  1. Introduction
  2. Erskine Childers
  3. John Buchan
  4. E Phillips Oppenheim
  5. Zane Grey
  6. William Tufnell Le Queux
  7. Joseph Conrad
  8. The standard thriller
  9. The psychological thriller
  10. Agatha Christie
  11. Dashiell Hammet
  12. Dennis Wheatley
  13. Mickey Spillane
  14. Ian Fleming
  15. After Bond
  16. Thomas Harris
  17. Q & A

Watch The Art of Suspense

Watch a streaming video version of the evening in four parts. It is around an hour in length.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

  • The DVD version is no longer available for order.