Genre in Depth: Thrillers

Genre in Depth is a new series on Fictionally Sam where we delve into different genre and see how they began, their characteristics, and books within that genre, etc. New genre every first and last Wednesday of the month!

Happy Wednesday Storytellers! It’s finally April and things are going amazing as we are waddling deeper into the trenches of Bookending Spring! If you don’t know what Bookending Spring is, it’s basically a seasonal event that I and my partner in crime Clo @ Book Dragons created and run that aspires to bring the book blogging community closer together! To find out more about it and how to get involved, check out our announcement post here: Bookending Spring 2019 Announcement. We’d love to have you join in on the fun!
In today’s installment of Genre in Depth, we are going to be taking a look into the Thriller genre and see what exactly gets this fast paced genre’s heart racing. Like previously with mysteries, I don’t read a lot of thrillers –which I am trying to fix! With that said, I would like to point out that I took to my lovely friends for recommendations for books specifically for this post as I haven’t read much in this genre that I feel comfortable in giving you a recommendation. I trust their judgement 100% and if they rec it than I rec it too!
So grab your chair, get comfy, and let’s get thrilled!

The first thing that comes to most minds with the beginning of the Thriller genre is probably the many hundreds of films that have dedicated themselves to the heart racing genre. However, Thrillers have been around long before Alfred Hitchcock and the like. Dating back to Ancient Greece, the genre’s first sighting is claimed to be within Homer’s classic The Odyssey where readers can find the first instance of anticipatory suspense and techniques used in today’s modern thriller.

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Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

There isn’t much on the actually history of this genre other than its sporadic appearances throughout Ancient Greek Literature, with one outstanding piece every other century (i.e., Little Red Riding Hood (1697), The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)). However, the first “modern” thriller was published in 1903 by Erskie Childers, an early example of what we would now call espionage fiction. The story depicts the tale of a minor official, Carruthers, who is invited on yachting holiday in the Baltic Seas. As you can imagine, nothing is as it seems for Carruthers as what he thought to be a duck-shooting holiday with his friend, Davies, turns into a time of espionage and adventure through the seas of North Frisian.
As the years went on throughout the 1900s, thrillers became an ever-present and popular genre in the film industry. One can assume that during the twentieth century, publishing companies banked on the success of Hollywood and the works of Alfred Hitchcock and others by releasing more thrillers to readers. Stories like Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, The 39 Steps by John Buchan, The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre, and The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum all helped push the genre forward and helped influence and create the genre’s style that so many love today.
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“What I love about the thriller form is that it makes you write a story. You can’t get lost in your own genius, which is a dangerous place for writers. You don’t want to ever get complacent. If a book starts going too well, I usually know there’s a problem. I need to struggle. I need that self-doubt. I need to think it’s not the best thing ever.”Harlan Coben, WD Interview, January 2011

The thriller genre can be defined as a genre that induces strong emotions, typically feelings of excitement, anxiety, tension, suspense, fear, etc. –in short, things that thrill it’s audience/readers. Thrillers are known to bank on its ability to build and hold tension and suspense in both their readers and the characters on the page. This genre is uncanny with its ways of drawing and keeping the reader invested to know what happens next.
The importance of thrillers is that they exist to allow us to express and feel emotions we may not typically feel on an everyday/normal basis. Thrillers give readers the chance to explore these thrilling emotions in a cathartic way where it becomes a form of escapism to some.
Types of Thrillers:

  • Psychological Thriller – Thrillers that has a focus on the psychological side of things, specifically with characters that face/struggle with psychological disorders. These thrillers can be seen using disorders such as DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder) and those with psychopathic tendencies.
  • Crime Thriller – Thrillers that have a main focus of crime/justice–typically handles issues and topics of murder, kidnapping, drugs, etc.
  • Mystery Thriller – A thriller which starts off as a mystery that needs to be solved and as the story progresses, the suspense and tension builds.

Themes explored within Thrillers:

  • Crimes / Criminal actions (kidnapping, murder, revenge)
  • Psychology
  • The Human Condition
  • Paranoia
  • Conspiracies
  • Terrorism (both national and domestic)
  • Relationships

Thrillers typically have been known to take place in ordinary places, such as the suburbs and cities where you tend not to think things with such emotional stakes could take place. However there are instances where extravagant places are used instead as it adds another layer of conflict for the character.

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What do you love about Thrillers? Any Recommendations?



  1. Rosie Amber

    April 3, 2019 at 11:28 am

    I like espionage thrillers and ones set during either WW1 or WW2 especially ones that feature the resistance movement.

  2. TheCaffeinatedReader

    April 3, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    AHHHH Between this and Reading around the Globe, I could be set for life in blog posts!!!!! I cannot believe I have never read your thriller recs, guess we know whose tbr is growing a bit today! I loved learning more about this one, especially as it’s so close to crime/mystery novels which are my faves, so thanks so much for giving us a history on this <3

  3. sheilagoicea

    April 3, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    Although I haven’t read many, I do like crime mysteries. I don’t like general horror though. Such a great post!

  4. Rae

    April 3, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    I adore thrillers that keep me guessing! Great post. 💜

    1. Sam || Fictionally Sam

      April 4, 2019 at 9:16 am

      Same!!! And thank you! <3

  5. Stephanie

    April 3, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    I’m not big into thrillers but I love the idea for this series! Great work!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Destiny @ Howling Libraries

    April 6, 2019 at 1:23 am

    I! Love! These! Posts!!! They’re just so much fun and I love how much care and detail you put into your blog ♥♥

    1. Sam || Fictionally Sam

      April 8, 2019 at 2:28 pm

      <3 <3 thank youuuuuu!

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