STRUCTURE: A single hero (or, in very recent years, with increasing frequency, heroine), a partnership or a small group of experts battle a foreign power, a criminal organization or a ruthless super-genius intent on ruling (a) America, (b) the world, or (c) a phenomenal amount of money.
There is a great deal of action (with the notion of “possible” replacing that of “probable”) involving very fast vehicles, serious weaponry, lots of explosions, a huge body count, a fearless, incorruptible decathlete and the most beautiful 30-year-old woman in the world who is also the world’s leading expert on something or other; she is always single.
Large pieces of modern machinery are often in evidence, as is the figure of a monomaniacal fiend of some stripe.
Such lines as “the fate of the world” and “only x can prevent” have a good chance of appearing, as do “heart-pounding,” “fast-paced” and “explosive action.” BEGINNING: Although spies have always been with us (note Judas Iscariot) and so have figures intent on world domination (Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan), the literary thriller did not begin until 1821, when James Fenimore Cooper wrote ), Ian Fleming (and his utterly unrealistic but nonetheless captivating hero, James Bond), John Gardner (who wrote more Bond novels than Fleming but whose best work is about Big Herbie Kruger, including one of the half-dozen greatest spy novels ever written, ), Len Deighton, Alastair Mac Lean, and Adam Hall, creator of Quiller, all of whom are British.
John and Kate arrive in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen. They are met by another spook, a guy we've met before, the hero of The General's Daughter and Up Country, Paul Brenner, now with the Diplomatic Security Service.
Paul is one of the few good guys in this tale, in a desert filled with black hats in every cave, on every camel.He yells at the bodies, "You have learned that in Yemen death comes! John and his FBI wife Kate are assigned to Yemen, to hunt down the bad guys who bombed the USS Cole in 2000." Fade to NYC, where smart-mouth John Corey, ex-NYPD, currently on New York's Anti-Terrorist Task Force, takes center stage. John knows that everyone who journeys to Yemen doesn't come back!I'd like to see a woman take a stronger role in John's life – perhaps a female villain! Maybe another place on the planet that has the same authenticity of upstate New York, Long Island, Ohio. I saw shades of Corey in other books: as Keith Landry in Spencerville.And John Sutter of The Gold Coast was a John Corey type, in some ways.The author and I both revel in writing about psychopathic villains who are bigger than life.The Panther has traits we've met in other De Mille thrillers – the killer in The General's Daughter, the sadistic cop in Spencerville, the slimeball vintner in Plum Island, the mass murderer in The Lion's Game and The Lion, the weird oil tycoon in Wild Fire. My theory is that John Corey existed way before his appearance in Plum Island.It is my plan—indeed, my mission—to define these categories, describe their strengths and weaknesses, and provide numerous examples from both the past and the present to help guide readers to the type of book they are most likely to enjoy.This will be the third of several columns in which I try to define the major sub-genres.