Who Are the Best Writers in the Genre?

Some of the biggest of the bestselling novelists in my chosen genre may be slipping, based on their latest efforts. Others are getting even better. That realization on my part gave me an idea—rank my favorite writers. So, with that challenge in mind, here is my assessment of some of the top novelists in the political/espionage thriller genre in reverse order.

7. David Baldacci—Any writer who has sold over 130,000,000 books in more than 80 countries must be doing something right. And this man has done lots of things right. He is well-educated, highly productive, and has a charitable nature. My issue is with his most recent novel in the Will Robie series. It reads like it was written by someone else, not Baldacci. It seems wooden, contrived, and disjointed; not a typical Baldacci effort, certainly not on a par with the previous Will Robie book, The Guilty. It’s not the equal of his latest book in the John Puller series, No Man’s Land. This latest Robie book makes the amateurish mistake of tagging dialogue with “she intoned,” “he interjected,” “she retorted.” The best writing is always “he said,” she said.” I hope he’s not at the point some writers reach, where they seem to be merely mailing it in.

6. Brad Thor—His sales record, productivity, and recognition as an expert on black operations is unparalleled. He also is very charitably minded. His books are solid adventure. He and the next two writers currently are about equal in my assessment.

5. Brad Taylor—Here is a writer who has lived the action he describes—a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Lt. Colonel who spent time in the super-secret Delta Force. He’s prolific—18 novels in 8 years. His main protagonist, Pike Logan, is an interesting character. And Logan has a love interest that kicks ass right along with the boys. On the negative side, his books tend to be longer than seems necessary for the plot, and jump back and forth from first person to third person several times in a given chapter. That’s distracting.

4. Lee Child—The first question that should come to mind is “Why isn’t he in 1st Place?” There’s no question that he’s one of the most popular authors of his time, and deservedly so. He has created an iconic character in Jack Reacher, and usually spins a page-turning yarn. But Reacher has become more than human—invincible, indestructible. He never gets more than a scratch at best, knows no fear regardless the situation; yet, there’s no attempt to explain how that can be. At least in my Sleeping Dog books, I researched genetics thoroughly enough to develop a plausible basis for the Dogs’ being stronger, faster, and smarter than their fellow humans. And they get shot and cut up just like everyone else. A disturbing development in the latest Reacher book, The Midnight Line, is the dialogue. Every character, including Reacher, sounds exactly alike—no accents, nuances, or anything that distinguishes the various speakers.

3. Alex Berenson—This guy can write! His John Wells is a more vulnerable, more realistic version of Jack Reacher. I’m not sure why Berenson chose to have Wells convert to Islam while killing Muslim bad guys all over the planet. Maybe I’ve missed a bit of irony.

2. Ben Coes—It seems impossible, but each Dewey Andreas book is better than the one before. He is a much better writer than his current recognition in the industry would indicate. His plots are downright terrifyingly real. I worry that somewhere a jihadist is taking it all in and planning accordingly. His books will keep you up all night reading them. Then keep you up the following night in a cold sweat.

1. Daniel Silva—Here is the consummate thriller writer. His writing clearly is superb, better than any contemporary writer. Sentence structure, word selection, pacing, plot development, characterizations, voice—he’s the best at his craft. Aspiring writers should study his style and polish their works accordingly. Unlike the rest of us who are penning thrillers in the genre, he achieves success with a protagonist who is small in stature, carrying a lot of hard miles—anything but Reacher-esque. Yes, Gabriel Allon has spent a lifetime in the Mossad and knows weaponry and hand-to-hand combat, but he’s no invincible six-foot-plus young stud who rips bad guys apart with his bare hands. He uses guile and treachery to achieve success—a thinking person’s protagonist, but the action is non-stop, as well as cleverly developed.

© John Wayne Falbey 2017 All Rights Reserved