The best thrillers that begin with a bang

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a veteran novelist who believes this over all else: The opening is everything. This has been my modus operandi as a storyteller for over thirty books, as well as a half dozen screenplays. I love a great opening. It is how a reader or viewer will subconsciously decide whether they will devote themselves to a story. It is the first kiss. The first shot over the bow. The ignition, the countdown, and the launch. It is the alpha and omega… because the beginning dictates the ending. Oh my, how I love the beginning! 

I wrote...

Return to Woodbury

By Jay Bonansinga,

Book cover of Return to Woodbury

What is my book about?

She has weathered over four years of the apocalypse. But she has survived. And now, she has staked a claim in the plague-ravaged city of Atlanta. It's a safe haven for her people, rising high above the walker-ridden streets, a place of warmth and comfort. But for Lilly Caul, something is missing...

She still dreams of her former home―the quaint little village known as Woodbury. For Lilly, Woodbury, Georgia, has become a symbol of the future, of a return to normal life amidst this hell on earth. The call is so powerful that Lilly decides to risk everything in order to go back... She's willing to go to the darkest place to survive, to save her people, to do the one thing she knows she has to do: Return to Woodbury.
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Fist of God

Jay Bonansinga Why did I love this book?

“The man with ten minutes to live was laughing.” Thus begins one of the greatest war novels by one of the greatest living writers of espionage thrillers. 

Frederick Forsyth’s epic story of the Persian Gulf War mingles fact with fiction, and never lets up its humming current of suspense. Incidentally, that laughing man was Gerald Vincent Bull, a real historical figure who invented a super-gun for Saddam Hussein. Not exactly the safest line of work. 

His assassination triggered a Rube Goldberg series of events that only Forsyth would have the… well… foresight to use as the first sentence in this violent, epochal tale. 

By Frederick Forsyth,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Fist of God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From behind-the-scenes decision making of the Allies to the secret meeting of Saddam Hussein's war cabinet, from the brave American fliers running dangerous missions over Iraq to a heroic young spy planted deep in the heart of Baghdad, Forsyths incomparable storytelling keeps the suspense at a breakneck pace.

Peopled with vivid characters, brilliantly displaying the intricacies of intelligence operations moving back and forth between Washington and London, Baghdad and Kuwait, and revealing espionage tradecraft as only Frederick Forsyth can, The Fist of God tells the utterly convincing story of what may actually have happened behind the headlines.


Book cover of Dirty White Boys

Jay Bonansinga Why did I love this book?

Stephen Hunter’s crime fiction masterpiece, Dirty White Boys, begins with a sentence lovingly detailing the villain’s genitals. 

I assure you this opening is in no way gratuitous or prurient; it signals that we’re in for a wild ride, informing us that only “…three men at McAlester State Penitentiary had larger penises than Lamar Pye….” 

Pye is one of the great literary villains of all time – racist, crude, violent, and cruel… and smart as a whip. And the tone here is pitch-dark hillbilly noir. If you’re brave enough to read this book it will live in your imagination for the rest of your life. 

By Stephen Hunter,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dirty White Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Three convicts on the run with an arsenal of weaponry and only one rogue cop can stop them. Lamar Pye has escaped from Oklahoma State Penitentiary, accompanied by his idiot cousin and a vicious, but cowardly artist. To have stayed in prison was certain death, but his chances on the outside are not much greater: his excesses know no bounds - one killing follows another. But one murder brings his nemesis upon him: Bud Pewtie of the Highway of the Highway Patrol loses his partner in a blood-soaked shoot-out with Lamar, and from that moment on, nothing will stop him…


Book cover of The War of the Worlds

Jay Bonansinga Why did I love this book?

In his seminal science fiction masterwork, The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells created one of the greatest opening sentences of all time. 

Complex, cerebral, and hyperbolic, it is timeless paranoia from the late Victorian era that resonates today more than ever. Here it is in all its purple prose and polysyllabic glory:

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

Oy ve! Time to buckle yourself in and keep your hands inside the car throughout the ride!

By H.G. Wells,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The War of the Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

But planet Earth was not only being watched - soon it would be invaded by monstrous creatures from Mars who strode about the land in great mechanical tripods, bringing death and destruction with them. What can possibly stop an invading army equipped with heat-rays and poisonous black gas, intent on wiping out the human race? This is one man's story of that incredible invasion, from the time the first Martians land near his home town, to the destruction of London. Is this the end of human life on Earth?


Book cover of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Jay Bonansinga Why did I love this book?

"The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted." 

It’s more than a creepy opening sentence; it’s a mission statement from the Master of the Macabre, the Poet of the Paranormal, the Chaucer of Chills. It encapsulates what Stephen King does so well – a plucky little girl gets lost in the woods, a shadowy presence stalking her, and something dark, magical, and miraculous emerging from the girl’s soul. 

This short novel is so riveting, you will finish it in one sitting.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the master of horror and suspence, Stephen King, comes a pop-up adaptation of one of his bestselling novels.; Trisha MacFarland had no idea what was in store for her when she wandered away from her mother and brother on a family hike! Readers will travel with Trisha on her journey of horror, where she has only her witts for navigation, her ingenuity as a defence against the elements, and her courage and faith to withstand her mounting fear. For solace, during this terrifying journey, Trisha tuned in her walkman to listen to the broadcasts about her hero, the Red…


Book cover of The Ax

Jay Bonansinga Why did I love this book?

Donald Westlake was the consummate professional, a writer’s writer with more than a hundred novels to his credit. 

Specializing in crime fiction, he created the blockbuster Parker series and was so prolific he needed a half a dozen pseudonyms just to avoid competing with himself in the marketplace. This book is his masterpiece. Period. Full stop. And if the first sentence doesn’t grab you, nothing will:

I’ve never actually killed anybody before, murdered another person, snuffed out another human being.

So let the games begin!

By Donald E. Westlake,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Ax as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The multi-award-winning, widely-acclaimed mystery master Donald E. Westlake delivers a masterpiece with this brilliant, laser-sharp tale of the deadly consequences of corporate downsizing.

Burke Devore is a middle-aged manager at a paper company when the cost-cutting ax falls, and he is laid off. Eighteen months later and still unemployed, he puts a new spin on his job search -- with agonizing care, Devore finds the seven men in the surrounding area who could take the job that rightfully should be his, and systematically kills them. Transforming himself from mild-mannered middle manager to ruthless murderer, he discovers skills ne never knew…


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Tidelands: Ghosts and Monsters

By Gareth J. Southwell,

Book cover of Tidelands: Ghosts and Monsters

Gareth J. Southwell

New book alert!

What is my book about?

In a flooded city on the brink of collapse, the arcology provides a high-tech haven – for those who can afford it. Here, safe in her pampered confinement, Eva longs for escape. But each day she is made to play The Game, a mysterious virtual environment that seems more designed to monitor and test than to entertain.

Outside, life is a different story, where unregulated tech spawns nightmares to rival those of fairtytale and folklore – ghosts and monsters, the no-longer-human and the never-should-have-been. Here, Squirrel is a memory thief, eking out a fraught existence in service to the criminal…

Tidelands: Ghosts and Monsters

By Gareth J. Southwell,

What is this book about?

Tidelands is an ongoing sci-fi and fantasy serial. Set some years in the future, it is a dystopian blend of cyberpunk, first contact, Lovecraftian horror and dark humour.

In a flooded city on the brink of collapse, the arcology provides a high-tech haven – for those who can afford it. Here, safe in her pampered confinement, Eva longs for escape. But each day she is made to play The Game, a mysterious virtual environment that seems more designed to monitor and test than to entertain.

Outside, life is a different story, where unregulated tech spawns nightmares to rival those of…


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