Famous Five – Enid Blyton
This series enthralled me as a child. Here were books packed full of the kind of adventures I wanted to experience. I imagined I was George, the tomboy: if only I had my own mysterious island, like the character! Through Blyton, I fell in love with books and their power to transport me into a magical world. What more could a child with a vivid imagination want?
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
I have wept and laughed through all of Charles Dickens’s books but Oliver Twist has to be my favourite because of the great characters and Dickens’s biting, witty turn of phrase: “Tears were not the things to find their way to Mr Bumble’s soul; his heart was waterproof.” What I learnt from Dickens was that the novel can be both entertaining and poignant social and political commentary.
Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
I have always been fascinated by the “what if?” of science and Jurassic Park ignited my fascination for science-based thrillers. Crichton was a master of taking his research and turning it into high-drama disaster thrillers. His stories were about topics he was passionate about. The lesson for me: thrillers are about entertainment. They can be thought-provoking, but never tell your readers what to think.
The Pelican Brief – John Grisham
The Pelican Brief blew me away, not only because it is about environmental destruction and a conspiracy that reaches all the way up to the US president, but because the hero is a clever and resourceful woman. This was groundbreaking – for once, she wasn’t the damsel in distress. Most exciting of all, this was one of the early, high-profile environmental thrillers, and was part of a new sub-genre that included Crichton.
The Constant Gardener – John le Carre
In The Constant Gardener, John le Carre – the master of the spy thriller – reinvented himself and produced a powerful political thriller. This book challenged the genre, with its far-from-traditional hero and its less-than-happy ending. Le Carre demonstrated so beautifully that it’s not what you say but how you say it, and I believe his mastery of language makes him one of the greatest authors of our time.
L.A. Larkin is an Australian thriller author who also teaches thriller writing. Formerly she worked for a climate change consultancy and travelled to Antarctica to research her latest novel, Thirst (Pier 9).
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.