Saturday, January 22, 2011

Five best: thriller plots with terror themes

Howard Gordon—the longtime executive producer of the hit TV series 24—is the author of Gideon's War.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of thriller plots with terror themes.

One novel on the list:
Marathon Man
by William Goldman (1974)

The sadistic Nazi dentist Christian Szell truly stands as a monster for the ages. Long after the war, Szell leaves his lair in South America to come to New York, searching for a stash of diamonds. He stalks graduate student and marathon runner Tom "Babe" Levy on the mistaken assumption that he has information about the jewels. But Babe doesn't know the answer to Szell's repeated question—"Is it safe?"—which makes even more excruciating the now-famous torture scene. Opening the novel, as William Goldman does, with two parallel, seemingly unrelated stories produces an extraordinarily compelling narrative as you keep reading, desperate to find out how the two plotlines will converge. But the book's central power lies in the reader's awareness that Babe is not merely an innocent caught up in a terrifying chase—he is also an American Jew, matching wits with a manifestation of death-camp evil.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue