19 March, 2020

#RTWrites - Escapist Reading: Action Spy Thrillers To Devour When You’re Quarantined - @RT_Writes

Let’s admit it. The world sucks right now. Panic and misinformation and concern for our loved ones vie with each sneeze and cough we hear and experience around us. There is hope, of course, because we do have a lot of good information on what needs to be done to combat COVID-19.

One of the best ways to keep ourselves and loved ones safe is to identify the symptoms (cough, sneezing, fever, shortness of breath), consult a medical professional and, more importantly, practice self-quarantine i.e. staying indoors and isolated from public places as far as possible so we don’t unintentional carriers.

But, folks, this quarantine doesn’t have to be a time for panic or boredom. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, would be to escape into the wonderful world of books.

It’s what I am doing as I savagely edit (read slash and burn) my April release – Guardian Knight, the first book in the Knights of Justice romantic action thriller duology.

The world sucks right now but there are amazing books and incredible heroes who have saved the world from catastrophes. These are breathtaking stories of courage and bravery and, in most cases, closet heroism.

Here’s my list of action spy thrillers to devour when you’re quarantined…so you remember the world is a beautiful place and good men and women are always around to save us.

1. Avalanche Express by Colin Forbes 

Avalanche Express has a simple, insanely gripping plot. MI5 spies Harry Lang and Elsa are sent to Italy to extract an important KGB defector. They all board a train – the Atlantic Express in Milan which will go through the Swiss Alps and reach London. The catch? A deadly group of assassins have triggered an avalanche on the Matterhorn – the highest peak in the Swiss Alps – to destroy the train and everyone in it. Can Harry and Elsa save the Atlantic Express and bring back the Russian spy safely? Avalanche Express is written in Forbes’ staccato style of writing but it is the plot – and the ways the hero spies who are as grey as heroes can be – that made this book unforgettable.

2. Golden Gate by Alastair Maclean 

As I’ve written previously, Golden Gate’s deceptively simple story belies the masterful chess strategy of Maclean’s storytelling. A cavalcade carrying the most important people in the United States is held ransom by a group of brilliant terrorists on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, who threaten to blow the bridge up with everyone on it if their demands aren’t met. The action unfolds over a tense seventy-two hours and is a cat and mouse game between Paul Revson, Richard Hagenbach of the FBI and Peter Branson the smoothest criminal I’ve ever read.

3. The Karachi Deception by Shatrujeeth Nath 

While Nath is known most famously for the Vikramiditya Veergatha books, I adore The Karachi Deception, a taut military thriller featuring a hero who is flawed and grey while still trying to do the right thing. Major Imtiaz Ahmed, Captain Shamsher Suleiman and Rafiq Mahmood have to enter Pakistan and capture a dreaded terrorist Irshad Dilawar. But the ISI seem to be one step ahead of the heroes, thwarting their every move. The writing is pacy and the plot moves at breakneck speed but what really drew me in is the attention to detail that the writer has given to all the military jargon and the ops itself! It’s a must-read for lovers of spy thrillers.

4. Catoplus Terror by Sidney Sheldon 

I’ll admit it. Everything I love and learned about writing pacy and action-filled stories I learned because I read Catoplus Terror by Sidney Sheldon. William McLendon is a true-blue CIA operative who puts together a crack team of agents to catch the world’s deadliest terrorist – Carlos Ilyich Ramirez. A mythical terrorist on the scale of Patty Hearst or her ilk. The catch? These terrorists are ALL retired and on the wrong side of sixty. How they all use old-school tactics and good, old-fashioned espionage to bring down Carlos and his organization forms the most gripping plot of this wonderful book. A copy of this book is extremely hard to come by so if you can get one, hold on to it! Mine’s almost in tatters.

5. Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews 

This trilogy of explosive novels have, at their heart, the deadly beautiful KGB agent Dominika Egorova. She is a former ballerina who becomes an intelligence operative whose first mission is to turn a CIA agent Nathaniel Nash. The reason why I love this story is because it has a heroine at the epicenter of the action (not unlike Black Widow) and it provides an unflinching look at two different schools of espionage. Neither of which is lauded more than the other. Plus, reading about a woman ruthlessly use herself as a weapon to bring down the establishment is always a thing of beauty.

6. The Night Manager and Little Drummer Girl by John Le Carre 

I am squeezing two of my favorite Le Carres in one recommendation because HE IS AMAZING!
The Night Manager tells the story of nondescript Jonathan Pine who ends up bringing down the ruthless arms mercenary Richard Roper for the MI6. While Little Drummer Girl is a delicious cat and mouse chase between the Mossad and Palestinian terrorists who plan to destroy Europe. Both the stories are action-packed as well as a level of detail that cemented my interest in reading and writing these kinds of thrilling stories that keep the reader on the edge of their seat with unexpected twists and turns.

7. Villainelle Novellas by Luke Jennings 

First published as novellas on Kindle, Codename Villainelle is incredibly pithy and pacy. And, it’s one of the few times I loved a villain(elle) as much as I did the heroine. Linguistics student Oksana Vorontsova lives a quiet life in Paris, apart from when she slips anywhere she wants to in the world and murders the targets she is ordered to in creative ways…and enjoys it! She comes under the crosshairs of Eve Polastri, a dowdy MI5 agent who is obsessed with serial assassins and their patterns of killing and thus begins a deadly game of attraction and assassination. I confess, I have only watched the highly entertaining and morbid TV adaptation Killing Eve but if the writing in the book is half as good as the TV one, this novel is sure to be gripping.

8. Children of Men by PD James 

While Children of Men doesn’t strictly come under the action spy thriller genre, it is nevertheless a crazy good dystopian story told crazily awesomely well. In it, the unwilling hero, Theo, is sent on a secret mission to rescue the only pregnant woman in the whole world (the world has become infertile) and take her to a land of safety. Children of Men is an acerbic allegory for the terrible consequences of humans being savages to each other, of course, but it also a story of hope and courage in desperate times, especially by an ordinary man who is thrust into the role of savior because of nothing except circumstance.

Apart from these recs, there are always the usual suspects, of course – Ludlum, Higgins, Patterson, Creighton, Fleming, McInnes, Deva and more, each of whom has a backlist that would require several weeks of free time to get through.

I hope you read these books and enjoy them and remember, the world is a beautiful place worth saving and we can be the good heroes and heroines who do so in this dark hour for mankind.

Stay safe and happy reading. Let me know your own favorites in the comments below.

Writer Gal

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