Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night
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Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night

3.7 109
by James Patterson

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Featuring North America's foremost thriller authors, Thriller is the first collection of pure thriller stories ever published. Offering up heart-pumping tales of suspense in all its guises are thirty-two of the most critically acclaimed and award-winning names in the business. From the signature characters that made such authors as David Morrell and John


Featuring North America's foremost thriller authors, Thriller is the first collection of pure thriller stories ever published. Offering up heart-pumping tales of suspense in all its guises are thirty-two of the most critically acclaimed and award-winning names in the business. From the signature characters that made such authors as David Morrell and John Lescroart famous, to four of the hottest new voices in the genre, this blockbuster will tantalize and terrify.

Lock the doors, draw the shades, pull up the covers and be prepared for Thriller to keep you up all night.

Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
The aptly named Thriller anthology is noteworthy for two reasons: It's the first short story collection ever dedicated strictly to thrillers, and it's the first publication from International Thriller Writers, Inc. Included within this monster 576-page compilation are 30 stories from a jaw-dropping gathering of the genre's biggest stars (and all ITW members): Gayle Lynds, John Lescroart, Lee Child, Eric Van Lustbader, David Morrell, Michael Palmer, James Rollins and Steve Berry, to name just a few.

Noteworthy selections include Lynds's "The Hunt for Dmitri," which finds former CIA operative Liz Sansborough thrown once again into a life-and-death adventure involving her father, the infamous assassin known as the Carnivore; and Child's "James Penney's New Identity," a story about a Vietnam vet on the run that includes a cameo from Child's signature character, Jack Reacher -- with a brilliantly twisted ending that is on its own worth the price of the book. F. Paul Wilson's "Interlude at Duane's" pits Repairman Jack against a group of bumbling drugstore robbers, and in Heather Graham's "The Face in the Window," a couple of Floridians try to survive a tropical storm -- and a serial killer on the loose.

Like Legends and Far Horizons, the historic science fiction and fantasy anthologies released in the late 1990s, Thriller features a dream list of genre superstars. But this is more than a who's who of great writers. It's a genuine publishing event and, one hopes, just the beginning of many more collections of adrenaline-laced nail-biters. Don't miss this masterful anthology! Paul Goat Allen
Publishers Weekly
Editor Patterson and the 32 writers who signed up for this breakthrough collection are all donating their royalties to the new International Thriller Writers, which had its first convention in June 2006 in Arizona. They plan, no doubt, to be rewarded for their work with extra fame and future fortune. But hopefully the eight excellent readers who bring the audio version to a generally high quality of life got paid for their efforts, because they are otherwise unrewarded and virtually anonymous. Aside from a listing of their names on the CD box, there's no mention anywhere of who reads what. Despite the lack of publicity, these actors do a fine job, adding an extra ingredient to the best stories in the collection-pieces by Gayle Lynds; her sadly late husband, Dennis Lynds; J.A. Konrath; Raelynn Hillhouse; David Morrell; M. Diane Vogt; and M.J. Rose are especially strong-and even bringing some of the lesser stories up a rung on the excitement ladder. Thriller addicts who'd rather listen than read will find solid value for time and money spent, and wannabe crime fiction writers will learn a lot from Patterson's lively introductions. Simultaneous release with the Mira hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 3). (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
There's nothing remotely scary about these tales, but they are the first collection of "pure" thriller stories by some of America's foremost writers. The quality of the short stories varies; some have abrupt endings while others are engrossing from start to finish. Authors represented include Lincoln Child, Michael Collins, Alex Kava, David Morrell, and M. Diane Vogt. The list of readers is equally impressive, featuring the talents of Joyce Bean, Dick Hill, and Michael Page, among others. The plots of the stories range from the historical (Benjamin Franklin and Osama bin Laden make appearances) to the supernatural to the just plain bizarre, but listeners will find them clever and captivating. Despite the daunting price, this collection does represent the first offering of a newly formed thriller writers club, and it's rare to get this much talent in one anthology. Recommended for large public libraries. Joseph L. Carlson, Allan Hancock Coll., Lompoc, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

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Read an Excerpt

The process that turned James Penney into a completely different person began thirteen years ago, at one in the afternoon on a Monday in the middle of June, in Laney, California. A hot time of day, at a hot time of year, in a hot part of the country. The town squats on the shoulder of the road from Mojave to L.A. Due west, the southern rump of the Coastal Range Mountains is visible. Due east, the Mojave Desert disappears into the haze. Very little happens in Laney. After that Monday in the middle of June thirteen years ago, even less ever did.

There was one industry in Laney. One factory. A big spread of a place. Weathered metal siding, built in the sixties. Office accommodations at the north end, in the shade. The first floor was low grade. Clerical functions took place there. Billing and accounting and telephone calling. The second story was high grade. Managers. The corner office on the right used to be the personnel manager's place. Now it was the human resources manager's place. Same guy, new title on his door.

Outside that door in the long second–floor corridor was a line of chairs. The human resources manager's secretary had rustled them up and placed them there that Monday morning. The line of chairs was occupied by a line of men and women. They were silent. Every five minutes the person at the head of the line would be called into the office. The rest of them would shuffle up one place. They didn't speak. They didn't need to. They knew what was happening.

Just before one o'clock, James Penney shuffled up one space to the head of the line. He waited five long minutes and stood up when he was called. Stepped into the office. Closed the door behind him. The human resources manager was a guy called Odell. Odell hadn't been long out of diapers when James Penney started work at the Laney plant.

"Mr. Penney," Odell said.

Penney said nothing, but sat down and nodded in a guarded way.

"We need to share some information with you," Odell said.

Penney shrugged at him. He knew what was coming. He heard things, same as anybody else.

"Just give me the short version, okay?" he said. Odell nodded. "We're laying you off."

"For the summer?" Penney asked him.

Odell shook his head.

"For good," he said.

Penney took a second to get over the sound of the words. he'd known they were coming, but they hit him like they were the last words he ever expected Odell to say.

"Why?" he asked.

Odell shrugged. He didn't look as if he was enjoying this. But on the other hand, he didn't look as if it was upsetting him much, either.

"Downsizing," he said. "No option. Only way we can go."

"Why?" Penney said again.

Odell leaned back in his chair and folded his hands behind his head. Started the speech he'd already made many times that day.

"We need to cut costs," he said. "This is an expensive operation. Small margin. Shrinking market. You know that."

Penney stared into space and listened to the silence breaking through from the factory floor. "So you're closing the plant?"

Odell shook his head again. "We're downsizing, is all. The plant will stay open. There'll be some maintenance. Some repairs, overhauls. But not like it used to be."

"The plant will stay open?" Penney said. "So how come you're letting me go?"

Odell shifted in his chair. Pulled his hands from behind his head and folded his arms across his chest defensively. He had reached the tricky part of the interview.

"It's a question of the skills mix," he said. "We had to pick a team with the correct blend. We put a lot of work into the decision. And I'm afraid you didn't make the cut."

"What's wrong with my skills?" Penney asked. "I got skills. I've worked here seventeen years. What's wrong with my damn skills?"

"Nothing at all," Odell said. "But other people are better. We have to look at the big picture. It's going to be a skeleton crew, so we need the best skills, the fastest learners, good attendance records, you know how it is."

"Attendance records?" Penney said. "What's wrong with my attendance record? I've worked here seventeen years. You saying I'm not a reliable worker?"

Odell touched the brown file folder in front of him. "You've had a lot of time out sick," he said. "Absentee rate just above eight percent."

Penney looked at him incredulously. "Sick?" he said. "I wasn't sick. I was post–traumatic. From Vietnam."

Odell shook his head again. He was too young. "Whatever," he said. "That's still a big absentee rate." James Penney just sat there, stunned. He felt like he'd been hit by a train.

"We looked for the correct blend," Odell said again.

"We put a lot of management time into the process. We're confident we made the right decisions. You're not being singled out. We're losing eighty percent of our people."

Penney stared across at him. "You staying?" Odell nodded and tried to hide a smile but couldn't. "There's still a business to run," he said. "We still need management."

There was silence in the corner office. Outside, the hot breeze stirred off the desert and blew a listless eddy over the metal building. Odell opened the brown folder and pulled out a blue envelope. Handed it across the desk.

"You're paid up to the end of July," he said. "Money went in the bank this morning. Good luck, Mr. Penney."

The five–minute interview was over. Odell's secretary appeared and opened the door to the corridor. Penney walked out. The secretary called the next man in. Penney walked past the long quiet row of people and made it to the parking lot. Slid into his car. It was a red Firebird, a year and a half old, and it wasn't paid for yet. He started it up and drove the mile to his house. Eased to a stop in his driveway and sat there, thinking, in a daze, with the engine running.

He was imagining the repo men coming for his car. The only damn thing in his whole life he'd ever really wanted. He remembered the exquisite joy of buying it. After his divorce. Waking up and realizing he could just go to the dealer, sign the papers and have it. No discussions. No arguing. he'd gone down to the dealer and chopped in his old clunker and signed up for that Firebird and driven it home in a state of total joy. he'd washed it every week. he'd watched the infomercials and tried every miracle polish on the market. The car had sat every day outside the Laney factory like a bright red badge of achievement. Like a shiny consolation for the shit and the drudgery. Whatever else he didn't have, he had a Firebird.

He felt a desperate fury building inside him. He got out of the car and ran to the garage and grabbed his spare can of gasoline. Ran back to the house. Opened the door. Emptied the can over the sofa. He couldn't find a match, so he lit the gas stove in the kitchen and unwound a roll of paper towels. Put one end on the stove top and ran the rest through to the living room. When his makeshift fuse was well alight, he skipped out to his car and started it up. Turned north toward Mojave.

His neighbor noticed the fire when the flames started coming through the roof. She called the Laney fire department. The firefighters didn't respond. It was a volunteer department, and all the volunteers were in line inside the factory, upstairs in the narrow corridor. Then the warm air moving off the Mojave Desert freshened up into a hot breeze, and by the time James Penney was thirty miles away the flames from his house had set fire to the dried scrub that had been his lawn. By the time he was in the town of Mojave itself, cashing his last paycheck at the bank, the flames had spread across his lawn and his neighbor's and were licking at the base of her back porch.

Like any California boomtown, Laney had grown in a hurry. The factory had been thrown up around the start of Nixon's first term. A hundred acres of orange groves had been bulldozed and five hundred frame houses had quadrupled the population in a year. There was nothing really wrong with the houses, but they'd seen rain less than a dozen times in the thirty–one years they'd been standing, and they were about as dry as houses can get. Their timbers had sat and baked in the sun and been scoured by the dry desert winds. There were no hydrants built into the streets. The houses were close together, and there were no wind–breaks. But there had never been a serious fire in Laney. Not until that Monday in June.

James Penney's neighbor called the fire department for the second time after her back porch disappeared in flames. The fire department was in disarray. The dispatcher advised her to get out of her house and just wait for their arrival. By the time the fire truck got there, her house was destroyed. And the next house in line was destroyed, too. The desert breeze had blown the fire on across the second narrow gap and sent the old couple living there scuttling into the street for safety. Then Laney called in the fire departments from Lancaster and Glendale and Bakersfield, and they arrived with proper equipment and saved the day. They hosed the scrub between the houses and the blaze went no farther. Just three houses destroyed, Penney's and his two downwind neighbors. Within two hours the panic was over, and by the time Penney himself was fifty miles north of Mojave, Laney's sheriff was working with the fire investigators to piece together what had happened.

They started with Penney's place, which was the up–wind house, and the first to burn, and therefore the coolest. It had just about burned down to the floor slab, but the layout was still clear. And the evidence was there to see. There was tremendous scorching on one side of where the living room had been. The Glendale investigator recognized it as something he'd seen many times before. It was what is left when a foam–filled sofa or armchair is doused with gasoline and set afire. As clear a case of arson as he had ever seen. The unfortunate wild cards had been the stiffening desert breeze and the proximity of the other houses.

Then the sheriff had gone looking for James Penney, to tell him somebody had burned his house down, and his neighbors'. He drove his black–and–white to the factory and walked upstairs, past the long line of people and into Odell's corner office. Odell told him what had happened in the five–minute interview just after one o'clock. Then the sheriff had driven back to the Laney station house, steering with one hand and rubbing his chin with the other.

And by the time James Penney was driving along the towering eastern flank of Mount Whitney, a hundred and fifty miles from home, there was an all–points–bulletin out on him, suspicion of deliberate arson, which in the dry desert heat of southern California was a big, big deal.

The next morning's sun woke James Penney by coming in through a hole in his motel–room blind and playing a bright beam across his face. He stirred and lay in the warmth of the rented bed, watching the dust motes dancing.

He was still in California, up near Yosemite, in a place just far enough from the park to be cheap. He had six weeks' pay in his billfold, which was hidden under the center of his mattress. Six weeks' pay, less a tank and a half of gas, a cheeseburger and twenty–seven–fifty for the room. Hidden under the mattress, because twenty–seven–fifty doesn't get you a space in a top–notch place. His door was locked, but the desk guy would have a passkey, and he wouldn't be the first desk guy in the world to rent out his passkey by the hour to somebody looking to make a little extra money during the night.

But nothing bad had happened. The mattress was so thin he could feel the billfold right there, under his kidney. Still there, still bulging. A good feeling. He lay watching the sunbeam, struggling with mental arithmetic, spreading six weeks' pay out over the foreseeable future. With nothing to worry about except cheap food, cheap motels and the Firebird's gas, he figured he had no problems at all. The Firebird had a modern engine, twenty–four valves, tuned for a blend of power and economy. He could get far away and have enough money left to take his time looking around.

What People are saying about this

Sandra Brown
Breathless, explosive, exhilarating. The perfect combination of spine-tingling and heart-pounding suspense. Keep your night light on for this one.
Clive Cussler
The best of the best storytellers in the business. Thriller has no equal. Action, intrigue, and entertainment at the highest level. Adventure on a grand scale you won’t forget.
Vince Flynn
Intrigue and suspense merge in this electrifying collection from an all-star lineup. Thirty stories at 300 miles-per-hour. Prepare to be thrilled from start to finish.
Joe Finder
Thriller is like a box of the best chocolates -- bite-sized, delicious, and totally addictive. A collection of stories by some of the best writers in the thriller business -- what’s not to love?
Greg Iles
Thriller will be a classic. This first-ever collection of thriller stories, from the best in the business, has it all. The quality blew me away.
Tess Gerritsen
Thriller is entertaining, fast-paced, and just plain fun. It will take you to the most terrifying heights of suspense.

Meet the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Graham has written more than a hundred novels. She's a winner of the RWA's Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Thriller Writers' Silver Bullet. She is an active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America. For more information, check out her websites:,, and You can also find Heather on Facebook.

Brief Biography

Palm Beach, Florida
Date of Birth:
March 22, 1947
Place of Birth:
Newburgh, New York
B.A., Manhattan College, 1969; M.A., Vanderbilt University, 1971

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Thriller: Stories to Keep You up All Night 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 109 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book! I admit I have a few stories left to read. I¿ve been out of the crime/spy stories loop for a while. So this book has been fantastic. I had forgotten the fast pace of the stories. Most of the authors¿ writing makes me want to go out and buy all of their books. My to be read list just grew quite a bit.
Georgia-Rain More than 1 year ago
Great a book to see other thriller writer's writing styles. Some favorites of mine and some I have never read but will try now.
Guest More than 1 year ago
&#65279 Imagine that you are a dedicated gourmet, used to eating in the finest restaurants in the world, and that 32 of your favorite world-class chefs come together in one place. You stand in front of a magnificent buffet that has an outstanding appetizer dish from each chef and you are allowed to sample each one. What we have in Thriller is the literary equivalent of that buffet. Collected in one book are 30 short stories by these 32 authors. Each one is a gem and worth the price of the book by itself. Each of these authors have written what I call ¿morning books.¿ You should start none of their books in the evening, or you will be up all night reading them and unable to sleep until you have gotten to the end of the story. The only bittersweet thing about reading Thriller is that Dennis Lynds is no longer with us and won¿t be writing any more of his great stories. There are stories by Lee Child, Alex Kava, David Morrell, Christopher Reich, Brad Thor, and many others. James Patterson is the editor and his comments prior to each short story are excellent in introducing each author and giving a little background on each one. This book is a keeper and one you can read over and over again and still be entertained.
harstan More than 1 year ago
This anthology is faster than hyperspeed as each of the thirty contributions are well written thrillers using the definition provided by James Patterson in his introduction to the book as being 'the force with which they hurtle the reader along.' The tales run the gamut of what most readers consider a thriller though some seem more like a detective story. Included are legal, espionage, adventure, medical, police procedural (mystery genre?), romance, historical, high tech, political, religious and military, etc. The authors are the who¿s who superstars of the genre though some are probably more renowned as mystery writers as the line of demarcation seems blurred. What is fascinating is that several authors are females which were virtually unheard of just a decade or so ago. The introduction to each tale showcases how talented Mr. Patterson is while the short stories display the skills of the author. Fans will appreciate this fine compilation, the first by the newly formed International Thriller Writers group, which lives up to its subtitle: ¿Stories to Keep You up All Night¿ this compilation will do so for several evenings.-------- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
Its like meeting old friends again. Authors that I have read over years are coming across and missing in some missing pieces. Its a good sounding board for readers that have never read them before. One cannot read every Myst/Spy novel out. I particularly enjoyed the forward to each story. Meeting the new crop of Authors was great also, hoping more books like this are published.
GinaK More than 1 year ago
Although this anthology was first published in 2006, it is still extremely enjoyable. The stories are well written thrillers, and a few were not the kind of thriller I like but others made up for the ones that were not to my taste times ten. I would recommend this book both for fun and to see the surprisingly wide variety of kinds of thrillers and thriller authors. You may find an interesting new author's work to explore. Great for sampling and a great beach read too. And the introductions to each story are also very interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I almost peed. It is really scary. ( SHUDDER ) I got through it and could not sleep for a month. Is not recommended for elderly and children :0 ;s
Bobbie Gossett More than 1 year ago
I must say, when i read the maximum ride books, i didn't think james patterson could get any better. But wasn't i proved wrong! This book scared the living hell out of me! Good work james and i am your biggest fan!
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Looking forward to the movie. William Levy can play Christian Grey. Lol :)
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007Digitalmom More than 1 year ago
Keep your coins. Not worth the money.
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