Adventure Genre Discussion – Political Thrillers & Espionage

Political Thrillers & Espionage

Camel ClubThe Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable (SE-RART) met Tuesday, April 3, at the John Curtis Free Library to discuss two subgenres of Adventure: Political Thrillers and Espionage.

The benchmark title was The Camel Club by David Baldacci, first in a five-book series featuring Oliver Stone.

We talked about the following supplemental readings, focusing on key elements and appeal factors for Political Thrillers and Espionage:

  • Hannon, Michael. Blood, Bedlam, Bullets, and Bad Guys. Chapter 1, pp. 1-2
  • Hannon, Michael. Blood, Bedlam, Bullets, and Bad Guys. Chapter 9, pp. 185-86
  • McArdle, Megan M. The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Blends, pp. xix-3}
  • Saricks, Joyce. The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed., pp. 71-87

Key elements

Political Thrillers

  • Often convoluted, plot involves the government and secrets worth killing for
  • Pacing is fast, compelling; storyline often cinematic
  • Identifiable hero, usually a strong, handsome, and an extremely capable leader


  • Plots usually center around international espionage activities, secrecy
  • Often feature exotic locales and/or have dark, mysterious tone/atmosphere
  • Traditional/classic spy novels may appeal to intellect as well as adrenaline readers

“The size and diversity of the Thriller genre make it difficult to define in a straightforward fashion. Basically this genre focuses on a particular profession – espionage, medicine, or the law, for example – and tells an action-packed story that reveals the intricacies of that profession and the potential dangers faced by those involved in it. The details supplied, their authenticity and their scope, are key to reader satisfaction. Although important to a good story, the character of the hero is generally secondary to the action and detail. Readers can easily distinguish the good from the bad among these stereotypical characters”   – Joyce Saricks, The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed. (Chapter 5: Thrillers)

We talked about whether historical adventure had to be about war, and decided that, although it often may be set during times of war, it didn’t need to be, but there needed to be some sort of danger, a visible enemy, and some amount of fighting involved.

We discussed The Camel Club by David Baldacci, our benchmark title, in reader’s advisory terms:

  • Stakes are high for hero (ensemble) – life and death
  • Frame of Washington, DC and environs, adds to sense of realism
  • Storyline cinematic, premise plausible enough to make sense
  • Camel Club characters are quirky outsiders, on the fringe
  • Terrorist characters given some backstory and nuance, but still bad guys
  • Clues are given, but reader knows more than main characters (suspense)
  • Ends justify the means – common theme in Adventure fiction
  • Characters are developed for series, two strong women characters

Second titles will be posted soon; it’s OK to submit yours still, if you forgot!

Second titles we learned about in terms of reader’s advisory appeal factors – frame, tone, pacing, plot/storyline, characters – included a female adventure author we didn’t have on our earlier list – K. J. Howe:

The Freedom Broker by K.J. Howe
The World at Night by Alan Furst
A Hero of France by Alan Furst
Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming
Pursuit of Honor by Vince Flynn
The Singularity Race by Mark de Castrique

Please register online for the Thursday, June 14th meeting, 10am-12pm, at the Queset House (beside the Ames Free Library) in Easton to talk about Military Thrillers and Nonfiction Adventure. The benchmark title will be Ice Station by Matthew Reilly.

New members are always welcome to jump in at any point in the year, even the very last meeting of the 2017-18 season. We will also discuss possible genres for next year’s genre study, so feel free to bring or send your input!

By the way, the next RUSA Codes Convo is on Tuesday, April 24. It’s a LOT of email in one day, but there’s usually a ton of useful RA tips shared:

CODES Conversations: RA 101
April 24, 2018 10am-6pm EST
What are the key ideas, practices and sources everyone should be learning
about as they begin to do readers’ advisory work? Join us and special guest
moderators Joyce Saricks and Neal Wyatt and bring your questions, suggestions
and advice!

CODES Conversations are focused electronic conversations on issues facing
collection development and readers’ advisory librarians—or anyone interested
in those areas. The conversations are open to all who wish to participate (or

More info



Political Thriller / Espionage – April 3

Camel ClubThe Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable (SE-RART) meets Tuesday, Apr. 3, 10 am-12 pm, at the John Curtis Free Library, 534 Hanover St., in Hanover, to continue our 2017-18 Action/Adventure genre study with a discussion of Political Thrillers and Espionage.

The benchmark title for the April meeting is The Camel Club, a novel by David Baldacci – first in the Camel Club series. Please choose another title from either the espionage or political thriller subgenre as your second title. (See suggestions of authors below.)

Short, additional readings for discussion at the April meeting will be emailed to registered participantsPlease register for the April meeting on the MLS Web site , and let us know if you don’t receive the email with the supplemental readings.

Even if you don’t get to read two books in their entirety, please be prepared to talk briefly about each of them in terms of reader’s advisory appeal factors, as laid out by RA-guru Joyce Saricks:

  • Pacing (e.g. breakneck, unhurried, densely written)
  • Characterization (e.g. quirky, well developed, ensemble cast)
  • Plot/Storyline (e.g. action-oriented, sensual, domestic, sexually explicit)
  • Tone/Mood (e.g. gritty, heartwarming, political)
  • Style/Language (e.g. sophisticated, homespun, frank)
  • Frame/Setting (e.g. urban, rural, world-building, time-frame)

Again, please don’t stay away from the meeting if you can’t finish two novels in time; if you need to, you can follow the “Read a Book in Ten Minutes” guidelines!

If you’re looking for ideas for your second title, we have put together lists of possible authors. (There’s some overlap in these two lists, and not all books by these authors fall into the same genre.)


Ted Bell
Tom Clancy
Karen Cleveland (Need to Know)
Stephen Coonts
Charles Cumming
David Downing
Clive Egleton
Vince Flynn
Alan Furst
Mark Greaney
W.E.B. Griffin
Jack Higgins
Stephen Hunter
John Lawton
John Le Carre
Gayle Lynds
Francine Mathews
Andy McNab
Oliver North
Christopher Reich
Stella Rimington
Leslie Silbert
Daniel Silva
Taylor Stevens
Maureen Tan


David Baldacci
Glenn Beck
Dale Brown
Marc Cameron
Tom Clancy
Ben Coes
Stephen Coonts
Barry Eisler
Vince Flynn
W.E.B. Griffin
K.J. Howe
Mike Maden
Jason Matthews
Brad Meltzer
Patrick Robinson
Joel Rosenberg
Robert J. Sawyer
Brad Thor

If you want to post information about your second title before the meeting, you can!