The Best Paranoid Thrillers

The Best Paranoid Thrillers of All Time


The following is a compilation of the best paranoid thrillers of all time.

In my opinion, what defines a paranoid thriller (as opposed to a thriller in general) is the manner in which tension and drama is built. Paranoid thrillers rely upon a foreboding sense of danger around the corner. This is usually developed through the interplay between the main character and the audience members themselves. Eventually, if executed as well as the films below are, the main character experiences a heightened sense of tension which bleeds into the audience in a truly real-life physiological manner. At the end of the day, tension (the ultimate goal of a paranoid thriller) is often more powerful than tension release (for example, a bomb going off—the ultimate goal of an action movie). This is also why many paranoid thrillers don’t conclude in a conventionally satisfying way. One of the points of a paranoid thriller is to maintain the audience’s sense of tension even as they exit the theatre or turn off the movie.

If you are a fan of just one of the paranoid thrillers on this list, you will definitely enjoy the rest of them!

 


 

Honorable Mention: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

 

 

Based on John Le Carre’s novel, this movie is about a mole hunt inside of England’s elite M16 intelligence agency. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a true slow burn. Sometimes it’s actually so slow that one forgets he or she ought to be feeling tense. But something about the nature of the dialogue and the byzantine plot will draw you in by the end. Tinker, Tailor is one of those rare movies that is truly better the second time around—and even more perfect on the third viewing. It takes multiple watches for the viewer to actually see the pieces of the puzzle in front of them as they are unfolding, instead of attempting to decode after the fact.



10. Sicario

 

 

Sicario makes you believe that you’re right there on the job with the United States’ top counter-narcotics operatives. But what you’ll eventually learn is that the world they occupy is not necessarily one you want to live in. That’s what makes the veiwer’s nerves tingle throughout every scene. That, and the fact that the movie begins with a one-two-three punch in the opening scene that will rip your face off. You’re going to be on edge, because anything can happen, and it will to FBI agent “Kate,” played by Emily Blunt. Finally, the third act focuses on Benicio Del Toro’s character (“Alejandro”) in a rip-roaringly tense sequence where he single-handedly accomplishes what the CIA and Feds have been unable to do for years.


9. Enemy of the State

 

 

One of the best paranoid thrillers of the 90’s, Enemy of the State helped define a new style of action filmmaking. Starring Will Smith, and despite intense Hollywood production and kinetic editing from the late & great Tony Scott, the movie worked well because it obeyed many of the same structural rules that had helped define the paranoid thriller genre from the past thirty years.

A great paranoid thriller always involves a great conspiracy and often, an everyman. The man doesn’t know that he is a problem, that he’s trespassed across an invisible line, and that deep and heavy powers are now aligned against him. But the irony is that those powers are ultimately more afraid of the man than he is of them. This forces the man into the position of being prey, until the final turn in which the man is actually the gum in the works that will take the entire conspiracy down. Enemy of the State fulfills all of these moments perfectly—one after the other.


 

8. Heat

 

 

The general setup of Michael Mann’s “Heat” is simple: A cop tries to stop a robber. The two men have been proverbial foes for a long time when the movie opens. The audience isn’t provided with a sense of arriving “at the beginning.” This is no origin story. In fact, we are really arriving at the end of both man’s careers. Their relationship becomes the engine for tension in the film.

When Al Pacino and DeNiro’s character’s meet in the famous diner scene, both admit that they would kill the other one if they had to. It’s fraught with tension. How can they just sit next to each other like that? Is something going to happen that we don’t realize? It’s a truly great scene, bringing together two characters (both of whom have been built independently throughout the first two-thirds of the film) and paying their emotional arcs off together.

Finally, no mention of a Michael Mann movie would be complete without mention of his set pieces. Mann is an absolute master of the gunfight. It’s not any one thing—it’s the whole. The nature of the editing (generally lots of handcam, tons of sound editing, and very minimal soundtrack) lends to some of the most tense heist sequences in cinema.


 

 

7. The Parallax View

 

 

Now we’re really getting into the meat of this list. The Parallax View (directed by paranoid thriller master Alan Pakula) is one of the stalwart torchbearers of the paranoid thriller genre. A journalist, played by Warren Beatty, gets a bead on a mysterious organization called The Parallax Corporation that trains assassins and is using them to murder political figures. There are a number of notable facts about The Parallax View.

The first is its use of the film frame, architecture and space to create tension. It is a beautiful movie with less dialogue or plotty moments than some. Instead, there is a rhythm to the shots that continually ups the tension and generates a sense of modern loneliness and dread inside both the main character and the audience. Secondly, The Parallax View ends with a futile message. Although I will not spoil it, ending in this way perpetuates the ultimate goal of film such as these: to leave you worried even as you turn off the television.


 

 

6. All the President’s Men

 

 

Understanding paranoid thrillers from the 1970’s requires a comprehension of the sociopolitical developments of the time. In the current day, in 2017, almost everyone is aware that countries have their own foreign and domestic intelligence services. Everyone knows that spies are operating with their gadgets, and their disguises, and their subterfuge. It is clear that the world is not exactly as it seems on the surface nor does reality actually look the way that a politician might try to spin it.

However, it was in the 1970’s that this realization dawned upon the population at large. This was also the result of technology, globalization and the media. The world had finally become small enough to start to see the forest through the trees. What happened in the 1970’s is that both A. conspiracies were happening, and more importantly, B. they were being uncovered.

All the President’s Men (also directed by Alan Pakula) is the true story of the Watergate robbery and the subsequent investigations into President Nixon as told from the perspective of the two journalists who ultimately broke the scandal wide open. It’s impressive as a paranoid thriller (two “everyman” journalists against a vast government conspiracy), but doubly impressive because it all really happened.


 

 

5. Marathon Man

 

 

Marathon Man is a subversive, incredibly twisty, international espionage film written by William Goldman (from his own novel) and directed by John Schlesinger.

The film sets up an anonymous U.S. intelligence service against a Nazi war criminal hell-bent on moving hot diamonds across the world. Into the middle of the quagmire is dropped an innocent-but-paranoid graduate student and compulsive runner played by Dustin Hoffman.

One of the aspects that makes Marathon Man a great paranoid thriller is the attitude and tone of Hoffman’s character, “Babe” Levy. In the beginning of the film, Babe is completely unaware of the grand machinations that are already happening around him and about to affect him directly. However, what’s fascinating is that even before Babe knows why he should be, he’s still paranoid. In that way, he represented the zeitgeist of the time (which is none too different from the zeitgeist of now, but perhaps with different evils).


 

4. The Conversation

 

 

Starring Gene Hackman and directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, The Conversation is an utterly classic paranoid thriller. Hackman plays a surveillance expert who is hired to conduct surveillance on a couple. He becomes more and more unsettled by what he is listening to—especially when it becomes clear that his own client may be planning on murdering said couple. Now he finds himself in an ethical quagmire. The reason he is in such high demand within his chosen profession is in no small part due to his high level of discretion. But what should he do when he is privy to a murder? And not only that, what should he do if he is, in fact, responsible for providing information that would lead to that murder taking place?

One of the lessons from The Conversation that still holds water today is, in fact, the difficulty of surveillance—as opposed to the prevailing belief that it must be easy for any and everyone to spy on us. It is still hard, and it is definitely still filled with much psychological complexity for the operators and agents involved. When one watches a movie such as The Conversation, one realizes how much of a cop-out it is for a modern movie to simply show a briefing with “surveillance footage” in the background—acquiring that footage could make up an entire film in and of itself.


 

3. The Battle of Algiers

 

 

If you didn’t guess that the third highest movie on this list would be a black and white, Italian-Algerian thriller from 1966—well—maybe you have more movie watching to do!

The Battle of Algiers is an excellent movie for many reasons. Focusing on the Algerian War of Independence and the Algerian insurgency’s use of terrorism against their French “oppressors,” the movie is both an interesting historical document and a chilling premonition of issues that present themselves in the world today. Battle of Algiers is also quite notable due to its cinema-verite shooting style. It is a relatively big budget movie (big action scenes, big crowd scenes, etc.) that is shot almost entirely on a shaky handcam. This would have been a revelation at the time, but it also serves to up the tension and paranoia significantly by making every scene seem all the more “real.” Finally, the editing style also provokes a deep sense of paranoia. The sound editing is heightened but the soundtrack remains muted or non-existent, creating an eerie and foreboding sense of danger throughout the entire film. This is one of those films that will leave you slightly shaken even as you turn of the TV—exactly why it’s so high on this list.


 

2. Wages of Fear / Sorcerer

 

 

 

Wages of Fear is also in black and white, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, and was released in 1953. It’s not a modern action thriller, and you may find yourself wondering what you’re watching in the first thirty minutes of the film as we layabout in a small village waiting for the action to arrive. But nonetheless, the movie is a pre-eminent action thriller. It is one of the movies that has informed every single action movie, thriller, and paranoid thriller that followed it. That’s because of the incredible interplay between the setup, the action, and most of all, the tension.

What Wages of Fear does so well is allow almost every single moment to be its own, tense, set piece. The setup is simple and it establishes the rules and the action. The rule is: The only way to solve an out-of-control oil well fire is to get some explosives over a mountain and blow up the well. So now we have two trucks, loaded with nitro, heading down rickety roads, around hairpin turns, and over rotting bridges. Due to the chemical nature of the explosives, any motion, any sudden shudder, any bump in the road is susceptible to disaster. This means that both small and large moments alike are filled with brimming suspense. The audience knows it. The characters know it. No one is ahead of the other. We are all in it together, waiting for it to happen, jumping at every surprise. The recipe for a perfect paranoid thriller: It’s not about what’s happening. It’s about what might happen.

Wages of Fear is well known in film circles but less so to the general public. Also of note is Sorcerer. Directed by William Friedkin, Sorcerer is based on Wages of Fear and updates it into a slightly more modern form.


 

 

1. Three Days of the Condor

 

 

 

Three Days of the Condor is my favorite paranoid thriller of all time. Starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. and David Rayfiel, and directed by Sydney Pollack, the movie was released in 1975.

The movie starts with a very clean setup. Redford is “Joe Turner,” a bookish CIA researcher (codename: Condor) who comes back from lunch (in a wonderful New York deli scene) to discover all of his CIA colleagues at his station have been murdered. He’s the only one alive, having survived by fluke chance. And now he has to figure out why they were all killed and what’s going on, without being taken out himself.

Condor has the distinction of providing paranoia without confusion. The main “paranoia” of the film is very humanistic and character-based; Every person and every situation is a possible trap. He’s one man against a giant machine dedicated to erasing him from the collective memory.


 

*FYI*

I have also written some even deeper dives into a few of the 70’s paranoid thrillers referenced in this list. For the longer articles, please click below:

 

Wages of Fear – Thriller Thursdays

The Conversation – Thriller Thursdays

Marathon Man – Thriller Thursdays

Heat – Thriller Thursdays

Sicario – Thriller Thursdays

Three Days of the Condor – Thriller Thursdays

Enemy of the State – Thriller Thursdays

 

The Best Financial Thrillers

Best Financial Thrillers (Fiction and Non-Fiction)

Financial thriller novels occupy a small sliver of the thriller novel genre. For those inclined to the cerebral thrill of money earned, lost or stolen (whether physically, digitally… or both), there are simply not enough financial thrillers to go around. As a raving fan of the genre myself, I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of some of the best financial thriller novels out there. While the following books’ position on the list below represent my personal opinion, you can rest assured that reading every single one of these novels would make for a year—or few weeks—of excellent entertainment.

Fiction:

The Bonfire Of The Vanities by Tom Wolfe

The original Wall Street novel that introduced the world at large to the “Masters of the Universe” ethos, no list of financial thrillers would be complete without Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. Sherman McCoy is a multi-millionaire bond trader in New York who hits an innocent person with his car—fatally—and then tries to cover it all up. Beyond the trials and tribulations of McCoy’s downfall, the book perfectly encapsulates many dynamics of the 1980’s, from the rowdy Wall Street trading floors to the decadent parties to the class-based and racial divides of the time.

Tom Wolfe - The Bonfire Of The Vanities - Best Financial Thriller Novels


Reminiscences of a Stock Operator
by Edwin Lefevre

Can you believe that this book was written in 1923? Although almost a century old, Reminiscences of a Stock Operator is a must-read financial thriller for any true finance buff. Although technically a piece of fiction, the book is also a biographical story about the early life of infamous trader Jesse Livermore. Although the technical techniques of trading described in the novel have changed completely, what this book excels at is establishing and analyzing the psychological hurdles that one must battle against while trading stocks. Replace a stock trading arcade with an online brokerage and there is very little difference between 1923 and now.

Best Financial Thrillers List


Flash Crash
by Denison Hatch

What would happen if a hacker wrote an algorithm that could crash the stock market? Written by yours truly, Flash Crash delves deeply into modern reality of trading—with super computers and programmers fighting each other for supremacy at lightning-fast speed. Flash Crash also bridges the world between the digital and physical, as the intentional stock market heist quickly turns into a real world gold theft. The NYPD is struggling to figure out exactly what has happened and who’s ultimately responsible while the bad guys fight amongst each other for a piece of the spoils. I happily place this novel on the list because BestThrillers.com called it “One of the year’s best thrillers!” Hey, I’ll take it!

A financial thriller, heist mystery and police procedural by Denison Hatch. One of the best thrillers of the year!


Replay
by Ken Grimwood

If you could repeat your life, what would you do the second time? Easy: Make money. While not strictly a financial thriller, Replay by Ken Grimwood contains a long and fascinating story thread that relates to betting and investing—while knowing the outcome ahead of time. The overall concept of this phenomenal book is about a man who randomly wakes up back in time, in college, before he’s even met his wife. He gets to make every decision that he made in his previous life over again, with the added benefit of knowing everything that will happen in the future (up until the date that he “replayed.”)

a-replay 


The Penny Thief
by Christophe Paul

The Penny Thief is a very interesting and compelling financial thriller that plays into the systemic nature of the modern banking world—and reflects the type of sophisticated financial frauds that are most likely occurring as we speak. One banker discovers that another trader has been stealing small portions of accounts, one cent at a time, for twenty years. Since the money is untraceable, the two men find themselves (and one of their wives) locked into a battle for a secret fortune. I must mention that the novel also has a fantastic cover image.

 a-pennytheif


Data Jack
by Christopher Greyson

Data Jack is one of the first modern techno thriller/ financial thriller novels that I read on the Kindle and I highly recommend it for pure, raw entertainment value. Detective Jack Stratton discovers that data is more valuable than gold when he goes up against a ruthless CEO whose program is designed to steal millions of dollars from the world financial markets.

a-datajack 


The Millionaires
by Brad Meltzer

A massive financial crime is the setup for this excellent thriller by Brad Meltzer. What would you do if there was three million dollars sitting in a bank account—and you knew that no one would claim it? This is the question that opens up The Millionaires. But as with all easy money, this money does not come without strings attached…

a-millionaries

Non-Fiction:

Although I intended to focus primarily on fiction for this list, a few more finance novels stood out to me while I was perusing through my bookshelf. For real:

IMG_1242

The Big Short, Liar’s Poker, House of Cards and Reminiscences (amongst others)…

Anyway, I feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention them:


Liar’s Poker
and The Big Short by Michael Lewis

These two books by esteemed author Michael Lewis (Moneyball) truly act as financial industry bookends. Liar’s Poker represents the hope and fun of the beginning of the Wall Street dream. I doubt that there are many traders on Wall Street who have never read Liar’s Poker. And I know for a fact that many who did read Liar’s Poker were thus inspired to attempt their hand at a trading career. It is a tale of hubris and risk-taking as a new form of financial engineering, securitization, rolled through the industry like a tidal wave. Lewis does a great job of making what could be considered a boring subject nothing of the sort. On the flipside, The Big Short represents the end of the fever. While the financial industry will continue to exist, The Big Short focuses on the 2007-2008 crash—maintaining interest by focusing on the few maverick investors who made money betting against the market. And yes, most of you are probably aware that this novel was turned into a successful movie.

a-liarspoker-best-financial-thrillers 


House of Cards
by William Cohan

House of Cards also focuses on the 2007-2008 crash—but in a more sober manner, with a wider historical scope. I highly recommend this book, not only for the small little anecdotes peppered throughout, but also for its full explanation of exactly what caused the Great Recession that followed.

 a-houseofcards-best-financial-thrillers


The Buy Side
by Turney Duff

Decidedly not tame, Turney Duff’s non-fiction novel about his real life as a sales guy in Manhattan is closer to American Psycho than Liar’s Poker. What separates The Buy Side from others is not anything of particular career-building value, but instead pure debauchery and shock value. It is The Wolf of Wall Street, but set in the early two-thousands instead of the nineties. The book is an exciting ride in the beginning, but watching what happens as Duff goes over the deep end and has to reinvent himself is equally entertaining (and ultimately enlightening).

a-buyside-financial-thriller

Flash Crash is FREE this weekend (for Kindle), and more RIVETT Updates!

Dear Rivetters:

Taking a quick break from the third novel to say hello!

1) First of all, a special note about Flash Crash. The kindle version of Flash Crash is COMPLETELY FREE this whole weekend (starting right now)!

Free on Kindle for the weekend, starting now!

Free on Kindle for the weekend, starting now!

You can go to Amazon to pick it up for ZERO BUCKS and go down the (very) unique path of a certain man named Jake Rivett (He’s an NYPD detective who’s about as different from any NYPD detective you’ve ever met before).

2) Second, a progress update on book three and some writing musings:

The title of my third Jake Rivett novel is HIS NAME IS RIVETT. As you may have witnessed in the first two books, there’s an evolution occurring with both the character and the series. In Flash Crash, Jake shares the glory with programmer David Belov. By Never Go Alone, Jake is the full-on lead character and we delve much more into his worldview and personal goals—while he solves a series of insane skyscraper heists in Manhattan.

But the stakes in His Name Is Rivett are raised even higher. Amongst other things, His Name Is Rivett is a full-on hunt for an active terror cell on U.S. soil. But when I say “amongst other things,” there’s tons of other elements to this story—Rock shows in the dark catacomb basements of New York, debunked experimental technology that may actually be operable, international intelligence agencies floating around every turn, family dramas… the list goes on.

Although I’m super excited for you to read the third book, I’m not ready to provide a release date yet. I refuse to shotgun novels out into the world (as the expression goes, to “throw something against a wall and see what sticks”)—no matter how financially rewarding it might be. I’ve noticed that many authors in the Kindle and online ecosystem pump out two, three, four or more books a year. They’re usually basic whodunits, a draft and a polish, forty thousand words, done and done. While I understand the model, these aren’t the types of books I’m interested in reading… or writing. As usual, His Name Is Rivett is going to be big, long, deep, fully stand alone, and (always) extremely entertaining. It is a grand adventure filled with awesome action, neck-breaking twists, and complex stories. Clancy, Crichton, and Connelly… these are the types of books I’m aspiring to write. (A shame my last name doesn’t start with a C! “Catch”?) Can’t wait for you to read His Name Is Rivett—but only when it’s ready, or as Rivett might say, fully ace!

3) Third, some fun stuff I found. It’s always been important to me that the novels expose interesting technologies, subcultures, and modern-but-obscure realities of the world. Here’s some cool real-life technologies and locations which relate directly to the first two books.

Ever Heard of a Stingray Machine?

Until recently, no one knew what a Stingray was. It’s one of the most top-secret intelligence technologies that the Feds (and large local police departments) use to conduct cell phone surveillance. Slowly, like a trickle, more and more information about Stingray devices has filtered out into the public. But it’s still all very hush-hush and almost impossible to get official information about this device. Stingray devices (also called “ISMI-catchers”) spoof cell phone towers so that suspects or individuals under surveillance believe they are connected to their regular cell phone company—but in actuality, all of their phone’s information (location, calls, texts, data, etc.) is first being filtered to law enforcement. Of course, Jake Rivett and his colleagues use a Stingray machine in Flash Crash for one very important turn…

A real-life Stingray.

A real-life Stingray.

Here’s a great article (“The Dragnet”) about one case in which the public first began to learn specific details about the Stingray machine.

A Secret Subway Station

In Never Go Alone, Jake quickly finds himself banding up with a team of urban explorers (who may or may not be thieves). Deep underneath the city, they discover an old, abandoned subway station underneath the Waldorf-Astoria. Astonishingly, this is a completely real location. Although long decommissioned (interestingly because curved station walls wouldn’t allow newer, longer subway cars to make the turns), it was used for visits from President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other VIPs from the late 1920’s until at least 1944. Truly incredible.

Underneath the Waldorf...

Underneath the Waldorf…

You can check out more information and pictures of the station here.

The Tunnel Plug

The final bank heist in Flash Crash relies on an ingenious device called a tunnel plug. I won’t go into many more details (to keep the surprise alive), but suffice to say this thing is completely real and has had working tests!

An actual prototype being tested… Is that Vlad’s warehouse?

Check out the REAL tunnel plug here (but maybe read Flash Crash first?!):

I hope to check in again soon about His Name Is Rivett. And don’t forget, the Kindle version of Flash Crash is FREE this weekend on Amazon! Thanks for being a reader and a very special thanks to anyone who has posted a review of The Jake Rivett Series!

Until next time,

Denison

NEVER GO ALONE – Release Day!

One of the best new thrillers of the year, Never Go Alone by Denison Hatch.

Never Go Alone by Denison Hatch.

NEVER GO ALONE is OUT NOW!

 

Buy it right now on Amazon for paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited!

 

… and the RAVES are COMING IN:

 

From Best Thrillers:

“The return of Denison Hatch’s unruly, undercover NYPD detective Jake Rivett is something to celebrate.”
Never Go Alone is an explosive return for both Denison Hatch and his hero. In a landscape flooded with new technology and culture – where robbers take selfies of themselves hanging from the buildings they’re about to rob, or watch “back yard brawl videos on the way to a heist – Hatch has crafted the perfect anti-hero with which to take on this new class of criminal.”
“Hatch deftly delivers a lot of energy through his wordcraft that propels the story forward, but doesn’t distract. Taken together with well-crafted action, and the joyous intensity of toeing the line between cop and criminal, Never Go Alone is a must read for fans of techno thrillers and fast-paced police procedurals.”

From Book Postmortem:

“Denison Hatch has done it again. The second in the Jake Rivett Series is as riveting as the first. As breathtaking, as heart-hammering and as page-turning!”

From Kirkus Reviews:

“This time, Ducati-loving Jake, a headbanger musician in his spare time, goes deep undercover to infiltrate a group that is specifically targeting penthouse apartments in skyscrapers belonging to a Donald Trump-ish real estate mogul, Arthur Metropolis.”
“Written in a particularly visceral fashion, readers get to experience firsthand the pure adrenaline rush of this new breed of urban explorer and location hacker.
“The author writes with flair about cutting-edge technology and turns out to be a knowledgeable guide when it comes to the shadow Manhattan that few are privileged to know about” … “[He] shows an imaginative knack for combining old-fashioned thrills with high-tech capers.”
“The most exhilarating action set pieces this side of either version of the movie Point Break.”

 I HOPE YOU ENJOY NEVER GO ALONE!

UNTIL THE NEXT INSANE ADVENTURE,

-RIVETT OUT

THE CONVERSATION – Thriller Thursday

The Conversation, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is a disturbing and detail-specific paranoid thriller. It is not an epic adventure like Apocalypse Now, nor a wide-ranging family drama like The Godfather. Instead, it comes across as a small and personal movie. It was financed by Paramount and released in 1974. But if The Conversation were produced in the current day and age, it would not be a studio movie at all—it would definitely be an indie. It might even be called a contained thriller, given how few set pieces and little action is involved.

One of the best paranoid thrillers of all time: THE CONVERSATION

Gene Hackman in “The Conversation”

The movie stars Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, a surveillance expert for hire. Interestingly, Hackman essentially reprised the general character of Caul years later in Enemy of the State (a thriller which I’ve already written an article about). His character is portrayed with an excellent sense of verisimilitude. He is a man who has become extremely paranoid and hyper-technical and detail oriented due to his line of work (or perhaps was already paranoid and hyper-technical and found his line of work on account of his personality). Either way, this is portrayed specifically through the film—from the sophisticated electronic equipment he uses, the safeguards he utilizes to keep his life private and his apartment safe, and the exacting detail in which he extracts audio information from surveillance sources.

In the end, what helps separate the movie from the general “conspiratorial” froth is that one of the fundamental conflicts is between Harry and himself. Harry, the “surveillance expert,” functions with one moral code. But he is also a human who likes to play the saxophone, feels bad about holding back from his girlfriend, and is worried about his work causing the death of one or more of his targets.

He's just a man who plays the sax.

He’s just a man who plays the sax.

The movie holds up very well today, but also must be understood in context to its time. It was released right around the Watergate episode, and this was also a period in American history where the ability of technology to enable everyone from consultant-based “dirty tricks” squads to nation-state spies was exploding into the public view. Part of this discourse was the gap between what the public didn’t know, what they thought was possible, and what was actually possible. One of the reasons that I admire The Conversation is that it was, apparently, extremely well-researched by Coppola. Thus, the technology used is not all-seeing and all-hearing—at odds, perhaps, with the perception of the day.

Not a gun. But still a weapon?

Not a gun. But still a weapon?

It was not possible to just turn on a piece of equipment and hear a perfect conversation stream into a tape from a target across a street. That’s why the opening scene of the movie, as well as the resulting piecing together of audio that Harry must do later, is so incredible. It embraces reality at the expense of speedy exposition. And even more than that; it provides drama. That’s one of the most impressive aspects of this movie. Who would have thought that it would be dramatic watching Gene Hackman piece together audio by slowly but surely stripping away tiny wavelengths of sound? This scene contains zero physical action beyond the turning of dials and yet it is entirely and deeply thrilling.

One of the lessons from The Conversation that still holds water today is, in fact, the difficulty of surveillance—as opposed to the prevailing belief that it must be easy for any and everyone to spy on us. It is still hard, and it is definitely still filled with much psychological complexity for the operators and agents involved. When one watches a movie such as The Conversation, one realizes how much of a cop-out it is for a modern movie to simply show a briefing with “surveillance footage” in the background—acquiring that footage could make up an entire film in and of itself!

That brings me to the real meat of the movie. First, the plot is appropriately twisty and well-constructed. A paranoid thriller always relies on a hook to pull the viewer in (in this case, it is the line, “He’d kill us if the got the chance.”), and at least one or two substantial twists to throw everyone askew in the second and third acts. I won’t describe the actual plotting in order to keep it a surprise, but suffice to say that this movie provides plenty of required turns.

But as usual, an excellent thriller will transcend its plot when it comes to why it must be watched. As was touched upon earlier, the real reason that The Conversation works so well is Hackman’s character of Harry. And although his characterization is good, what is the best is the emotional upheaval that eventually affects him. Ultimately this is a man who is undone by his own profession—his own code of existence. There is an inevitability about this result throughout the film, a sense that the cracks are forming. And at the end, when he realizes that he’s been had and also may be under surveillance himself, he cracks completely.

One of the final scenes of the movie can be played here without giving much away. But just imagine how a completely buttoned-up and under control man in the beginning of this film becomes this wreck by the end. That journey is why The Conversation easily enters the halls of the best paranoid thrillers ever made.

NEVER GO ALONE – Kindle Pre-Order is Open!

Dear RIVETTERS:

NEVER GO ALONE is officially available for Kindle pre-order!

You can go directly to the Amazon page to buy it right now and have it automatically delivered to your Kindle or eBook reader on December 1sthttp://amzn.to/2erLP3s

THE JAKE RIVETT SERIES

Never Go Alone by Denison Hatch

I think this book is going to eclipse Flash Crash. In terms of sales, potentially, but more importantly when it comes to reader appreciation. You will love it. I personally feel that the new thriller is more exciting, well-rounded, and entertaining than the former, but also (critically) filled with tons more character development when it comes to our main man, Jake Rivett. Never Go Alone is a thriller, yes. But it’s also something else: It’s a love story. It’s a love story that revolves around Jake and a new female character, but also around the nature of the city environment itself. Obviously, you’ll have to read it for yourself to understand exactly what I mean.

Both the Kindle and the physical book will be released on December 1st. As of now, only Kindle books are available for pre-order. The Kindle book will likely be around 400 Kindle pages, and the paperback novel will come in just a hair above 300 pages. As usual, I only publish real books. None of these six-part, 50-pages-each, money-grinders. That’s not what a Rivett thriller is and never will be. And also as usual, Never Go Alone is completely readable as a standalone novel in and of itself.

And finally, a description of Never Go Alone:

A rash of elaborate cat burglaries of luxury buildings in Manhattan has the city panicked.

When a group of social media obsessed millennials–a loosely organized crew that call themselves “urban explorers”–are suspected in the heists, NYPD detective Jake Rivett is assigned the case. Rivett dives deep into the urban exploration scene in pursuit of the truth.

But what, and who, he finds–deep in the sewers, up in the cranes above under-construction skyscrapers, and everywhere else in New York–will change not only Jake, but the city itself.

THE FIRST RULE OF URBAN EXPLORATION IS: NEVER GO ALONE.

I CANNOT WAIT to hear what you think of the next RIVETT novel!

Sincerely,

Denison

On December 1st, RIVETT is back in NEVER GO ALONE!

Dear Friends, Readers, and Rivett-ers,

The next Jake Rivett thriller is ready, the cover is done, and the release date is set!

But first, I’d like to talk about Flash Crash for a brief moment. I’ve officially sold over a thousand copies of Flash Crash. It’s an awesome thing to have my novel out there in the world, enjoyed by both people that I know and more importantly, those I don’t. And the first group who deserve serious thanks are you–my most loyal and interested fans.

Reviews are perhaps the most important marketing element of any book. And I am grateful that excellent reviews keep rollin’ on in. Just a few small blurbs from recent reviews:

“A high octane ride… fueled by the mind instead of brawn and violence.”
“With more switchbacks than Route 66, Flash Crash kicks in where other thrillers are rolling the closing credits. Hi-tech Manhattan meets low rent Jersey in this blockbuster first novel.”
“The detective, Rivett, is like a train wreck of bad behavior and good morals mixed together. He’s irresistible to follow…”

On that note, if you have yet to review the book, it would be HUGELY appreciated! You can click here to do that (scroll down and click on “Write a customer review.”) And if you have already reviewed the book, I would appreciate if you would LIKE or SHARE my Facebook Author Page, RETWEET my Twitter, or send anyone who loves insane thrillers to DenisonHatch.com.

Every new fan and every new sale really helps out yours truly and both supports and inspires me to keep on writing Rivett thrillers!

Whew. Now that the appetizer is over, the entree awaits:

NEVER GO ALONE is done. It’s been re-written countless times. It’s been edited. It is being formatted into both Kindle and paperback versions as we speak. And I am ultra excited for you to get your hands on it… Very soon!

Here is a summary:

NEVER GO ALONE

A rash of elaborate cat burglaries of luxury buildings in Manhattan has the police and mayor panicked. When a group of social media obsessed millennials—a loosely organized crew that call themselves “urban explorers”—are suspected in the heists, NYPD detective Jake Rivett is assigned the case.

Already undercover with one foot on each side of the blue line, Rivett is ordered to infiltrate the group and discern responsibility. Battling against both his own personal demons and misgivings regarding his superiors, Rivett dives deep into the urban exploration scene in pursuit of the truth. But what, and who, he finds—deep in the sewers, up in the cranes above under-construction skyscrapers, and everywhere else in New York—will change not only Jake, but the city itself.

Never Go Alone: A Jake Rivett thriller by Denison Hatch, Author of Flash Crash

COMING SOON: Never Go Alone: A Jake Rivett thriller by Denison Hatch

Never Go Alone continues to follow your favorite Ducati-driving, Screamo-band-moonlighting NYPD detective, Jake Rivett. It picks up about a year after Flash Crash. And just like Flash Crash, Never Go Alone is certainly a thriller of the highest order. But it’s not a technothriller in the manner that Flash Crash was. Never Go Alone has a little less tech, and whole helluva’ lot more mystery.

It’s filled with neck-breaking twists, some badass new characters and Jake Rivett’s unforgettable, twisted-but-moralistic view of the world. Of course, there are some absolutely breathtaking and ingenious heists within the novel. But it is also a rumination on the state of society; the Have’s and Have-not’s of the modern world. As usual, it won’t be clear exactly who you should be rooting for. Everyone’s a sinner and everyone’s an angel–at the same time–in this novel.

And when the promo above says, “the city itself” will be changed? That’s not hyperbole. You’ll have to finish the book to understand, but Rivett has gotten himself into a case which goes both deep underground and far, far, up the food chain of money and power in New York.

A final note about the Jake Rivett series: Each book is designed to be a consuming, heart-pounding, standalone thriller. You can read any book, at any time, and feel very satisfied. That said, reading the books in their actual intended order (which as of now is: Flash Crash, Never Go Alone) will make the experience even better!

The release date for Never Go Alone is December 1st. It will be available as a 300-page paperback novel and also as a Kindle ebook at that time. And I will send out another update soon when pre-orders are open!

Thanks so much, and I can’t wait until you all can get your hands on Never Go Alone!

Take care, Denison

Five Books That Should Be Movies

It is undeniable that books, film and television are interrelated. They both engage in the age-old art of storytelling, but through different mediums. And even though Hollywood is filled with professional creative executives whose job it is to troll through “every story ever written” for future projects, there are still reams of books that have not been made into movies—but should!

Here are five books in particular that would make excellent screen adaptations (STEAL THIS LIST AT WILL, PEOPLE! Just make ’em!):

  1. THE FOREVER WAR by Joseph Haldeman


The Forever War is one of the ultimate science fiction novels, although perhaps less well-known than others in the genre. The book’s setup involves a group of spacefaring Marines who are sent to another planet to destroy what the government believes is a war-mongering alien race. When they arrive, the aliens are actually peaceful bunny rabbits with no ill intent at all. A massacre ensues. On their trip back to Earth, the Marines are eventually attacked by the same alien race. But this time the aliens are massively technologically evolved and aggressive—having been forced to develop differently after being exposed to warfare and following the massacre.

It’s an epic tale and a metaphor for Vietnam but also war in general—if you bring war to a region, that region may begin to know and be transformed by that war more than you could ever imagine. Due to its applicability to current events, combined with a generally fun and action-packed plot, this is a clear movie-in-the-making!

(*Hollywood Status: I am not the first person to think of this. This book has been “in development” for over thirty years, with multiple handfuls of scripts written. The last update from last year (2015) has it at Warner Brother’s with Channing Tatum attached… but who knows if it will happen anytime soon!)

  1. DAEMON by Daniel Suarez


A modern technothriller, Daniel Suarez’s best selling novel Daemon is about a series of murders which are seemingly perpetrated by a computer system. One interesting fact about this novel is that it was originally self-published and later picked up by a large publishing house.

The book is particularly suited to a film adaptation for a few reasons. First of all, it blends the digital and physical realms together quite admirably. The plot does not revolve around people looking at computer screens, and even the “murders” themselves are quite spectacular real life set pieces. Second, it addresses the modern zeitgeist in an important way. Computers are becoming more and more critical to us—some would say they are already completely indispensible—and have the ability to very greatly effect our everyday quality of life. We will definitely soon see murders caused by computer algorithms. Daemon was just one of the first to get there.

  1. SECRETS OF THE FBI by Ronald Kessler


Kessler has written over 20 non-fiction books about many parts of the U.S.’s security apparatus. But his recent book about the FBI, Secrets of the FBI, was very illuminating due to his description of the Tailored Access Operations group. It’s fascinating reading. The members of this group are basically professional burglars who will go way above and beyond expectation to get into places where they want to be. This extends to painting walls after they’ve breached them, moving huge buses to block their activities from a busy bar across the street, etc.

Anyway, this book is ripe for one thing. Not a movie, but a procedural TV show! The main character works as a tailor, but secretly his shop is the front for a small group within the FBI (also doing work with the CIA or NSA whenever necessary, all considered “clients” of the Tailor) who specialize in burglarizing places and placing bugs or retrieving information for the sake of national security. I’d tune into that tomorrow!

  1. SNOW CRASH by Neal Stephenson


Snow Crash is the second “ultimate sci-fi” novel on this list. Neal Stephenson’s book from the early 90’s introduced the concept of cyberpunk to the mass reading audience.

While the plot is slightly hard to explain, it basically revolves around a future world where humans have computer-like inputs. A “virus” called “Snow Crash” is going around that essentially renders human’s language unintelligible and reduces their ability to communicate to an ancient babbling language. The main character also has an awesome meta-name: Hiro Protagonist. Snow Crash has a cool high-concept plot, but it also has incredible world building that meshes the realm of computers with the real world—and depicts a well thought-out future.

It would make an awesome film in the hands of a creative director. As an added note, a few of Stephenson’s other novels would make great films too: Cryptonomicon, Reamde, and Seveneves.

(*Hollywood Status: This book seems to be set up at Paramount. But like Forever War, it’s been around the block a hundred times.)

  1. KANE AND ABEL by Jeffrey Archer


One of my all-time favorite novels, Kane and Abel is an epic tale of family, war, betrayal and empire-building. It takes place over multiple generations and involves a longstanding feud between ambitious men.

This book should be on everyone’s “must read” list if it is not already. While perhaps more suited for a television series, I think the most compelling version of this would just be one long movie, ala, an urban version of Legends of the Fall, with two big-name actors in each role.

AND LAST, BUT NOT LEAST, ONE EXTRA BOOK (#6):

FLASH CRASH by Denison Hatch


Why not wrap up with my own novel? If you like insane heists, are infatuated by the fact that algorithms are running our stock markets, or just enjoy sitting back for an awesome thriller complete with Russian mobsters, renegade cops, and a perhaps-innocent man in the middle… FLASH CRASH may be the book for you.

A brief summary: When a rogue quantitative programmer intentionally crashes the gold index, it seems that Wall Street’s worst nightmare has come true. In truth, the crisis has just begun. Across town, an armored truck filled with $120M of gold bullion is hijacked by an ingeniously crafted electromagnetic crane and seemingly driven into thin air. Programmer David Belov discovers that his virtual “Flash Crash” was simply a required stepping stone towards the largest physical gold robbery in history, and that’s he’s been framed for the resulting chaos, the lives of his beloved wife and son on the balance… With brooding, hardboiled detective Jake Rivett and the NYPD’s finest operators from the Major Crimes Division actively seeking to locate and arrest David, and other, darker elements nipping at his heels, David is forced to confront his own past in order to have a future.

HEAT – Thriller Thursdays

There is no more-mentioned heist thriller in any creative meeting I’ve attended than Heat. Directed by Michael Mann (some would argue in his prime) and starring Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, the film centers around a squad of thieves, run by DeNiro’s character “McCauley” and pursued by the Pacino’s detective, “Vincent Hanna.”

HEAT. Pacino. DeNiro. Kilmer.

Unlike many thrillers (such as the previously written about Wages of Fear or Enemy of the State), the setup and overall “plot” of Heat is not as impressive as the sum of its parts. This is refreshing. The general setup of the film is simple: A cop tries to stop a robber. The two men have been proverbial foes for a long time when the movie opens. The audience isn’t provided with a sense of arriving “at the beginning.” This is no origin story. In fact, we are really arriving at the end of both man’s careers.

Formally, we are ignited into the picture with a botched robbery—with three dead guards—that re-ignites Vincent’s passions to nail McCauley. But what sets Heat apart is the nature of the characters themselves. As I briefly mentioned above, both men are in the later years of their career. This instantly sets up an interesting dynamic—the two men are perhaps more similar to one another than not. They both are dealing with issues of wives, ex-wives, girlfriends and kids. The first brilliance of the film is the clear manner in which our leads are depicted as grizzled ying’s to each other’s yang’s. But the second brilliance is the way that they are permitted to intersect towards the end of the movie. They meet in a diner and have a heart to heart conversation that would essentially position them as good friends—if it were not for the crimes in between them.

The ying to each other’s yang.

While not forgetting what’s really going on, with both admitting they would kill the other one if they had to, the fact that this scene was so flawlessly inserted into the script is one reason it must be mentioned so often in filmmaking circles. It’s also fraught with tension. How can they just sit next to each other like that? Is something going to happen that we don’t realize? It’s a truly great scene, bringing together two characters (both of whom have been built independently throughout the first two-thirds of the film) and paying their emotional arcs off together.

The scene is watchable here:

But there’s more…

Having written a handful of Thriller Thursday reviews over the last six months, I’ve come to realize that verisimilitude is one of the most important elements of a good thriller. It’s not enough for a main character to be in danger. The character must be in real danger. There is a large distinction. In some ways the difference would be exemplified by comparing a James Bond film to Bourne. Reality is crucial. One example of reality is the opening heist sequence. In it, a new member of McCauley’s crew gets carried away and kills a guard. Some movies might have left it like that and allowed the obvious retribution against the new member of the crew to occur. But what happens in Heat is much closer to reality. McCauley realizes in this moment that his hand has been forced. He has to kill the other two guards now. He doesn’t want to do it, but he’s a consummate professional—albeit in a highly illegal and dangerous field. And so the murders commence. This is a deeply tragic scene, but also one filled with reality.

The relationship between Jon Voight’s character of Nate and McCauley is also quite instructive. Nate is a fence, and also a trader of technology and information for nefarious means. The way that he conducts himself—and the way he looks in general—fits perfectly into the world of Heat. He is not a “fence” in the manner that other movies might portray him—like someone who works at a pawn shop and has a bad drug habit. Nate looks like someone who could easily be an insurance adjuster or small-town lawyer, with his manicured mustache and middle-class slouch and dress. That, again, is part of the magic. The whole combination makes the audience believe they are watching something real, something that exists in real life (but without this movie, they would not otherwise be able to see).

Michael Mann: Master of the Gunfight

Finally, no mention of a Michael Mann movie would be complete without mention of his set pieces. Mann is an absolute master of the gunfight. For example, take a movie like Miami Vice. While that movie was nothing like Heat in terms of it’s permanence within the thriller canon, it (along with Public Enemies, and others) excelled when it came to the sheer reality of the gunfights and action scenes. All of this began with Heat, to some respect. The set pieces and bank/armored car robberies are patently insane. I don’t need to describe them line-by-line. Just check out this video to watch one in action and understand what I’m talking about:

 

Check out some of my past Thriller Thursday posts here:

ENEMY OF THE STATE

WAGES OF FEAR

THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR

SICARIO

MARATHON MAN

Or go grab HEAT on Amazon:


Weekend Read – 6/3/16 (Frat-Bro Smugglers, Money Laundering, A Voyeur, Nazi Secrets and Russian Spies!)

It’s been two months+ since my last weekend read update. Long articles are my absolute favorite. Here are some of the recent ones I enjoyed/found interesting:

THE COYOTE BROS: HOW HARD PARTYING GUYS IN TEXAS BECAME IMMIGRANT SMUGGLERS – Just when you thought that human smugglers were shady coyotes packing immigrants into box trucks, think again – goo.gl/C6J2QL

THE MOSSAK FONSECA SCANDAL: DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS – A good primer on the law firm based out of Panama, and the source of the “Panama Papers,” which exposed massive money “hiding” by rich individuals across the globe. Still a developing story. – goo.gl/RyoeCW

THE VOYEUR’S MOTEL – Man, this one was good (and crazy). This is about a hotelier who designed his hotel specifically to spy on his guests. He never intruded. He didn’t film them. He just watched. And it’s being turned into a movie with Spielberg producing! – http://goo.gl/mJiI8D

THE NAZI UNDERGROUND – It’s not did he, but why did Hitler build a massive underground city (larger than the entire square footage of the White House) underneath a fortress in southwestern Poland? Was it to build nuclear weapons? To store bombers? To hide out? To hide gold? All of the above? Or was it the alien spacecraft… – http://goo.gl/NtXn0U

THE DAY WE DISCOVERED OUR PARENTS WERE RUSSIAN SPIES – Taken straight out of The Americans (actually it’s the other way around), these two brothers had no idea their parents were Russian spies. Until the FBI arrived and arrested them. What do you do when you think you’re an American, but suddenly find out you are actually America’s enemy? – http://goo.gl/93GLCk

“The Best of the Best,” my favorite, curated Weekend Read articles below:

*SUPERMODEL SNOWPOCALYPSE – The Drug-Fueled, Multi-Million Dollar Supermodel Snowpocalypse. A fun Elle article that could/will-be-a-movie-in-itself – goo.gl/Iga0Jd

*THE GREAT DENVER AIRPORT MYSTERY – Did members of the “New World Order” build Denver’s airport and fill it with post-apocalyptic symbols and images? goo.gl/DxBeoH

*BAD GRANDPA HIKES KIDS ALMOST TO DEATH AT GRAND CANYON. I have rafted the Grand Canyon in the middle of the summer. It is absolutely, definitely not a place you want to try to conquer without the right supplies. But what I like about this Indianapolis Monthly article is not just the jovial tone, but the lack of black-and-white. Both points of view are represented very well… goo.gl/Q0mwyR

*Boom! Inside a British Bank-Bombing Spree by Nick Summers – goo.gl/XVRsPN
No American ATM has ever been robbed with explosive gas. The same WAS true in Britian – Until 2013. Now there have been more than 90.

*The Deputy Who Disappeared by Claire Martin for LA Magazine – goo.gl/PmBhvu
This is a truly fascinating story about an LA County Sheriff’s Deputy who disappeared off the face of the earth while long-distance running in the Antelope Valley. What starts out as a possible lost-and-perished-in-the-woods tale starts to become something much different as the article proceeds.

*None Dare Call It a Conspiracy by Scott Anderson for GQ – goo.gl/BJ60fG
False flag terrorism, in which one entity conducts a terrorist attack but makes it seem like another is responsible, in order to provoke a counterattack, is age-old. But is still still practiced today? This article is very controversial, as it’s about Russia, and Putin, and the apartment bombings that marked the beginning of Putin’s reign… And you won’t be able to stop reading.

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