Saturday, December 24, 2022

Five titles with lessons to turn a post-apocalyptic novel into a thriller

Pedro Hoffmeister is the author of the critically acclaimed novels American Afterlife, Too Shattered For Mending, This Is The Part Where You Laugh, Graphic The Valley, and others.

At CrimeReads he tagged five novels he read and studied to learn how to write a post-apocalyptic thriller, including:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Since I’d already read the brilliant off-screen violence of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” I set out to study Cormac McCarthy, the literary grandchild of O’Connor. There’s the obvious thriller No Country For Old Men, and I’d read that before, but I really wanted to focus on McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Road since it’s probably the closest book to a post-apocalyptic thriller. Therefore, starting with the big picture, I got to see what the finished product might look like.

I read The Road twice, my first reading at a quick pace, and the second reading at a slower, note-taking pace. The first reading impacted me emotionally, taught me how a combo genre should feel, but the second reading taught me to pay attention to the smaller details. I asked questions like, “What moments of backstory add tension to this novel?” “How does McCarthy use travel to raise the stakes?” And “Why is the reader so terrified throughout the novel that the boy will be left all alone?” Also, “What separates the two main characters from everyone else in this destroyed landscape?”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Road appears on Malcolm Devlin’s list of eight zombie stories without any zombies, Michael Christie's list of ten novels to reconfigure our conception of nature for the better, Emily Temple's list of the ten books that defined the 2000s, Ceridwen Christensen's list of ten novels that end their apocalypses on a beach, Steph Post's top ten list of classic (and perhaps not so classic) road trip books, a list of five of the best climate change novels, Claire Fuller's top five list of extreme survival stories, Justin Cronin's top ten list of world-ending novels, Rose Tremain's six best books list, Ian McGuire's ten top list of adventure novels, Alastair Bruce's top ten list of books about forgetting, Jeff Somers's lists of five science fiction novels that really should be considered literary classics and eight good, bad, and weird dad/child pairs in science fiction and fantasy, Amelia Gray's ten best dark books list, Weston Williams's top fifteen list of books with memorable dads, ShortList's roundup of the twenty greatest dystopian novels, Mary Miller's top ten list of the best road books, Joel Cunningham's list of eleven "literary" novels that include elements of science fiction, fantasy or horror, Claire Cameron's list of five favorite stories about unlikely survivors, Isabel Allende's six favorite books list, the Telegraph's list of the 15 most depressing books, Joseph D’Lacey's top ten list of horror books, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five unforgettable fathers from fiction, Ken Jennings's list of eight top books about parents and kids, Anthony Horowitz's top ten list of apocalypse books, Karen Thompson Walker's list of five notable "What If?" books, John Mullan's list of ten of the top long walks in literature, Tony Bradman's top ten list of father and son stories, Ramin Karimloo's six favorite books list, Jon Krakauer's five best list of books about mortality and existential angst, William Skidelsky's list of the top ten most vivid accounts of being marooned in literature, Liz Jensen's top 10 list of environmental disaster stories, the Guardian's list of books to change the climate, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and the Times (of London) list of the 100 best books of the decade. In 2009 Sam Anderson of New York magazine claimed "that we'll still be talking about [The Road] in ten years."

--Marshal Zeringue