The Thrill Of It All

“Why do you write thrillers?”

I get that question at almost every author’s event I attend. And I have to admit, the question makes a lot of sense. My first published book was non-fiction—Lead Like Ike: Ten Business Strategies from the CEO of D-Day. I’m a regular contributor on FORBES.com, writing about leadership in history and business—and I do not indulge in fiction writing for Forbes. (Heaven forbid!)

So, why thrillers? Because I want to to write about the basic building blocks of life—obligation, honor, love, courage, and pleasure. And be entertaining as possible so no one suspects I’m writing about anything substantial.

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In other words, I want to be like Dick Francis, a bestselling author in the United States and Great Britain for fifty years. Francis was an RAF pilot in World War II who became a steeplechase jockey in the UK. He was the champion of 1953-54 and the Queen Mother’s personal jockey for four years. (All this way before he wrote thrillers.)

Francis’s racing career ended in 1957 when he was only 36 years old. One too many injuries finally finished him as a jockey but launched one of the most successful writing careers of the 20th century.

As the Houston Chronicle once said in a review of a Francis book: “He writes about the basic building blocks of life—obligation, honor, love, courage, and pleasure. Those discussions come disguised in adventure novels so gripping that they cry out to be read in one gulp—then quickly reread to savor the details skipped in the first gallop through the pages.”

That Chronicle review captures the reason I write thrillers. What writer wouldn’t want to discuss those basic building blocks? And do it so entertainingly that people were scared (while completely safe in their armchairs), amused, and touched in their hearts.

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