ThrillerFest V — a gathering of International Thriller Writers — honored Ken Follet, on Saturday in NYC.

Follett has written nearly 30 novels that include: childrens books, science fiction, spy thrillers, medical thrillers, and sweeping historical epics. Hit breakout hit, Eye of the Needle, in 1978 is noteworthy because it features a female protagonist.

Thriller writer, Tess Gerritsen wrote an essay on Needle for: Thrillers: 100 Must Reads, released during the festival. She writes: “Most of us will never be able to identify with James Bond or the other dashing supermen who populate most thriller novels. But in the character of Lucy Rose, we can recognize ourselves. Watching a mere housewife bring down a master spy gives every reader the chance to imagine being a hero. Eye of the Needle celebrates the courage of Everyman — and Everywoman.”

Tess Garritsen signs a Nook for a fan.

Thrillers: 100 Must Reads, was edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner. It examines works — from Beowulf to The Bourne Identity, Dracula to Deliverance, Heart of Darkness to the Hunt for Red October — deemed must-reads by the International Thriller Writers organization.

It was interesting to hear several of the “successful” writers on hand say that they are just “trying to please people” with their books.

Gina Centrello, President of Random House, addressed the group saying that “this would be a better world —  if everyone read.” That’s a comment heard often today, from pundits and educators, and yet one has to wonder what books they are talking about?

Are “Thriller” novels neutral in the impact they are having on readers, or are they effecting the “inner lives” of people? David Morrell, author of First Blood and creator of Rambo, has been described as the “mild-mannered professor with the bloody-minded visions.”

The Thriller genre has historically offered a canvas for exploring the range of human possibilities, in there ambiguous, nuanced and extreme forms. Depending on where the author and reader are coming from, that can be a journey that leads to a good or bad place.

What happens in our mind and imagination effects who and what we are — as much as what we do with our bodies.

Photographs: Stephen Wise