Year's Best Mystery And Suspense Stories, 1987
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The year's best film was the year's most intricately-designed puzzle, the story of a woman psychiatrist who tried to follow a con-man into the heart of his con. Lindsay Crouse starred as a therapist who tries to save the life of one of her patients, an addictive gambler, by appealing directly to the man who might be about to have him killed.The man, played by Joe Mantegna, exerts an almost instant fascination over her -- not because of sex appeal, although that is part of it, but because he invites her to be a spotter for him in a high-stakes poker game.
"House of Games" is the first film directed by the playwright and screenwriter David Mamet, and it is an ideal presentation of his style -- the elegantly simple dialog, clipped, turning back on itself, works with the set decoration and the barren urban landscapes to create a world which has been emptied of all bystanders, and narrowed down to the con and the mark. This is not only a great film, but one of the year's best entertainments.
This is a sly, rambunctious comedy about a sprawling Italian-American family that occasionally trusts love, but distrusts almost everything else. Cher is inspired in the central role, as a widow in her late 30s who becomes engaged to a mother's boy (Danny Aiello) and then, when he flies to Sicily to be at his mother's deathbed, falls tumultuously in love with his bitter younger brother (Nicholas Cage). Other players in the family drama include great supporting work by Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia, as Cher's parents. Norman Jewison directed, and finds enough strangeness and poetry in this slapstick story to produce the year's best comedy.
This was the year's best action picture and maybe the best pure action comedy since "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Richard Donner directed the inspired pairing of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as two police partners whose radically different approaches to life make things rather strange when they work with each other. Gibson is depressed and reckless, Glover is a stable family man, and their entire world seems set up to exploit those facts. Police comedies are a dime a dozen. This is the best since "48 Hrs."
12. "No Way Out" was one of the year's best thrillers, starring Kevin Costner as a naval intelligence officer who seems inescapably implicated in a murder with heavy political overtones. Roger Donaldson directed, and Gene Hackman provided a complex and painfully indecisive cabinet secretary.
17. "Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!" was the year's best musical documentary, a rollicking and sometimes revealing record of the attempt by Rolling Stone Keith Richard to stage a 60th birthday concert for Berry, at which the pioneer of rock and roll would at last be accompanied by a well-rehearsed backup band.
"My Sweet Little Village" was Jan Kadar's bittersweet comedy about a village in Czechoslovakia; "Light Of Day" was Paul Schrader's bitter family drama, with great work by Gena Rowlands and Joan Jett; "The Good Father" starred Anthony Hopkins as a divorced man masterminding his friend's battle for child custody; Alan Parker's adventurous "Angel Heart" had another one of those risky Mickey Rourke performances; Barry Levinson's "Tin Men" was a comic saga of aluminum siding salesmen; "Street Smart" contained one of the year's best supporting performances, by Morgan Freeman."Hollywood Shuffle" was the now-legendary directorial debut of Robert Townsend, who begged, borrowed and dealt to get the right to prove himself with a satirical revue; Susan Seidelman's "Making Mr. Right" had John Malkovich in a dual role as a scientist and his own robot; "Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn" was thoroughly disgusting and yet weirdly funny; Walter Hill's "Extreme Prejudice" centered on strong work by Nick Nolte and as a Texas sheriff; "The Witches of Eastwick" was the wicked comedy with Jack Nicholson as a satanic figure throwing a small town into turmoil; "Wish You Were Here" starred a newcomer, Emily Lloyd, as a definitely rebellious girl trying to grow up in an England that didn't much like her; "Back to the Beach," one of the year's most-overlooked comedies, starred Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in a hilarious satire on the own beach party movies.
Best Seller is a 1987 American neo-noir crime thriller film written by Larry Cohen, directed by John Flynn and starring James Woods and Brian Dennehy. The film tells the story of Cleve (Woods), a career hitman, who wants to turn his life story into a book written by Dennis Meechum (Dennehy), a veteran police officer and best-selling author
Paperback Booksmith in Cambridge, Mass., started stocking them in quantity only three years ago, says manager Charles Ridewood. Now a large section bulges with about 300 titles of classics, best sellers, nonfiction, business-finance, mystery-horror, biography, vintage radio, humor, languages, drama, short stories, poetry, children's programming, health, and self-help - all attractively boxed to look like books.
So, if a thriller isn\u2019t necessarily a mystery or a crime novel, what is it? I would argue that, at the very least, all thrillers need a relatively brisk pace and a great deal of suspense. They also need relatively high stakes. Ira Levin\u2019s 1967 novel, Rosemary\u2019s Baby, is widely regarded as one of the best American thrillers of the twentieth century. The stakes are high: a young pregnant woman tries to prevent a satanic cult from sacrificing her unborn child to the devil. Levin does a good job of ratcheting up the suspense, so that the final one hundred pages or so of this relatively short (218 pages in paperback) novel fly by. The book has been justifiably described as a horror novel and a novel of psychological suspense. It is also a crime novel as well as a mystery. But, for me at least, the term \u201Cthriller\u201D seems almost tailor-made for books like Rosemary\u2019s Baby. This is clearly a book meant to be gobbled up in a sitting or two. Though it is a horror novel about Satanism, Levin doesn\u2019t delve too deeply into the history of Satanism or its impact on world culture, the way that Anne Rice\u2019s novels often stretch back centuries in order to explore vampirism or witchcraft. Rosemary\u2019s Baby is meant to thrill the reader, not to provide her with a treatise on evil in the modern world. And that is why I believe that \u201Cthriller\u201D is its true genre.
Levin\u2019s novel undoubtedly had a profound influence on William Peter Blatty\u2019s 1971 bestseller, The Exorcist. The Exorcist is, among other things, a crime novel, a mystery, and a thriller. But I believe that it is best categorized as a horror novel. The Exorcist is steeped in Catholic theology and, specifically, the rite of exorcism. The supernatural is much more important to The Exorcist than to Rosemary\u2019s Baby. You are certainly free to disagree with me, but while I think of Levin\u2019s novel as a thriller, I think of The Exorcist as a horror novel. Both are excellent.
Are suspense novels and thrillers the same thing? I don\u2019t think so. I think of Patricia Highsmith as a writer of suspense novels (which are usually also crime and/or mystery novels). Although her novels sometimes provide thrills, they are generally much more slowly paced than traditional thrillers. Graham Greene called her \u201Ca poet of apprehension.\u201D Her novels are full of tension and unease, but they often move very slowly (by intention). Highsmith didn\u2019t write \u201Cpage-turners,\u201D she wrote \u201Cslow burners.\u201D
Although John D. MacDonald was capable of writing good thrillers \u2013 such as Cape Fear \u2013 his best-known works, the Travis McGee novels, are detective stories rather than thrillers. Thus I think of MacDonald as a crime writer or a detective novelist. The same is true of Ross Macdonald. Michael Connelly writes novels that contain thrills, but he seems more interested in exploring the dark side of the Southern California milieu where most of his novels unfold. I think of him as a crime writer. Elmore Leonard packed some excellent thrills into both his Western novels and his crime fiction. He was also capable of packing humor into his novels. But I don\u2019t think of him primarily as a humorist or a thriller writer or a Western novelist. To me, he\u2019ll always be a crime writer. Crime writer (or mystery writer, or spy writer, etc.) is not a lesser designation than thriller writer; it is simply a different designation. I consider Lee Child and Harlan Coben to be thriller writers, even though crime and mystery permeate their works. I consider Thomas Harris to be a thriller writer, even though his books all deal with crime. I consider Robert Harris to be a thriller writer, even though some of his books could be categorized as historical novels (or even alternate histories). Although the novels of Ruth Rendell and P.D. James contain plenty of thrills, I consider both women to be mystery writers. (Curiously, the two most thrilling of Rendell\u2019s novels \u2013 The Brimstone Wedding and The Crocodile Bird \u2013 were published under her penname Barbara Vine, so I think of Vine as a thriller novelist and Rendell as a mystery novelist.) Although her books contain plenty of crime and mystery, I consider Mary Higgins Clark to be a writer of thrillers. The same is true of Tess Gerritsen.
And then of course there are Scott Turow and John Grisham and all of their fellow lawyers-turned-bestselling-authors. When Turow\u2019s Presumed Innocent was published in 1987, the publisher could have promoted it as a \u201Clegal novel\u201D or a \u201Ccourtroom drama,\u201D appellations that had been applied to earlier bestsellers such as The Caine Mutiny or The Anatomy of a Murder. But, by the 1980s, \u201Cthriller\u201D was the term of choice for the kind of books that were known to keep pop-fiction junkies sitting up all night in their armchairs. And so the publicity department for Farrar Straus & Giroux promoted Presumed Innocent as a \u201Clegal thriller.\u201D It might not have been the first use of the term, but it was the first time the term was applied to a cultural juggernaut, a book that, in its way, would become as seminal as Rosemary\u2019s Baby or The Day of the Jackal or Jaws. Four years later, when John Grisham, a lawyer like Turow, broke into the big time with his second novel, 1991\u2019s The Firm, the appellation was just waiting there to be exploited. As it happened, Grisham would go on to be the most successful author of legal thrillers (as measured by book sales) of the twentieth century and (so far, at least) the twenty-first. Of all the subgenres of thriller, the legal thriller is probably America\u2019s most popular, thanks in large part to Grisham. For nearly two decades, Michael Crichton\u2019s techno-thrillers often appeared on the same bestseller lists as Grisham\u2019s legal thrillers. Alas, Crichton\u2019s death in 2008, at the age of 66, slowed down (but hasn\u2019t completely halted) the release of new titles from the king of the techno-thriller. These days, the American thriller market is dominated by three men: Grisham, Coben, and Child. 2b1af7f3a8