Contexts of Criticism

  • Lars Ole Sauerberg
Part of the Macmillan Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature book series


There are many kinds of thriller,1 and some have gained better reputations than others. There is no doubt that the classic or formal detective story (e.g. Agatha Christie and Michael Innes) has established itself as a legitimate form of literary entertainment, and this is also, I believe, the case with the good secret-agent story (e.g. le Carré and Len Deighton) and the psychological thriller (e.g. Patricia Highsmith and Ira Levin). But there seems to be a rather negative attitude towards the kind of thriller that I shall call the adventure story (e.g. Alistair Maclean and Desmond Bagley). The adventure story is often quite close to other kinds of thriller as regards plot, roles and setting, but on the whole it is more formless than detective or secret-agent stories. We feel justified, however, to talk about the adventure story as a specific thriller genre, because, like other thrillers, it is characterized by a conspicuously high priority given to elements of suspense, and because it employs structural and thematic material from, first and foremost, the rougher kinds of detective and secret-agent fiction. The negative attitude with which many readers meet the adventure story may be due to its frequent lack of intellectual challenge that we find present in other thriller genres, typically in the puzzle structure of the formal detective story.


Mass Literature Literary Text Moral Criticism Reading Public Love Story 
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© Lars Ole Sauerberg 1984

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  • Lars Ole Sauerberg

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