Monday, June 21, 2010

Favourite thrillers: Meg Gardiner on Seven Days In May

London-based American thriller-writer Meg Gardiner is the author of the best-selling Evan Delaney and Jo Beckett series, and counts among her very vocal fans one Stephen King, who in 2007 wrote a whole column advocating her talents, calling her ‘as good as Michael Connelly and far better than Janet Evanovich’. Her first novel, China Lake, won an Edgar. Her eighth novel, The Liar’s Lullaby, is published this week. On July 25, she will be hosting the panel James Bond, Eat Your Heart Out at the Harrogate crime writers’ festival, featuring Jo Nesbø, Zoë Sharp, Sean Black and me.

Here she is on one of her favourite thrillers.

Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W Bailey

By Meg Gardiner

Seven Days in May hooked me when I was young, and hasn’t let go. It was the first political thriller I ever read, the story of an attempted military coup against the U.S. government. I saw the movie on TV when I was a kid—the excellent film starring Kirk Douglas, scripted by Rod Serling. It chilled me, just grabbed me around the throat. Then I found the novel, by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey. The book gave me the chance to spend more time with the story, so I couldn’t wait. I dived in and didn’t surface till I’d finished it. (Yes, I was a goofy, academic tweener, who read political thrillers beneath the boy-band posters on my bedroom wall.)

Written during the height of the Cold War, Seven Days in May tells the story of the impending coup, led by a charismatic general, and the desperate attempt by the President and loyal military officers to stop it. As the clock ticks down, the tension ratchets up. It’s relentless. The stakes couldn’t be higher: first the end of constitutional democracy in the United States, then nuclear Armageddon. Because, if the coup succeeds, the U.S. will fall into the hands of men who think they can win an all-out thermonuclear war with the Soviets.

The book contains not one single gunfight, not one car chase, but the suspense is amazing. The villains are calculating, self-righteous, and utterly ruthless: people whose fear and arrogance combine to justify their lust for power. The heroes are flawed but noble. They fight back while trying to hold onto their honor—because preserving the Constitution is deeply honorable, and worth risking their freedom and their lives for.

For a junior thriller reader, it was nailbiting, inspiring stuff.

It still is. Think I’ll go dig it out and read it again.

For more information about Meg Gardiner, visit


  1. Ack, it's out of print . . . but sounds great. I haven't read it or seen the movie.

  2. Jeff, how nice of you to stop by! I haven't read or seen the film of this either, but Meg has got me salivating over it. I tend to use to buy books - you can search for the cheapest in your country, in your currency, including shipping, and it usually comes up with a bargain.

  3. Thanks for turning me onto these great suspense books. I especially would like to check out Seven Days in May. I do find a lot of out of print titles on or Another great thriller you might enjoy is a new one out called, "Rogues, Riches and Retribution," by author Harry Taylor. It's very intriguing and not like other murder stories I have read.

  4. If anyone is interested, I am selling an original, first edition copy of the book novel “Seven Days in May” which was made into this movie, that has the original signatures of both authors. Pics and more info available upon request.