Skip to content

Philip Mccutchan Bibliography For Websites

"Philip Knight" redirects here. For the English cricketer, see Philip Knight (cricketer).

"Phillip Knight" redirects here. For the footballer, see Phillip Knight (footballer).

Philip Hampson Knight (born February 24, 1938) is an American business magnate and philanthropist. A native of Oregon, he is the co-founder and chairman emeritus of Nike, Inc., and previously served as chairman and CEO of the company.[2] As of January 2018, Knight was ranked by Forbes as the 28th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$30 billion.[3] He is also the owner of the stop motion film production company Laika.

Knight is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford GSB). He ran track under coach Bill Bowerman at the University of Oregon, with whom he would co-found Nike.

A noted philanthropist, Knight has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to each of his Alma Maters, as well as Oregon Health & Science University. In total he has donated over $2 billion to the three institutions.[4]

Early life[edit]

Knight was born in Portland, Oregon, the son of lawyer turned newspaper publisher Bill Knight, and his wife Lota (Hatfield) Knight.[5][6] Knight grew up in the Portland neighborhood of Eastmoreland, and attended Cleveland High School. According to one source, "When his father refused to give him a summer job at his newspaper [the now defunct Oregon Journal], believing that his son should find work on his own," Knight "went to the rival Oregonian, where he worked the night shift tabulating sports scores and every morning ran home the full seven miles."[7]

Knight continued his education at the University of Oregon (UO) in Eugene, where he is a graduate brother of Phi Gamma Delta ("FIJI") fraternity, was a sports reporter for the Oregon Daily Emerald[8] and earned a journalism degree in 1959.[5]

As a middle-distance runner at UO, his personal best was 1 mile (1.6 km) in 4 minutes, 10 seconds,[9] and he won varsity letters for his track performances in 1957, 1958 and 1959. In 1977, together with Bowerman and Geoff Hollister, Knight founded an American running team called Athletics West.[10]


Early career[edit]

Before the Blue Ribbon Sports business that would later become Nike flourished, Knight was a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), firstly with Coopers & Lybrand, and then Price Waterhouse. Knight then became an accounting professor at Portland State University (PSU).[11]

Nike Inc.[edit]

Immediately after graduating from the University of Oregon, Knight enlisted in the Army and served one year on active duty and seven years in the Army Reserve.[5] After the year of active duty, he enrolled at Stanford Graduate School of Business.[5] In Frank Shallenberger's Small Business class, Knight developed a love affair with something besides sports — he discovered he was an entrepreneur. Knight recalls in a Stanford Magazine article:[5] "That class was an 'aha!' moment ... Shallenberger defined the type of person who was an entrepreneur--and I realized he was talking to me. I remember after saying to myself: 'This is really what I would like to do.'" In this class, Knight needed to create a business plan. His paper, "Can Japanese Sports Shoes Do to German Sports Shoes What Japanese Cameras Did to German Cameras?," essentially was the premise to his foray into selling running shoes. He graduated with a master's degree in business administration from the school in 1962.[5]

Knight set out on a trip around the world after graduation, during which he made a stop in Kobe, Japan, in November 1962. It was there he discovered the Tiger-brand running shoes, manufactured in Kobe by the Onitsuka Co. Impressed by the quality and low cost of the shoes, Knight called Mr. Onitsuka, who agreed to meet with him. By the end of the meeting, Knight had secured Tiger distribution rights for the western United States.[12]

The first Tiger samples would take more than a year to be shipped to Knight, during that time he found a job as an accountant in Portland. When Knight finally received the shoe samples, he mailed two pairs to Bowerman at the University of Oregon, hoping to gain both a sale and an influential endorsement. To Knight's surprise, Bowerman not only ordered the Tiger shoes, but also offered to become a partner with Knight and provide product design ideas. The two men agreed to a partnership by handshake on January 25, 1964, the birth date of Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS), the company name that would later be transformed into Nike.[13]

Knight's first sales were made out of a now legendary green Plymouth Valiant automobile at track meets across the Pacific Northwest. By 1969, these early sales allowed Knight to leave his accountant job and work full-time for Blue Ribbon Sports.[12]

Jeff Johnson, employee number one of Nike, suggested calling the firm "Nike," named after the Greek winged goddess of victory.[14] Blue Ribbon Sport was renamed Nike in 1971.[15]

Nike's "swoosh" logo, now considered one of the most powerful logos in the world, was commissioned for a mere US$35 from graphic design student Carolyn Davidson in 1971.[16] According to Nike's website, Knight said at the time: "I don't love it, but it will grow on me." In September 1983, Davidson was given an undisclosed amount of Nike stock for her contribution to the company's brand. On the Oprah television program in April 2011, Knight claimed he gave Davidson "A few hundred shares" when the company went public.[17]

Vinton Studios/Laika[edit]

Following mainstream success in the late 1990s, the animation company Will Vinton Studios experienced very rapid growth and Vinton needed to court external investors—Knight was one of the wealthy businessmen that he approached. Knight subsequently assumed a 15 percent stake in the company in 1998 and facilitated the employment of his son Travis, who had graduated from PSU following an unsuccessful attempt at a rap music career, as an animator.[18]

Following a period of severe mismanagement, Knight eventually purchased Will Vinton Studios and assumed control of the company's board with the cooperation of Nike executives. In late 2003, Knight appointed his son to the board, who had proven himself as an adept animator since joining the company, and after Vinton stepped down from the board—prior to leaving the company with a severance package—Knight rebranded the company Laika. Knight invested US$180 million into Laika following Vinton's departure and the studio released its first feature film, Coraline (in stop motion), in 2009. Coraline was a financial success and Travis Knight was promoted into the roles of Laika CEO and President in the same year.[18][19]

Death of Matthew Knight[edit]

In May 2004, two years after Knight bought Vinton, his son Matthew, aged 34 years, traveled to El Salvador to film a fund-raising video for Christian Children of the World, a Portland nonprofit organization. However, while scuba diving with colleagues in Lake Ilopango, near San Salvador, he died immediately from a heart attack 150 feet (46 m) underwater due to an undetected congenital heart defect. Knight and Travis traveled to El Salvador to return Matthew Knight's body to the U.S. and Travis explained in 2007, "It brought the family closer. You realize all this can go away in a minute."[19] Laika Studio's 2005 short film Moongirl was dedicated to Matthew's memory.[20]

Knight resigned as the CEO of Nike on November 18, 2004, several months after his son Matthew's funeral,[19] but retained the position of chairman of the board.[21][22] Knight's replacement was William Perez, former CEO of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., who was eventually replaced by Mark Parker in 2006.[23]

In 2011, the Matthew Knight Arena at the University of Oregon, was named in his honor.[24]

Post-Nike CEO role[edit]

During the 2009-2010 period, Knight was the largest single contributor to the campaign to defeat Oregon Ballot Measures 66 and 67, which, once passed, increased income tax on some corporations and high-income individuals.[25]

According to a February 10, 2012 filing by attorney John F. Coburn III, on behalf of Knight, Knight owned 67,097,005 shares of Class A Common Stock and 7,740 shares of Class B Common Stock in the Nike corporation.[26]

In June 2015, Knight and Nike announced that he would step down as the company's chairman, with president/CEO Mark Parker to succeed him. However, a date had not been set for his departure, and he said he plans to remain involved in the company.[27][28] Knight's retirement from the Nike board took effect at the end of June 2016. However, in September 2017, Knight decided to come out of retirement to put black back in the UNC jerseys for the Phil Knight Classic in Portland, Oregon.[29][30]


In late 2015, Phil Knight announced that he was writing a book about his early days with the Nike brand. The memoir is titled Shoe Dog and was released on April 26, 2016.[31] It is about the difficult times he went through to build the Nike brand, from importing Japanese shoes to being part of a federal investigation.[32]


As of 2016, according to Portland Business Journal, "Knight is the most generous philanthropist in Oregon history. His lifetime gifts now approach $2 billion."[33]

Stanford University[edit]

In 2006, Knight donated US$105 million to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which, at the time, was the largest ever individual donation to an American business school. The campus was named "The Knight Management Center," in honor of Knight's philanthropic service to the school.[34]

In 2016, it was announced that Knight contributed $400 million to start the Knight-Hennessy Scholars graduate-level education program. The program will admit up to 100 students with demonstrated leadership and civic commitment each year and is inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship.[35] Over 80% of the endowment will cover living expenses and education at one of the seven graduate schools at Stanford; the graduates are charged to tackle global challenges such as climate change and poverty. The first class of 50 will be admitted in fall 2018.[36] The scholars' academic experience will focus on both subject-specific knowledge and leadership development so that they can be prepared to address global challenges.[37]

University of Oregon[edit]

Knight has donated tens of millions of dollars to the University of Oregon's academic side. Major gifts include funds supporting the renovation of the Knight Library and construction of the Knight Law Center. Knight also established endowed chairs across the campus.[38] In the fall of 2016, it was announced that Knight will donate $500 million to UO for a new three-building laboratory and research science complex.[39] This donation was part of a series of large higher-education gifts.[40]

Oregon Ducks[edit]

In August 2007, Knight announced that he and his wife would be donating US$100 million to found the UO Athletics Legacy Fund to help support all athletic programs at the university. In response, Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny said: "This extraordinary gift will set Oregon athletics on a course toward certain self sufficiency and create the flexibility and financial capacity for the university to move forward with the new athletic arena." At the time, the donation was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the university.[41]

The 2010 construction of the UO basketball team's facility, Matthew Knight Arena, was the result of a partnership between Knight and former Oregon Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny. Although Knight didn't pay for the project directly, he established a $100 million "Athletic Legacy Fund." The fund supports the athletic department.[42] Named after Knight's deceased son, the venue replaced the McArthur Court building and its cost of over US$200 million to build. The facility was built using bonds backed by the State of Oregon.[42]

Knight was responsible for financing the UO's US$68 million 145,000 square-foot gridiron football facility that was officially opened in late July 2013. Knight's personal locker in the team's locker room displays the title "Uncle Phil", and other features include a gym with Brazilian hardwood floors, Apple iPhone chargers in each of the player's lockers, various auditoriums and meeting rooms, a games room for the players that includes flat-screen televisions and foosball machines, and a cafeteria.[43][44][45]

In November 2015, it was announced that Knight and his wife would be donating $19.2 million towards a new sports complex project at the University of Oregon. The plans for the 29,000 square foot complex was announced in September. Construction will begin in January 2016 and end in September 2016.[46] The sports complex was named the Marcus Mariota Sports Performance Center and includes motion capture systems, neurocognitive assessment tools, 40-yard dash track, and steam machines made by Nike to help athletes break into their footwear more quickly.[47]

In October 2016, Knight and his wife invested $500 million to build a new campus dedicated to science, called the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. Three new buildings will be constructed and will provide 750 family-wage jobs once it is completed and fully operational.[48][49]


However, Knight's contributions to the Athletic Department at UO have also led to controversy.[50] In April 2000, student body leaders began organizing an anti-sweatshop and fair labor practices campaign, and called for Dave Frohnmayer, president of the school, to support the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC). On April 4, 2000, students began a sit-in at Johnson Hall, the UO's administrative center. In early April, an open meeting of students further demanded that the organization Fair Labor Association (FLA) would receive no consideration from the university, as it was perceived as a group founded, funded and backed by Nike and other corporations, and had also been criticized by worker rights advocates as an exercise in dishonest public relations.[51][52]

University President Dave Frohnmayer subsequently signed a one-year contract with the WRC, and Knight's reaction was to withdraw a US$30 million commitment toward the Autzen Stadium expansion project and to offer no further donations to the university.[53][54] In a public statement, Knight criticized the WRC for having unrealistic provisions and called it misguided, while praising the FLA for being "balanced" in its approach.[55] In the face of ongoing conflict with students, Frohnmayer sided with Knight's assertion that the WRC was providing unbalanced representation[56][57] and in October 2000, according to the Eugene Weekly, Frohnmayer stated:

... he would refuse to pay dues to the WRC based on a legal opinion from UO General Counsel Melinda Grier arguing that to do so would be illegal and open the university to liability. Grier claimed the WRC had not yet incorporated, had not yet filed as a non-profit, and served no public purpose justifying a dues payment.[52]

On February 16, 2001, the Oregon University System enacted a mandate that all institutions within the system choose business partners from a politically neutral standpoint, barring all universities in Oregon from joining either the WRC or the FLA.[58] Following the dissolved relationship between the university and the WRC, Knight reinstated the donation and increased the amount to over US$50 million.[59]

Also controversial was Knight's success in lobbying for former insurance executive Pat Kilkenny to be named as athletic director at the university.[60] Kilkenny had neither a college degree nor any prior experience in athletics administration. He attended but did not graduate from UO, as he left the school with several credit hours still owing. Prior to his appointment at UO, Kilkenny had been the chairman and chief executive officer of the San Diego, U.S.-based Arrowhead General Insurance Agency, and grew the business into a nationwide organization, with written premiums of nearly US$1 billion when he sold the company in 2006.[61]

Other projects[edit]

In October 2008, Knight and his wife pledged US$100 million to the OHSU Cancer Institute, the largest gift in the history of Oregon Health & Science University. In recognition, the university renamed the organization the "OHSU Knight Cancer Institute."[62]

In October 2010, Knight donated several million dollars to the Catlin Gabel School to establish a scholarship for incoming freshmen students.[63]

On May 18, 2012, Knight contributed US$65,000 to a higher education Political Action Committee (PAC) formed by Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle.[64][65] According to Boyle, the PAC will help facilitate an increase in the autonomy of schools in the Oregon University System.[66] In the fall of 2014, it was reported in the media that Knight would donate up to $1 billion to UO's endowment fund. However, these rumors did not materialize.[67]

On September 27, 2013, Knight surprised the audience at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute's biennial gala, when he announced his intention to donate US$500 million for research if OHSU could match it over the subsequent two years.[68] On June 25, 2015, OHSU met that $500 million goal, and Knight announced his upcoming $500 million donation, to bring the total to $1 billion raised.[69]

Knight and wife Penny also donated to the Marylhurst Knights Opportunity Scholarship Program at Marylhurst University, a private Roman Catholic university in Marylhurst, Oregon; as a result, the university named a lawn on their campus "Knight's Green" in the family's honor.[70]

In December 2016, Knight disclosed that he had gifted $112 million in Nike stock to charity.[71]


In 2000, Knight was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame for his Special Contribution to Sports in Oregon.[72] At the time of his induction, he had contributed approximately US$230 million to UO, the majority of which was for athletics.[73]

On February 24, 2012, Knight was announced as a 2012 inductee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor. The Hall recognized him as the driving force behind Nike's huge financial support of U.S. basketball and its players. Knight was formally inducted on September 7, 2012.[74]

For his "contributions to business, corporate and philanthropic leadership", Knight was elected to the 2015 American Academy of Arts and Sciences membership class.[75][76]

Personal life[edit]

Knight met his wife, Penelope "Penny" Parks, while he was working at Portland State University and the pair were married on September 13, 1968.[77] They own a home in La Quinta, California.[78]

See also[edit]


  1. ^"Phil Knight & family". Forbes. 
  2. ^"Nike's Knight, 77, handing off chairman duties". 
  3. ^"Forbes 400: Phil Knight". Forbes. Retrieved December 9, 2014. 
  4. ^Rogoway, Mike. "Phil and Penny Knight's charitable contributions top $2 billion". The Oregonian. Retrieved 11 July 2017. 
  5. ^ abcdefKrentzman, Jackie (1997). "The Force Behind the Nike Empire". Stanford Magazine. Retrieved May 28, 2008. 
  6. ^"Phil Knight". Accessed May 13, 2012.
  7. ^Susan Hauser (4 May 1992). "Must Be the Shoes". People. Accessed 12 January 2018.
  8. ^"25 Things about the Oregon Daily Emerald", March 29, 2011. Accessed May 13, 2012.
  9. ^"Notable Oregonians: Phil Knight — Innovator, Business Leader". Oregon Blue Book. Retrieved June 1, 2008. 
  10. ^Jeed S (November 4, 2010). "History of Athletics West". A Pride As An Asian. Wordpress. Retrieved December 12, 2014. 
  11. ^Anne M. Peterson, "Nike's Phil Knight resigns as CEO," Seattle Times, November 19, 2004. Accessed May 13, 2012.
  12. ^ ab"Nike History and Timeline". University of Virginia. Retrieved September 28, 2015. 
  13. ^"History & Heritage". Nike, Inc. Nike. 2014. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  14. ^Knight, Phil (2017). Shoe Dog: Young Readers Edition. Simon and Schuster. pp. 229–230. ISBN 9781534401181. 
  15. ^Vinton, Kate. "Phil Knight's Net Worth Jumps $1.9 Billion After Announcement Of Nike Deal With Amazon". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-10-01. 
  16. ^"Nike gives board seniors the boot". BBC. August 2, 2004. Retrieved June 28, 2009. 
  17. ^"What Does the Nike Logo Mean?". Retrieved September 6, 2016. 
  18. ^ abZachary Crockett (May 9, 2014). "How the Father of Claymation Lost His Company". Priceonomics. Priceonomics. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  19. ^ abcSalter, Chuck (December 19, 2007). "The Knights' Tale". Fast Company. Retrieved October 27, 2009. 
  20. ^ "The rise of Travis Knight, the son of Nike's founder who built an animation powerhouse". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-10-01. 
  21. ^Peterson, Anne M. (November 19, 2004). "Nike's Phil Knight resigns as CEO". The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 1, 2008. 
  22. ^Dash, Eric (November 19, 2004). "Founder of Nike to Hand Off Job to a New Chief". The New York Times. Retrieved June 1, 2008. 
  23. ^Barbaro, Michael; Dash, Eric (January 24, 2006). "Another Outsider Falls Casualty to Nike's Insider Culture". The New York Times. Retrieved June 2, 2008. 
  24. ^"Oregon basketball: Emotions high as Phil Knight opens Matthew Knight Arena". Retrieved 2017-04-03. 
  25. ^"The closing tally on the Measures 66 and 67 campaigns: $12.5 million". 
  26. ^John F. Coburn III (February 13, 2012). "NIKE INC Filed by KNIGHT PHILIP H"(PDF). FORM SC 13G/A (Amended Statement of Ownership). EDGAR Online, Inc. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  27. ^"Phil Knight To Step Down As Nike's Chairman". June 30, 2015. 
  28. ^"Phil Knight, 77, to step down from chairman role of Nike". ESPN. June 30, 2015. 
  29. ^Sell, Sarah Skidmore (June 30, 2016). "Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight Retires From Board". ABC News. Associated Press. Retrieved July 1, 2016. 
  30. ^Stynes, Tess (June 30, 2016). "Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight Officially Retires as Chairman". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 1, 2016. 
  31. ^Jones, Riley. "Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight's Memoir Just Got a Release Date". Complex. Retrieved February 17, 2016. 
  32. ^Gates, Bill. "An Honest Tale of What It Takes to Succeed in Business". Retrieved 2017-04-14. 
  33. ^Kish, MatthewPortland Business Journal: "As philanthropy ramps up, Phil Knight gifts $112 million in Nike stock", 28 December 2016.
  34. ^"Nike Founder Phil Knight to Give $105 Million to Stanford GSB". Stanford Graduate School of Business. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  35. ^Stanley, Alessandra (February 24, 2016). "Philip Knight of Nike to Give $400 Million to Stanford Scholars". New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  36. ^Garcia, Ahiza. "Nike's Phil Knight gives $400 million to Stanford University". CNN Monday. CNN Money. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  37. ^FAQ for Knight-Hennessy Scholars Stanford. Retrieved February 24, 2016
  38. ^Brettman, Allan (August 12, 2014). "Phil and Penny Knight, thanks to Nike fortune, have given more than $1 billion in philanthropy". The Oregonian. 
  39. ^Theen, Andrew. "Phil and Penny Knight will give $500 million to University of Oregon for science complex". The Oregonian. Retrieved October 18, 2016. 
  40. ^"JOHN HARVARD'S JOURNAL Brevia". Harvard Magazine. January–February 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 
  41. ^Associated Press (August 21, 2007). "Knight's $100 million gift to bankroll Oregon athletics fund". ESPN College Sports. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  42. ^ abBolt, Greg (January 4, 2011). "Legacy Fund gives UO a leg up on financing". The Register-Guard. Retrieved February 25, 2016. 
  43. ^Tony Manfred (July 31, 2014). "Oregon's New $68-Million Football Facility Is Like Nothing We've Ever Seen In College Sports". Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  44. ^Tony Manfred (September 20, 2013). "Phil Knight Has His Own Locker In Oregon's New $68-Million Football Facility". Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  45. ^Tony Manfred (August 1, 2013). "New Photos From Inside Oregon's Monstrous $68-Million Football Facility". Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  46. ^Associated Press. "Nike co-founder donates millions for new UO sports complex named after Mariota". Associated Press. Associated Press. Retrieved December 3, 2015. 
  47. ^"Oregon Ducks say Marcus Mariota Sports Performance Center's function matches its flash". Retrieved 2017-04-14. 
  48. ^Staff, "Phil Knight donates $500M for new science center at University of Oregon". KATU. Retrieved 2017-04-14. 
  49. ^Press, Keaton Thomas, KATU News and Associated. "Nike co-founder pledges $500 million to University of Oregon". KATU. Retrieved 2017-04-14. 
  50. ^Fish, Mike (January 13, 2006). "Just do it!". Retrieved June 1, 2008. 
  51. ^Sachie Hopkins-Hayakawa (February 24, 2011). "University of Oregon students demonstrate for fair labor practices, 2000-2001". Global Nonviolent Action Database. Swarthmore College. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  52. ^ abAlan Pittman (November 16, 2000). "Swoosh Goes Worker Rights". Eugene Weekly. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  53. ^Lang, Jeremy (April 4, 2001). "Old issues, new strategies". Oregon Daily Emerald. Retrieved March 24, 2009. 
  54. ^Romano, Ben (April 24, 2000). "Knight pulls all money". Oregon Daily Emerald. Retrieved March 24, 2009. 
  55. ^"Statement from Nike founder and CEO Philip H. Knight regarding the University of Oregon". Oregon Daily Emerald. April 24, 2000. Retrieved March 24, 2009. 
  56. ^Romano, Ben (September 25, 2000). "Great debate: WRC vs. FLA". Oregon Daily Emerald. Retrieved March 24, 2009. 
  57. ^Friedman, Thomas (June 20, 2000). "Foreign Affairs; Knight Is Right". The New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2009. 
  58. ^Adams, Andrew (March 5, 2001). "OUS policy won't stop labor debate". Oregon Daily Emerald. Retrieved March 24, 2009.

A Century of Thrillers: 200 Books From 1890 to 1990 —
A List by David L. Vineyard

   First a brief bit of definition. The Thriller as I am using the term is distinct from the Detective and Suspense novel by several factors which I’ll attempt to define as broadly and generally as possible.

   In the Thriller the primary emphasis is on incident, action, adventure, and movement with the protagonist — even when he is an innocent caught up in larger events — taking a proactive role in those events. The thriller to some extent has its models in Homer’s Odyssey and books like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped (which is the model for the entire Buchan school). In a thriller all the elements are secondary to incident, action, and movement.

   In the Detective novel the emphasis is on method, motive, and the pursuit of clues. There may be colorful incident and action as well as considerable suspense involved, but at heart those things are secondary to the procedure of investigation. Atmosphere, locale, adventure, all the elements of the thriller may play a role, even a major role, but they are still secondary to the solution of the central problem.

   In the Suspense novel an individual or group is at the mercy of fate. Even when they try to take a proactive role they are still largely at the mercy of blind fate and seldom save themselves merely by skill, intelligence, courage, or even common sense. At best when the opportunity arises they may take advantage of it, but they are usually saved or damned not by their own actions but sheer fate.

   There is more crossover and argument about suspense vs thriller than any other area, but in general suspense novels are darker and more psychological. I’m including most Gothic novels under the broad suspense genre as well as most crime novels.

   For this little exercise I have defined four basic types of Thriller. Many books are combinations of these, so that Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household combines the novel of Chase and Pursuit with The Mission.

1. Chase and Pursuit — an innocent (usually) is drawn into a mysterious situation through no fault of his own, but using his intelligence (in some more comic versions his lack of it), cunning, and other untapped abilities he overcomes and usually not only survives but triumphs. Buchan’s The 39 Steps is the great model.

2. The Quest — the search for the Great Whatits, the McGuffin. It may be a place, a thing, a person, or even an idea, but it drives the action of the protagonist and the villains. Most of today’s thrillers in the Cussler school are quest novels.

3. The Journey — The protagonist or protagonists have to get from A to B. Why, how, and everything else related is still sublimated to the mere fact that they must reach the end of the journey. Elleston Trevor’s Flight of the Phoenix is a journey novel.

4. The Mission — this is often incorporated with the others and may feature an avenger hero, a tough professional of some sort, an amateur, or even a gentleman crook who sets out to accomplish some goal. It may be saving the world or swindling the crooks, rescuing a girl in trouble or destroying some evil. Most secret agent fiction is a mission style thriller such as From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming which also incorporates elements of the other three. Most Avenger style novels fit under the Mission category.

   But above all in a thriller incident, action, adventure, and movement are the predominant themes. Elements of horror, the supernatural, and even science fiction may appear. A few books on the list are closer to mainstream novels than genre novels, but that is another of the oddities about the thriller since it can run from the lowest denominator of the men’s action series to books that are clearly literature.

   The list is more or less chronological to when the writer in question first appeared, so in general even with a later book the writer in question will appear when his first work was published (though with Andrew Garve, Victor Canning, and Hammond Innes I have chosen to place them in the post-war era though all debuted pre-war, and both Richard Sale and Richard Llewelyn are listed in the 1930’s for books published in the 1960’s as is Frank Gruber for books published in the late 1950’s). The dates are general however and not exact. Many of these writers had careers that ran thirty and more years.

   I’ve limited myself to one book per writer, and in general few short story collections since there are not a lot of short thriller collections out there. I’ve also allowed for ties in a many cases, a second or equal work since many of these writers wrote over long periods of time.

   The starting date is not as arbitrary as it may seem, the thriller as we know it grows a great deal out of the work of Robert Louis Stevenson and since Kidnapped appeared in 1886 and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde appeared in 1888, 1890 seemed a good starting place for the modern thriller, and since 1990 marked a natural cut off place I chose that, though obviously James Rollins, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs, Arturo Perez-Reverte, and Barry Eisler would all be represented if the list ran longer.

   I’ve also left out the crime novel which is often closer to the hard-boiled and or suspense school so certain writers such as W.R. Burnett, Peter Rabe, Dan J. Marlowe (whose best work in my opinion is in the crime school), Richard Stark, and the like are not listed. Most hard-boiled writers are closer to the detective story and not listed.

   As with my mystery and suspense list this is a list of favorites, not bests. Keep in mind many of these writers wrote other kinds of books that would be on other lists (Reginald Hill for instance) but this is confined to thrillers. It is very Anglo-centric since relatively few American writers worked in the thriller mode until recently.

   As in my previous list of 100 “best” mysteries, an * indicates a film or television adaptation.


Sant of the Secret Service or The Veiled Man [TIE] by William LeQueux
Dr. Nikola by Guy Boothby
The Iron Pirate or The Diamond Ship by Max Pemberton
The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings by L.T. Meade & Robert Eustace
The Prisoner of Zenda * by Anthony Hope


El Dorado * by Baroness Orczy
Truxton King a Novel of Graustark by George Barr McCutcheon
The Four Just Men * or Dark Eyes of London * by Edgar Wallace
Phantom of the Opera * by Gaston Leroux
813 or The Countess Cagliostro * by Maurice Leblanc
The Adventures of Jimmie Dale the Gray Seal by Frank L. Packard
The Lone Wolf * by Louis Joseph Vance
The Day The World Ended or The Quest of the Sacred Slipper by Sax Rohmer
The Great Impersonation * or The Wrath To Come by E. Philips Oppenheim
The Riddle of the Sands * by Erskine Childers
The Three Hostages * or A Prince of the Captivity by John Buchan
Anthony Trent Gentleman Adventurer or The Secret of the Silver Car by Wyndham Martin


The Final Count * or Jim Maitland by H. C. McNeile writing as Sapper
The Man With the Club Foot or Mr. Ramosi by Valentine Williams
Ashenden or the British Agent * by W. Somerset Maugham
Blind Corner or Storm Music by Dornford Yates
Chipstead of the Lone Hand or The Curse of Doone by Sydney Horler
Portrait of a Man With Red Hair* by Hugh Walpole
Solomon’s Quest by H. Bedford-Jones writing as Alan Hawkwood
Jimgrim or King of the Khyber Rifles * by Talbot Mundy
The Trail of the Black King by Anthony Armstrong
Death Rides the Forest or Gunston Cotton Secret Agent by Rupert Grayson
Blackshirt by Bruce Graeme
The Murderer Invisible * or Experiment in Crime by Philip Wylie
The Last Hero or The Saint in New York * by Leslie Charteris
The Mystery of the Dead Police (aka X vs Rex) * by Philip MacDonald
The Confidential Agent * or Our Man in Havana * by Graham Greene


The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck by Andrew Laing
The White Python or King Cobra by Mark Channing
The Wheel Spins * by Ethel Lina White
Without Armor * by James Hilton
The Nine Wax Faces by Francis Beeding
The Himalayan Assignment by Van Wyck Mason
A Toast to Tomorrow or Alias Uncle Hugo by Manning Coles
A Coffin for Dimitrios * or Dr. Frigo by Eric Ambler
Mr. Moto is So Sorry or Think Fast Mr. Moto * by John P. Marquand
Murder Chop Chop by James Norman
The Devil Rides Out * by Dennis Wheatley
A Knife for the Toff or Mists of Fear by John Creasey
The Stars Are Dark or Dark Duet by Peter Cheyney
Four Men and a Prayer * by David Garth
The General Died at Dawn * by Charles G. Booth
Bridge of Sand or Brothers of Silence by Frank Gruber
End of the Rug by Richard Llewelyn
Above Suspicion * or Assignment in Brittany* by Helen MacInnes
Most Secret or No Highway * by Nevil Shute
Rogue Male * or Watcher in the Shadows * by Geoffrey Household
Night Without Stars * or Take My Life * by Winston Graham
For The President’s Eyes Only by Richard Sale


Never Come Back * by John B. Mair
Colonel Blessington by Pamela Frankau
The Small Back Room * or Mine Own Executioner * by Nigel Balchin
Game Without Rules or The Long Journey Home by Michael Gilbert
The Megstone Plot (A Touch of Larceny) * by Andrew Garve
Levkas Man * or Doomed Oasis by Hammond Innes
Finger of Saturn or Queen’s Pawn by Victor Canning
The Three Roads by Kenneth Millar
Woman in the Picture by John August
Desperate Moment * by Martha Albrand
Odd Man Out * by F. L. Green
The Conspirators * or Nine Days to Muksala by Frederick Prokosh
Undertow or Deadfall * by Desmond Cory
The Last Quarter Hour or Cold Spell by Jean Bruce
The Sub Killers or Tough Justice by San Antonio
Girl on the Run or Assignment–Lily Lamaris by Edward S. Aarons
Run Mongoose or The Last Clear Chance by Burke Wilkinson
White Eagles Over Serbia by Lawrence Durrell
Cormorant Isle or House of Darkness by Allan MacKinnon


From Russia With Love * or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service * by Ian Fleming
Soldier of Fortune * by Ernest K. Gann
A Sunlit Ambush by Mark Derby
The Fifth Passenger by Edward Young
A Noble Profession by Pierre Boulle
Uhruhu or Something of Value * by Robert Ruark
Murder in Morocco or The Man With No Shadow by Stephen Marlowe
Free Agent by Frederic Wakeman
Dead Men of Sestos or Eye of the Devil * by Philip Loraine
The Breaking Strain by John Masters
Night Walker or Death of a Citizen by Donald Hamilton
The Silk Road or The Red Road by Simon Harvester
The Rose of Tibet or Kolmsky Heights by Lionel Davidson
The Old Dark House of Fear by Russell Kirk
Maneater * or The Buckingham Palace Connection by Ted Willis
The High Road to China * or The Golden Sabre by Jon Cleary
The Achilles Affair or Without Prejudice by Berkeley Mather
The Fever Tree by Richard Mason
Flaw in the Crystal by Godfrey Smith
Ossian’s Ride by Fred Hoyle
The League of Gentlemen * by John Boland
A Captive in the Land by James Aldridge
The Game of X * or Dead Run * by Robert Sheckley
Wildfire at Midnight or Airs Above Ground by Mary Stewart
The White Tower * by James Ramsey Ullman
Third Side of the Coin or The Green Fields of Eden by Francis Clifford
The Expedition or Nine Hours to Rama * by Stanley Wolpert
The Last Mandarin or The Chinese Bandit by Stephen Becker
The Guns of Navarone * or The Satan Bug * by Alistair MacLean
High Wire or The Telemann Touch by William Haggard
Rampage * by Allan Calliou
Kill Claudio by P. M. Hubbard
High Citadel or Running Blind * by Desmond Bagley
Winter’s Madness by David Walker
Flight of the Phoenix * as Elleston Trevor or The Kobra Manifesto as Adam Hall
Midnight Plus One by Gavin Lyall


Season of Assassins by Geoffrey Wagner
River of Diamonds or Hunter Killer by Geoffrey Jenkins
Gibraltar Road or The Man From Moscow by Philip McCutchan
The Manchurian Candidate* by Richard Condon
A Small Town in Germany or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy * by John Le Carre
Ring of Roses or A Scent of New Mown Hay by John Blackburn
Rather a Vicious Gentleman by Frank McAuliffe
No Road Home by Geoffrey Rose
Village of Stars by Paul Stanton
Red Alert * by Peter George
Seven Days in May * by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey II
Charade * by Peter Stone
Dark of the Sun (aka The Mercenaries and Last Train From Katanga) * by Wilbur Smith
Not Only the Same Sun by John Gordon Davis
Isle of Snakes or The Hoffman Miniatures by Robert L. Fish
False Beards (aka Barbouze) or Holy of Holies by Alan Williams
The Ordeal of Major Grigsby by John Sherlock
A Dandy in Aspic * by Derek Marlowe
The Liquidator * by John Gardner
I, Lucifer or A Taste for Death by Peter O’Donnell
Diecast by Michael Brett
Otley by Martin Waddell
For Kicks or The Edge by Dick Francis
The Wrath of God* as James Graham or East of Desolation as Jack Higgins
Black Camelot by Duncan Kyle
Passport for a Pilgrim (aka Where the Spies Are) * by James Leasor
Sergeant Death by James Mayo
Callan * as James Mitchell or The Man Who Sold Death as James Munro
The Ipcress File * or Funeral in Berlin * by Len Deighton
Spargo by Jack Denton Scott
Murderer’s Burning by S. H. Courtier
Tree Frog or Blue Bone by Martin Wodehouse
The Dolly Dolly Spy by Adam Diment
The Yermakov Transfer as Derek Lambert or Blackstone and the Scourge of Europe as Richard Falkirk
Chinaman’s Chance or The Singapore Wink by Ross Thomas
Assassin by Evelyn Anthony
Deadlight by Archie Roy
Her Cousin John or Crocodile On the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
Nightclimber by Jon Manchip White
Our Man in Camelot or Colonel Butler’s Wolf by Anthony Price (I’m not sure if one or both of these was adapted for the Terence Stamp David Audley series or not)
The Man From Greek and Roman by James Goldman
Night Probe or Treasure by Clive Cussler
Dolly and the Singing Bird or Dolly and the Starry Bird by Dorothy Dunnett


Stained Glass or Who’s On First? by William F. Buckley
A Flock of Ships by Brian Callison
The Wilby Conspiracy * by Peter Driscoll
The Scarlatti Inheritance or The Bourne Identity * by Robert Ludlum
Tank In Armor or The Heights of Zervos by Colin Forbes
Shibumi by Trevanian (Rod Whitaker)
Vandenberg * by Oliver Lange
The Day of the Dolphin * by Robert Merle
Day of the Jackal* by Frederick Forsyth
The Other Side of Silence by Ted Allbeury
Royal Flash or Flashman at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser
Heights of Rim Ring by Duff Hart-Davis
Firefox * by Craig Thomas
Madonna Red by James Carroll
Eye of the Needle * or Night Over Water by Ken Follett
The Spy Who Sat and Waited by R. Wright Campbell
The Trans-Siberian Express by Warren Adler
Kiss Me Once as Thomas Maxwell or Assassini as Thomas Gifford
A Flag for Sunrise by Robert Stone
Sisters by Robert Littell
The Better Angels by Charles McCarry
The Sixth Directive by Joseph Hone
Code Name: Grand Guignol by Ib Melchior
Marathon Man by William Goldman
The Man Who Loved Mata Hari by Dan Sherman


November Man by Bill Granger
Metzger’s Dog by Thomas Perry
Daddy by Loup Durand
The Queen’s Messenger by W. L. Duncan
Yellowfish by John Keeble
Who Guards a Prince? as Reginald Hill or The Long Kill as Patrick Ruell
Shipkiller by Justin Scott
The Quest by Richard Ben Sapir
The Names by Don Delillo
The Two Thyrdes by Bertie Denhem
Winner Harris by Iain St. James
In Honour Bound by Gerald Seymour
The Frog and the Moonflower or The Power of the Bug by Ivor Drummond
Red Dragon * by Thomas Harris
The Seventh Sanctuary or Brotherhood of the Tomb by Daniel Easterman
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Embassy House by Nicholas Proffett
Imperial Agent by T. N. Murari
Sharpe’s Gold or Wildtrack by Bernard Cornwell
The Beasts of Valhalla by George Chesbro
Night Soldiers by Alan Furst
The Scorpion by Andrew Kaplan

   I’m sure someone will notice I did not choose a Fu Manchu novel for Sax Rohmer. Much as I like the Devil Doctor, I think the two I chose are among Rohmer’s best thrillers and better than any individual Fu Manchu titles. However if forced to pick a Fu Manchu I suspect The Masks of Fu Manchu and Daughter of Fu Manchu would be my choices.

   And just for arguments sake, here is a quick list of supernatural, lost world, and science fiction thrillers that only just miss the list:

Dracula * by Bram Stoker
The Beetle by Richard Marsh
The Mucker by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Marching Sands by Harold Lamb
The Flying Legion by George Allan England
Seven Footprints to Satan * and Creep Shadow * by A. Merritt
The Ghoul * by Frank King
The Aerodrome by Rex Warner
Ninth Life by Jack Mann
Undying Monster * by Jessie Douglas Keruish
The Ka of Gifford Hillary or The Star of Ill Omen by Dennis Wheatley
The Edge of Running Water * by William Sloane
Dark Freehold (aka The Uninvited) * by Dorothy MacArdle
Conjure Wife * by Fritz Leiber
Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson
Sinister Barrier by Eric Frank Russell
Heroes Walk by Robert Crane
The Haunting of Hill House * by Shirley Jackson
Beyond Eden by David Duncan
The Main Experiment by Christopher Hodder-Williams
A is For Andromeda* or Andromeda Breakthrough* by Fred Hoyle and John Elliott
Fire Past the Future by Charles Eric Maine
The Man With Two Shadows by Roderick Macleish
The Other * by Tom Tryon
Salem’s Lot * by Stephen King
Lord of the Trees by Philip Jose Farmer
Neither the Sea Nor the Sand * by Gordon Honeycombe
Catholics * by Brian Moore
Somewhere in Time * or Hell House * by Richard Matheson
Running Wild by J. G. Ballard
The Further Adventures of Captain Gregory Dangerfield by Jeremy Lloyd
Runes by Christopher Fowler
Mutant 59 the Plastic Eaters * by Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis
The Andromeda Strain * by Michael Crichton

   Finally, honorable mention who did not make the list with a single book, but who deserve credit: George Goodchild, Hugh Cleverly, Berkeley Gray, Edmund Snell, Captain A. O. Pollard, Gerard Fairlie, Ernest Dudley, L. F. Hay, Francis Gerard, Richie Perry, John Newton Chance, Francis Durbridge, William Diehl, William Martin, Phyllis Whitney, Kenneth Royce, George B. Mair, Achmed Abdullah, A. E. Apple, Walter Wager, William Stevenson, Eric Van Lustbader, David Morrell, R. Vernon Beste, Nicholas Luard, Norman Lewis, David Gurr, A.W. Mykel, Michael Malone, David Lindsey, Dan Simmons, Hans Helmut Kirst, Lindsay Hardy, Alan Dipper, Marvin Albert, Ken Crossen, and too many others to list.

   Plus as a small army of writers whose work has appeared since my cut off date of 1990, including James Rollins, Jack Du Brul, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Barry Eisler, Neal Stephenson, Matt Reilly, Anthony Horowitz, Boris Akunin, and many more.

Leave a Reply