“Killer Thriller” is the 2019 follow-up to Lee Goldberg’s comedic action bestseller, “True Fiction” about Ian Ludlow, a men’s adventure novelist who is unexpectedly thrust into the life of a bona fide action hero. Like the first installment, the novel straddles the line between being a parody of the Jack Reacher-style of adventure paperbacks and delivering a genuine kick-ass thrill-ride of a novel.
The character of Ian Ludlow is a fictionalized version of Goldberg himself - a TV mystery scriptwriter turned successful novelist. In fact, Goldberg began his career writing the macho “.357 Vigilante” series using the pseudonym of Ian Ludlow. “Killer Thriller” begins with Ludlow on a book tour hyping his latest testosterone-fueled novel, and Goldberg does a nice job of getting readers up to speed on the events of “True Fiction,” so no one is left behind.
Because Ludlow’s fiction has an uncanny way of becoming fact, he is approached by the CIA to become an operative using his writing job as cover. And because this is a fun - and sometimes silly - action novel send-up, Ludlow is soon in the mix with an international conspiracy to cripple America in a manner similar to a novel Ludlow is currently outlining.
The backdrop of “Killer Thriller” is a potential trade war with China during an internal U.S. policy debate over free trade vs. protectionism. Meanwhile, Chinese interests are putting a giant thumb on the scale with political assassinations in the U.S. and the kidnapping of Hong Kong’s best and brightest business minds. Production is also beginning in Hong Kong on a film based on Ludlow’s recurring character, which gives Goldberg a chance to poke some fun at Hollywood preposterous adaptations of outlandish contemporary men’s fiction and the influence of the China market on modern Hollywood.
As with the first installment, there are tons of Easter eggs in the novel for genre fanatics. For example, the movie studio adapting Ludlow’s novel is “Pinnacle Pictures” - presumably a nod to the iconic 1970s paperback house. Current events also get a send-up with a billionaire fictional U.S. President tweeting too much while alienating our NATO allies.
Joined by his hot and heroic lesbian sidekick Margo, Ludlow is off to China to monitor the adaptive filming of his old novel while researching the plot of his next one. As expected, he gets swept up in a real-life Chinese conspiracy that eerily mirrors his own plot outline for an unwritten novel.
Like it’s predecessor, “Killer Thriller” is a helluva lot of fun to read. The plot and action sequences are both absurd and absorbing. If you’re a fan of men’s action novels and their film adaptations, you are the intended audience for this love letter to our genre. Time will tell how many times Goldberg will be able to go to this same well, but I’m all-in for the Ian Ludlow thrillers. Highly recommended.
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