Novels like The Queen's Gambit and/or authors like Walter Tevis?
February 29, 2020 11:42 AM   Subscribe

The Queen's Gambit is my favorite novel by one of my favorite authors, Walter Tevis. Tevis' writing style is simple and direct. His books are plotty and super amenable to being filmed. I'm looking for recommendations for similar novels.

In my mind, The Queen's Gambit is loosely grouped with Deliverance by James Dickey and No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, but Tevis' style is much less fancy. If these belong to a genre, I'm not sure what it is called. Literary thriller or literary adventure, maybe?

Other novels of the type I'm looking for include: The Beach by Alex Garland, True Grit by Charles Portis, Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell, and Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone.

Any recommendations for similar authors or books?
posted by lumpy to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
How about the Expanse books? They are a sci-fi saga written in the style you describe. My impression of the books was that they were like reading a movie, and they've been turned into a show.
posted by DTMFA at 12:34 PM on February 29, 2020

I don't know most of these books, but when I want something lean, plot- and dialogue-driven, and highly filmable, I turn right away to the works of Elmore Leonard. His catalog is vast, hews almost entirely to genre fiction, and is full of great joys for the reader. He's a crackerjack writer.
posted by Dr. Wu at 2:13 PM on February 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Based on your examples, I’d call this genre dad lit: books by men marketed to dads (no offence).

Maybe Warlock by Oakley Hall or any John le Carré.
posted by caek at 2:49 PM on February 29, 2020

I'd venture that Tevis was partly influenced by hard-boiled crime writers like Dash Hammett & Ray Chandler, and maybe Hemingway, and some of the plain-prose vintage Science Fiction authors of the first half of the 20th century, like Asimov (I find Tevis more interesting than Asimov, but hey).
posted by ovvl at 4:45 PM on February 29, 2020

posted by dobbs at 7:39 PM on February 29, 2020

Also, No Country, True Grit, and Deliverance are among my favorite books. I also love Woodrell's work. But my favorite author is Denis Johnson. Train Dreams and Jesus' Son are my favorite books by him. I don't think of him as similar to those others, but those others aren't similar to one another, imo, either. If you do Audible, they have both of those Johnson books for one credit and they are expertly read by Will Patton (who also reads Deliverance).
posted by dobbs at 7:45 PM on February 29, 2020

Maybe John D. MacDonald, who wrote Cape Fear (in addition to a bunch of Travis McGee books, and lots of other things)

Another Macdonald, Ross, was one of the pseudonyms of Kenneth Millar, who wrote a bunch of books featuring his P.I., Lew Archer. A fair number of his books have been adapted for movies/tv. Good stuff, his work has a lot more...depth? than most stuff in the genre, imo.

Jim Thompson is maybe an acquired taste (I haven't quite gotten into it); The Grifters may be his most famous work. The Getaway & The Killer Inside Me were also adapted from his novels.

Lastly, I'm a fan of Martin Cruz Smith, of Gorky Park fame. As with the above authors, there's a literary quality to his work that sticks with me more than the usual fare.
posted by Bron at 8:44 AM on March 1, 2020

City of Thieves by David Benioff? When I asked at a bookstore for a book similar to City of Thieves, they recommended Queen’s Gambit.

I also wonder if you might like Patricia Highsmith or Graham Greene. Or All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren? Or Tim O’Brien?
posted by vunder at 3:39 PM on March 1, 2020

I assume you've read Tevis' Mockingbird, which is my favorite book?

I'm going to suggest Don Winslow's early surfer/detective novels, The Dawn Patrol and The Gentleman's Hour, and his Death and Life of Bobby Z and The Winter of Frankie Machine.
posted by nicwolff at 2:14 PM on March 2, 2020

Thanks for all the great comments and recommendations!

I really like Tim O'Brien, Elmore Leonard, John le Carre, Patricia Highsmith, Hemingway, and Graham Greene. And, like Dobbs, Denis Johnson is my favorite author. Also enjoyed Warlock and All The King's Men. Jim Thompson, John D. McDonald, Hammett, Chandler, & Asimov are good suggestions too, although they don't quite click with me.

City of Thieves is a good example of what I'm thinking of. As is Mockingbird by Tevis, which I love almost as much as The Queen's Gambit. Novels where the writing almost becomes invisible.

With writers like Denis Johnson and Cormac McCarthy, it's hard to get lost in the plot cause the writing itself demands so much attention and admiration. With early 20th century writers like Chandler and Hemingway, the archaic language tends to trip me up.

Will definitely be checking out many of these suggestions including Trevanian, Martin Cruz Smith, and Don Winslow.
posted by lumpy at 8:00 PM on March 2, 2020

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