Thomas H. Cook Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Thomas H. Cook has elevated the police procedural from a marginalized subgenre of detective fiction to a more popularly acceptable genre of popular literature—the psychological novel. The archetypal Cook hero is an isolated loner with just enough human feelings left to respond to the needs of other individuals. The hero is almost destroyed by his empathy, yet he finds eventual redemption in his sacrifices. Cook pays a great deal of attention to detail, especially in his depiction of the process of suppressed memory recollection. This careful use of the psychological method shows Cook’s desire to transcend the boundaries of thriller and true-crime writing. Cook has written only a few novels in the Frank Clemens series, preferring nonseries novels so that he may experiment with and examine a variety of narrators and their individual voices and traumatic life experiences. He has also delved into other genres: He wrote the novelization of the science-fiction television series Taken (2002) and mainstream fiction such as Elena (1986) and Moon over Manhattan (2004), a comic novel he wrote with television interviewer Larry King. Cook’s abilities as a writer have been rewarded with growing respect from the mystery reading public and have led to his being presented with the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for best novel for The Chatham School Affair (1996).


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Dahlin, Robert. “Thomas H. Cook: Stretching the Mystery Envelope.” Publishers Weekly 245, no. 42 (October, 1998): 43. Short profile on Thomas Cook that relates some of the true-life incidents that inspire his writing in general as well as Breakheart Hill in particular. It also gives the reader a better sense of Cook’s motivations for writing.

Donnelly, Barry. “Cook’s Tour.” The Armchair Detective 30, no. 3 (1997): 294-298. This extended discussion of Cook’s writings from Blood Innocents to The Chatham School Affair attempts to put the author’s writing in the context of psychological thrillers and detective fiction of the twentieth century. Includes extensive quotations from correspondence with Cook.

Graham, Keith. “Ex-Atlantan Delves into True-Crime Fiction.” The Atlanta Journal/The Atlanta Constitution, December 23, 1990, p. N2. Brief profile of Cook that examines his fictional writing and his first true-crime book, Early Graves.

Lee, Michael. “The South Rises Again and Again.” The Barnstable Patriot (October, 2003). This brief article describes how Cook is representative of a new breed of southern writer in step with modern life. Much of Cook’s fiction is based in his home state of Georgia and has southern themes as its primary focus.

Shankman, Sarah. Introduction to A Confederacy of Crime. New York: Signet, 2001. The purpose of this collection of short stories was to compile a selection of the best unpublished mysteries describing life in the Deep South. Besides Cook, authors include Jeffrey Deaver, Steven Womack, and Julie Smith.