Thriller Pitches for the 21st Century

Vivienne Woodward


Vivienne Woodward lives in Philly and works as the events coordinator for an indie bookstore. She can often be found drinking too much coffee in the sunny spot on her couch and over-identifying with fictional characters. She enjoys collecting hobbies, dancing to radio pop, and rearranging the book stacks on her side tables.

Beach season is in sight, and along with it: paperback thriller season. Readers will want to get their salt-stained fingers on this new crop of thrillers for the 21st century. Modern nightmares await.

On a hot, dry day in early January, the East Coast loses power for good. There is a ferocious pack of killers on the loose; no one is safe and anyone could be the next victim. Where are they coming from and what do they want? They killed all of the pets first. In a surprising twist, it turns out everyone is a killer when you’re fighting for the last few drops of water. Who will survive the climate apocalypse and who will be killed by a thirsty grandma?

You spend your life devoted to security—but what happens when you become the target? Cyber security specialist Anna Thompson learns the hard way what happens to your credit score when hackers overseas steal your identity. A nail biter until the very end, readers will be on the edge of their seats wondering: will she ever be able to buy a house?


Karen has spent her life working at a job she hates just to earn enough money to get by. She wakes up most nights in a cold sweat, haunted by the memories of bussing tables to pay off her student loans. Echoes of “How hard is it to get an order right?” taunt her in her sleep. When she finally makes the last payment she is sure the nightmares will stop, but then her daughter tells her it’s time to look at colleges. Karen wonders if she’ll make it out alive this time.

Haunted by a string of bad boyfriends, Jodie has decided she’s ready to be single for a good, long while. But during a tropical storm in February, she receives a text message from an unknown number: “I have ur nudes” it says. Jodie’s stomach drops; she was always so careful to only send them via Snapchat, and she never received a screenshot notification. Her phone dings again: “By the way, this is your internet provider.” The power goes out.


An uneasy crowd is gathered in blizzardy California. People are starting to get anxious and the crowd starts moving closer and closer. It’s becoming difficult to breathe, and Jason Hedge is claustrophobic. He pulls out his phone. “Mom, I’m getting scared—do you think this is all worth it?” A Range Rover pulls up. Kendall Jenner steps out. Jason screams.  

In a small town outside of Baltimore, all of your neighbors are falling ill around you. The elderly lady on the corner dies and a teenager is rushed to the emergency room in the middle of the night. Sirens echo hauntingly through the quiet, dark night. Everywhere you turn, faces are tense, eye contact scarce. You’re scared to leave your home, afraid to be the next victim. The police are frantically trying to locate the cause, questioning parents and young couples. Is it suburban anti-vaxxers or is there E. coli in the lettuce? FDA Inspector Kyle may be the only one who can save them.