From Tolkien’s Eowyn to Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, action-adventure and thriller literature never lacked for empowered, even willful and dominant female characters. ReadersMagnet takes a closer look at thrillers with strong female characters.
In literature, especially in action thrillers, women seldom play the main protagonist. However, there have been a number of strong female characters playing supporting roles in action novels. Throughout the history of
action-thriller novels, women were relegated to “damsel in distress” mold or secondary characters. The first thriller The Riddle of the Sands (1930) originally had no female characters. Erskine Childers had to be convinced by his publishers to add one woman character. Although there have been breakthroughs for female book characters in lead roles, such as Ken Follet’s 1978 spy thriller Eye of the Needle, thriller books with strong female characters in central roles are not that many. However, the success of action thrillers, particularly spy novels by John le Carré, Ian Fleming, and Robert Ludlum, allowed female characters to be recognized by many
Bond Girls and other Female Characters in Thriller Lit Holly Goodhead, May Day, Elektra King, Octopussy, Solitaire, and Strawberry Fields are characters in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series. These characters play either as Bond’s ally, lover, villain or colleague. These women in the books also have peculiar names that make them hard to forget. If you see the list of all Bond girls, most of them have pretty unusual, funny, or controversial names.
Robert Ludlum’s most famous work the Bourne Trilogy produced two female characters who held their own ground with the fierce Marine Captain. Marie St. Jacques, Bourne’s partner, and Catherine Staples, a former colleague whom Bourne turned to when he needed help evading the authorities.
Though not known for employing women agents, John le Carré’s thrillers also have their share of strong female characters. For example, in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and two other novels from the Karla Trilogy, we meet Connie Sachs. Sachs works for Control and is best known for having an incredible memory and intellect that Control literally had to invent a job for her just so Sachs could work for him. She is a close ally to Smiley and a key figure in defeating Karla. In the novel The Spy Who Came from the Cold, le Carré introduced us to Liz Gold. Gold is a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and Alec Leamas’ love interest. Despite not a soldier or a main player in the novel, Gold is committed to the story’s main protagonist and even sacrificed her life at the end of the novel.
Paul Shemella’s Jungle Rules Trilogy
A new generation of action-thrillers such as Jack Reacher by Lee Childs and the dark Red, White, Blue by Lea Carpenter have shown success in recent years. However, Paul Shemella’s Jungle Rules Trilogy is the one closest to continuing Fleming’s tradition of thrillers having strong female characters. In his first book, the Jungle Rules, Shemella instantly introduces as to three powerful and independent women.
Jungle Rules tells the story of a mercenary named Carl Malinowski. Carl heads his team on dangerous missions. However, just as Malinowski was contemplating the idea of finally leaving all his troubles and live a life of peace with the girl of his dreams, Carl’s life is thrown in chaos. He and his team are sent on a final mission to save a hostage. On top of this, he also finds out that the cartel and the government are also planning to get rid of him. Amidst all these, Carl encounters these three women- Gabriele Bach, Julia Mendoza, and Susan Mackenzie.
Gabriele Bach is Carl Malinowski’s love interest in Jungle Rules. In book one, Bach is a typical female character who is thrown into the violent world of men with guns. However, in Shemella’s second book, she transforms into a brilliant and fierce counterpart of the book’s protagonist.
Susan Mackenzie is a DC police officer and a close friend of Gabriele. She is a central character in the second book.
Julia Mendoza is a vixen who runs a drug cartel after her husband was kidnapped by the American government. She is the main antagonist in the first book. Seductive, cunning and ruthless, Julia is a menacing figure for Carl Malinowski and so far Paul Shemella’s strongest female character.
Shemella is a retired US Navy Captain and a lecturer. He is the author of Jungle Rules and other books. To more about his books and other related works, you can visit his website http://paulshemella.com/