Writers who specialize in thrillers that have a bevy of twists and turns within their plots.
[listed in no particular order]
John Phillips is the name used by longtime television and film writer Rod Serling when he asked that his real name be removed as the writer of the pilot episode of the series "The New People" in 1969. While Serling's name remained as series developer, he was sufficiently annoyed with ABC- TV's editing of the pilot-- it was cut from 52 to 45 minutes to fit into a 90 minute time slot...
“ Creator/Writer of The Twilight Zone but also the feature films Planet of the Apes and Seven Days of May. ” - Schwenkstar
Born in New Jersey and raised in Brooklyn, Richard Burton Matheson first became a published author while still a child, when his stories and poems ran in the "Brooklyn Eagle". A lifelong reader of fantasy tales, he made his professional writing bow in 1950 when his short story "Born of Man and Woman"...
“ Wrote many episodes of The Twilight Zone with Serling & co. but also wrote a considerable number of feature-length thrillers - many for TV - such as Duel, Dying Room Only, Dead of Night, and Trilogy of Terror. ” - Schwenkstar
Charles Beaumont was the pseudonym for Charles Leroy Nutt, born on Chicago's North Side on January 2 1929. He also occasionally wrote under the names Charles McNutt and E.T. Beaumont (the latter apparently based on the name of a Texas town). Tragically short-lived, Beaumont was a dynamic and imaginative author and screenwriter of macabre...
“ Another cracker-jack writer for The Twilight Zone, but also having written such feature films as Night of the Eagle (with Matheson), Premature Burial, and Brain Dead (post-mortem). ” - Schwenkstar
Ray Bradbury was an American science fiction writer whose works were translated in more than 40 languages and sold millions of copies around the world. Although he created a world of new technical and intellectual ideas, he never obtained a driver's license and had never driven a car. He was born Ray Douglas Bradbury on August 22...
“ Famous for his published short stories - many of which were adapted for film and television - he also wrote many episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone as well as his creation of the underrated anthology series Ray Bradbury Theater. ” - Schwenkstar
was born in Wales in 1916. He served as a fighter pilot in the British R.A.F. (Royal Air Force) during World War II. He made a forced landing in the Libyan Desert and was severely injured. As a result, he spent five months in a Royal Navy hospital in Alexandria. Dahl is known for how he relates suspenseful events in a simple tone.
“ Famous for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory but few know about his knack for dark, twisty thrillers with many a surprise in the end. He's written many episodes for Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well as creating the underrated anthology series Tales of the Unexpected. ” - Schwenkstar
One of the driving, creative forces behind the legendary Hammer Studios, Jimmy Sangster was born on December 2nd, in Kinmel Bay, North Wales. He began in the film industry as a production assistant at age 16 during WWII. After this gig, he worked as a gofer and assistant projectionist for Norman's Film Services at London's Wardour Street...
“ Wrote many psychological thriller films for the Hammer Film Productions such as Scream of Fear, Paranoiac, Maniac, Nightmare, Hysteria, and other overly twisty films. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Like Sangster, Clemens also often wrote thrillers for the Hammer Film Productions - such as the surprisingly tricky film Captain Kronos - but he also wrote the cracker-jack thrillers And Soon the Darkness and See No Evil for other studios, as well as his greatest contribution - the television series Thriller, an anthology show similar to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. ” - Schwenkstar
Graduated in direction and screenwriting at Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia of Roma in 1957 and in Economy in 1967. He wrote more than one hundred movies of all kind and a dozen of novels. He signed some scripts and his SF novels as Julian Berry. Married in 1960 the actress Mara Maryl and he directed his wife in many movies.
“ Writer of such incredibly convoluted "giallo" (or Italian murder mysteries) as The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, The Case of the Scorpion's Tail, The Case of the Bloody Iris, Death Walks on High Heels, and - my personal favorite of his - Libido. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Writer of the "best hitchcock film not directed by hitchcock" (Charade) as well as other such twisty gems like Mirage, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and One of My Wives is Missing (a personal favorite of mine). ” - Schwenkstar
“ Best known for writing the quintessential stage thriller (Sleuth) and the "citizen kane of horror" (The Wicker Man), he has also written a Hitchcock movie (Frenzy), several Agatha Christie adaptations (Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun), as well as Absolution. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote with writing partner William Link. Though famous for creating such television shows as Columbo, Murder, She Wrote, and Ellery Queen, I will remember them most fondly for their twisty feature films - namely Murder by Natural Causes, Rehearsal for Murder, and Guilty Conscience. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Writing partner with Richard Levinson. See above for comments and credits. ” - Schwenkstar
“ She has adapted several of her own works onto the big screen - most notable Sorry, Wrong Number. However, The Hitch-hiker (adapted several times - including once for The Twilight Zone) and Night Watch are rather famous for their surprise endings. ” - Schwenkstar
Prolific mystery writer Cornell Woolrich was born in New York City, but his parents separated when he was young and he spent much of his childhood in Latin America with his father. Then he was sent back to New York to live with his rich, domineering mother, Claire. He attended Columbia University where he wrote his first novel...
“ Famous for his novels and short stories, many of Woolrich's tales have been adapted for the screen - both big and small. ” - Schwenkstar
Ira Levin decided on a career of a writer at the age of 15. Educated at the elite Horace Mann school, he went on to two years at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, before transferring to New York University, where he majored in philosophy and English. He earned his degree in 1950. In 1953 he was drafted into the army...
“ Rosemary's Baby, Death Trap, The Boys From Brazil, and The Stepford Wives - all with a crazy twist or two! ” - Schwenkstar
“ His plays Dial M For Murder and Wait Until Dark are thrilling, twisty works of suspense, and his efforts on The Honey Pot and Write Me A Murder can not be ignored. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Famous for writing the novel Psycho on which the Hitchcock film is based, he also wrote for the television shows Thriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, as well as feature films for William Castle (such as Strait-Jacket) and Amicus Productions (such as Asylum). ” - Schwenkstar
Walter Braden "Jack" Finney was an American writer, mainly known for his contributions to the science-fiction genre. His most popular novels are "The Body Snatchers" (1955) and "Time and Again} (1970), although throughout his career he published nearly 50 novels that encompass the noir, thriller and comedy genres...
“ Probably most famous for The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, he also wrote many time travel stories and crime tales. ” - Schwenkstar
, the English director, screenwriter, and producer, was born on February 15, 1908 in Edgely, Cheshire, England. He began his screen-writing career in the silent movie era, writing inter-titles, going uncredited for his contributions to Honeymoon Abroad
, and Week-End Wives
“ Famous for writing the early Hitchcock films The Lady Vanishes and Jamaica Inn, he also wrote such notable twisty thrillers as Night Train to Munich, Seven Sinners, Rome Express, and - my personal favorite - Green for Danger. Often wrote with Frank Launder. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Writing partner with Sidney Gilliat. See above for comments and credits. ” - Schwenkstar
“ One half of the French suspense duo Boileau and Narcejac, writers of such twisty thrill rides as Vertigo, Diabolique, Spotlight on a Murderer, and Faces in the Dark. ” - Schwenkstar
“ The other half of the French suspense duo Boileau and Narcejac. See above for credits. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Writer of the Maigret detective novels and other tales of crime. ” - Schwenkstar
“ French writer who wrote the ingeniously twisty play Trap For A Single Man (adapted at least five times for film - probably more) as well as 8 Femmes and other tricky tales. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote many of Amicus' anthology horror films - The Vault of Horror, Tales from the Crypt, and Dr. Terror's House of Horrors - and the terrific Gothic chiller The City of the Dead. ” - Schwenkstar
Agatha was born as "Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller" in 1890 to Frederick Alvah Miller and Clara Boehmer. Agatha was of American and British descent, her father being American and her mother British. Her father was a relatively affluent stockbroker. Agatha received home education from early childhood to when she turned 12-years-old in 1902...
“ A master at the "Who-done-it?" No comments necessary. Her name says it all. ” - Schwenkstar
Stephen Edwin King was born on September 21, 1947, at the Maine General Hospital in Portland. His parents were Nellie Ruth (Pillsbury), who worked as a caregiver at a mental institute, and Donald Edwin King, a merchant seaman. His father was born under the surname "Pollock", but used the last name "King"...
“ No description needed given him infamy. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Creator of the speculative anthology show Black Mirror which features tales of a sci-fi nature (usually) that critiques our society in a rather scathing - and horrifyingly accurate - manner. Some tales are more psychological drama than thriller, but a few episodes - live White Bear are full-bore thrillers with shocking twists. He also wrote the zombie satire Dead Set. ” - Schwenkstar
was raised in Ohio by Serita Rosenthal Ellison and Louis Laverne Ellison. He has an older sister, Beverly. Mr. Ellison has been married five times. He lives in Sherman Oaks at "Ellison Wonderland". He has had the same address and phone number for twenty-six years. He is a non-smoker, non-drinker and has never used drugs.
“ Like Bradbury, Ellison is more known for his published short stories. However, his work in television for such shows as The Outer Limits and the 1980s revival of The Twilight Zone demonstrated his knack for twisty plots on the (small) screen. Though I think it is over-rated, most consider his teleplay The Demon With The Glass Hand for the show The Outer Limits as being one of the best episodes of any show, period. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Terrific suspense writer who wrote many twisty tales of malice, many of which adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents - his most famous certainly being "Specialty of the House" which features an unforgettable revelation. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Johnson wrote a handful of episodes for The Twilight Zone (seven to be exact), the episode "I'll Take Care Of You" for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the novel Logan's Run, and - probably most famously - Ocean's Eleven. ” - Schwenkstar
“ His plays - I Killed The Count and The Gazebo - are twisty tales that made it to the big screen. He also wrote the screenplay for Vertigo and other great thrillers. ” - Schwenkstar
Earl Hamner Jr.
He was also the Creator and Executive Producer for the show "FALCON CREST'' 1981 thru 1988. The show starred Jane Wyman, Lorenzo Lamas, Robert Foxworth, and Susan Sullivan. The show was set in the Napa Valley of California. And centered on the power and intrigues of the families involved in the wine producing industry.
“ Probably most famous for his family-oriented tales about country life - he created Charlotte's Web and The Waltons - but a little known fact is that he wrote many macabre stories for such anthology shows as The Twilight Zone, including the twisty episode "Stopover in a Quiet Town". ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote the terrifying Twilight Zone episode It's a Good Life, as well as writing the subtle yet mind-boggling The Man from Earth and episodes for Star Trek that involve parallel universes. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Screenwriter of such classic thrillers like The Spiral Staircase, The Window, and Cause for Alarm!. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote the story for The Lady Vanishes, the Gothic thriller Spiral Staircase, the haunting The Unseen, and finally the shocker An Unlocked Window which features a killer twist in its tail! ” - Schwenkstar
London-born Angus MacPhail worked as a screenwriter for many years with producer Michael Balcon
, but he wrote for many of Britain's most prestigious studios, such as Gainsborugh, Gaumont-British and Ealing. He is probably best known for his script for the classic British feature Dead of Night
, but also worked for Alfred Hitchcock
“ Wrote a few Hitchcock thrillers (Spellbound, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The Wrong Man), a segment for Dead of Night, and a handful of other British thrillers. ” - Schwenkstar
Creative horror screenwriter Joseph Stefano has been writing scripts since the early sixties. His first was The Black Orchid
. Less than a year later, he met his new friend, Alfred Hitchcock
, to do the famous script for Psycho
. Stefano decided to drop the script for Hitchcock's The Birds
“ Screenwriter of Hitchcock's classic shocker Psycho, many episodes of The Outer Limits (twelve of them), and a slew of TV thrillers in the 70s. ” - Schwenkstar
Attended University of Cincinatti, Hanover College, Indiana, but didn't obtain a degree. Worked in an office 1924-36, when he left to become writer, proofreader for the "Milwaukee Journal". Also started writing at this time, selling the first of over 300 short stories. Active in both science-fiction and mystery fields...
“ Wrote episodes for Alfred Hitchcock Presents but probably more famous for his novel The Screaming Mimi being the inspiration for Bird With The Crystal Plumage. He also wrote the amnesia mystery Crack-Up. ” - Schwenkstar
Advertising executive for Disney and Twentieth Century Fox before turning to screenwriting in the 1950s. Prolific writer who also published more than 50 books.
“ Wrote episodes for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Suspicion as well as the horror classic Village Of The Damned and won an Oscar for In The Heat Of The Night. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote episodes for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Twilight Zone as well as film noir mysteries such as The Phantom Lady and The Dark Corner. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote episodes for such anthology shows as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Suspense, The Outer Limits, and One Step Beyond as well as episodes for Perry Mason and the film noir mystery Dark Waters. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote episodes for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Circle of Fear as well as the noir Pushover and The Strangler. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote episodes for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, Tales of the Unexpected , and the twisty (yet dull) TV movie Honeymoon with a Stranger. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote episodes of The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Outer Limits... all with a twist! ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote episodes for The Night Gallery, but also wrote the twisty thriller Games and the conspiracy thriller How I Spent My Summer Vacation. ” - Schwenkstar
“ A sadly forgotten short story writer who has written many tales of suspense. Some tales were adapted for classic shows like Thriller, Tales of Tomorrow, and Lights Out. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Prolific writer of the radio program Lights Out. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Creator of the horror anthology show Beasts as well as other shows of the macabre. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote segments for the TV anthology films Trilogy of Terror and Trilogy of Terror II as well as episodes for Darkroom and the feature film Burnt Offerings. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote 100s of short stories in the 40s and 50s. Some were adapted to anthology shows and a few films. ” - Schwenkstar
McDowell was born in Enterprise, Alabama. According to his biography in the 1985 edition of Toplin, McDowell lived in Medford, Massachusetts. He also maintained a residence in Hollywood with his sister Ann and adventurer-filmmaker Peter Lake. The biography described a typical day: McDowell "writes in...
“ Wrote the best episodes for Tales From The Darkside as well as writing episodes for the 80s revival for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Amazing Stories, and Tales from the Crypt. However, he is probably most famous for writing Beetlejuice and A Nightmare Before Christmas. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Aussie writer of a multitude of thrillers. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Prolific Spanish writer who has written films for Alex De La Iglesia, Pedro Almodovar, and more. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Probably Japan's most well-known author of twisty thrillers... or rather, "twisted" thrillers, as most of his tales feature lurid content. As for films, his most famous would be Blind Beast and Horror of a Deformed Man. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Another Japanese writer of twisty thrillers who successfully collaborated with director Yoshitaro Nomura on such tricky films as Zero Focus and The Castle of Sand. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Created the detective Kôsuke Kindaichi whose stories were adapted into such twisty murder mysteries as The Inugami Family and Village of Eight Gravestones. ” - Schwenkstar
“ His Suspect X features brilliant plotting, The Lakeside Murder Case is solid Agatha Christie by way of Hitchcock storytelling, and his teen-centric pop thriller G@me may be a bit unfocused but is unpredictable nevertheless. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Key films - Helpless, The Reason, Brave Story ” - Schwenkstar
Joe R. Lansdale
Joe R Lansdale is a prolific genre fiction writer, who has published hundreds of novels, novellas, novelettes, short stories, chapbooks, comic books, graphic novels, and collections. Joe is arguably most famous for his Bram Stoker Award-nominated novella, 'BubbaHo-Tep', which was later adapted to film...
“ His published short stories are clever tales of terror ala Twilight Zone. Film adaptations of his work haven't quite captured his ingenuity... so far! ” - Schwenkstar
Screenwriter, novelist, playwright, non-fiction author. Born in Highland Park, Illinois, USA, began his career as a novelist in 1957. Started writing screenplays in 1965 with "Masquerade". A two-time Academy Award Winner, he is one of the most successful screenwriters and script doctors in Hollywood.
“ Hollywood screenwriter icon whose work on Harper, No Way To Treat A Lady, The Stepford Wives, The Hot Rock, and Marathon Man - just to name a few - prove his thrillers are not so predictable. ” - Schwenkstar
Three-time Oscar nominee Frank Darabont was born in a refugee camp in 1959 in Montbeliard, France, the son of Hungarian parents who had fled Budapest during the failed 1956 Hungarian revolution. Brought to America as an infant, he settled with his family in Los Angeles and attended Hollywood High School...
“ Wrote a pair of episodes of Tales From The Crypt Keeper as well as screenplays for the quite excellent The Shawshank Redemption and The Mist, which may be flawed but that dark twist ending it a knock-out. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Probably most known for his directorial effort The Lookout - a clever neo-noir - he has also written the deliciously convoluted Malice, the cyberpunk detective film Minority Report, and - my personal favorite - the romantic supernatural mystery Dead Again. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Screenwriter for many high profile Hollywood films, but he has done his fair share of twisty thrillers - including his directorial efforts Stir of Echoes, Secret Window, and Premium Rush - and his strictly written work Panic Room, Snake Eyes, and Mission: Impossible. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Wrote the episode Blink for Doctor Who which was brilliant - it should of been adapted for film rather than sequestered in the middle of a serialized television show. Other work includes the episode Study in Pink for the show Sherlock and the screenplay for The Adventures of Tin Tin. ” - Schwenkstar
Mark Gatiss is an accomplished author, actor and playwright. Originally from Sedgefield, he graduated from Bretton Hall Drama College with a BA (honors) in Theatre Arts. He was one-quarter of the award-winning comedy team The League of Gentlemen
, and became heavily involved in the post-television Doctor Who
“ Writer of a few episodes of Sherlock, wrote the horror omnibus Crooked House, and - outside of film - wrote many thriller tales for BBC radio. ” - Schwenkstar
Born in Santa Monica, California, on December 4, 1951, Mick Garris grew up with his mother in the San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Van Nuys from age 12, following his parents' divorce. Garris was making his own 8mm home movies around that time, and when he got older be became a freelance critic for a number of film and music celebrities...
“ Creator of the anthology series Fear Itself and Masters of Horror, both of which had mixed results but always a twist in the end. Garris also wrote episodes for Spielberg's own anthology series Amazing Stories which ranged from hits (like Life on Death Row) to misses (like The Greibble). ” - Schwenkstar
“ A new writer on the block for twisty thrillers. His first two works - the minimalist Buried and ATM - indicate that he's got talent (well, more so Buried than ATM). Indeed, anyone who can formulate a clever plot from one location is gifted. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Lately he hasn't been producing anything of note, but his initial run of films he's scripted - Ravenous, Best Laid Plans, Ocean's Eleven, and (most notably) Matchstick Men - all were cleverly crafted tales. ” - Schwenkstar
“ The guy certainly is rather hit or miss, but his work on Arlington Road - and, to a lesser degree, The Skeleton Key, Reindeer Games, and Imposter - shows he can pull off a twist or two. ” - Schwenkstar
“ Another who is hit or miss with his material, but his work on The Recruit - and, to a lesser degree, Street Kings, Salt and the Total Recall remake - show he is capable of producing a measure of twists and turns. ” - Schwenkstar
Grew up in the New Bern, NC area. There is an actual Dawsons Creek in Oriental, NC where Williamson grew up.
“ Yet another whose work is hit or miss, but no one can argue the cleverness of his script for Scream. His later films strive for twists but seem to only recycle his own previous work. ” - Schwenkstar
“ His first film - Inside Man - played out some nice twists, his second film - Righteous Kill - played out some bad ones... still unproven. ” - Schwenkstar
M. Night Shyamalan
Born in Puducherry, India, and raised in the posh suburban Penn Valley area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, M. Night Shyamalan is a film director, screenwriter, producer, and occasional actor, known for making movies with contemporary supernatural plots. He is the son of Jayalakshmi, a Tamil obstetrician and gynecologist...
“ He's the butt-end of jokes lately, but his earlier works - namely The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs - can't be ignored for their cleverness and ingenuity... even if he's been downhill since those films. ” - Schwenkstar