5 Tough Guys & Gals to Love

Read Steph Broadribb's exclusive guest blog about her favorite action heroes and follow the link at the bottom to claim several free stories from internationally bestselling authors!

I’ve always loved Westerns. You know, the lone cowboy rides into town, sorts out the bad guys, and moves on. I guess that’s partly what inspired my short story: “Burning Dust.” That and switching the lone cowboy to a lone cowgirl and having her drive into town on the tail of a man who has wronged her—her mind set on revenge.

There are a lot of similarities in the modern-day action thriller to the traditional Western: the kickass hero arrives in town (either by chance or intention) and rights the wrongs they find before setting off into the sunset. I’m a huge action thriller fan, and here are my top five action heroes:

Travis McGee

Created by the legendary John D. MacDonald, Travis McGee lived on a houseboat—The Busted Flush—in Florida and solved problems on injustice, often for a cut of what he recovered. I tend to think of Travis McGee as the grandfather of action thrillers, an action thriller elder if you will. And although the series has dated a little (mobile phone, what’s that?), it’s still as gripping and thrilling as ever. If you’ve not read any of the 21 books in the series, I recommend you start at the beginning with The Deep Blue Goodbye—purely because it’s my favorite!

See also: John D. MacDonald: Full-Color Noir

Charlie Fox

Zoe Sharp’s kickass female close protection specialist is a top-of-her-game hero and a true action lead. Gritty and realistic, these thrillers give a big emotional punch along with plenty of authentic, fast-paced action. There are currently 12 books in this popular series, and although I’d recommend starting at the beginning—one of the things I love about these books is Charlie’s emotional journey—they all work equally brilliantly as standalones. The latest book in the series, Fox Hunter, is fresh out this month.

Jack Reacher

It’s impossible to have a list of top action thriller protagonists without including Lee Child’s Reacher. He’s big, he’s smart, and he seems to be very hot on oral hygiene—what’s not to like! I’m a huge fan of the Reacher books. Each one has him ride into a different town and sort out a different set of bad guys. But he doesn’t charge for his services, he just serves justice and gets on his way. He’s the ultimate drifter tough guy. The 22nd book in the series, The Midnight Line, is published this November, and you can pretty much pick up any of them and read it as a standalone—or start from the beginning if that’s your preference. My favorites are One Shot, The Affair, Never Go Back, and Make Me.

Carter Blake

A man with a secret past, Carter Blake (not his real name) is a real man of mystery. He’s a kind of bounty hunter, specializing in hard-to-find people while trying to shake off the bad guys on his tail. He’s smart, agile, and very tech savvy. Author Mason Cross has created a protagonist with his own code of right and wrong and a strong sense of justice. Each book is set in a different location and sees Carter Blake arriving with a job to get done. It’s a relatively new series—four books in—and I recommend them all. I think my favorites, so far, are The Time to Kill and Don’t Look for Me.

Read David Cranmer's review of Winterlong, the third Carter Blake thriller!

Thea Paris

K. J. Howe’s debut thriller, The Freedom Broker, was published earlier this year—with the second book, Skyjack, due out next spring—and I just know that it’s going to become one of my favorite series. The first book introduces Thea Paris, an elite professional kidnap negotiator. She’s a woman at the top of her game in a largely male-dominated world, but she’s still haunted by the memory of her brother being kidnapped when they were children and her inability to save him. Twenty years later, the unthinkable happens: her father is abducted just before his birthday. Thea will do anything to find him. Fast-paced and totally engrossing, if you’ve not read The Freedom Broker, I recommend you get it now!

Read Thomas Pluck's review of The Freedom Broker!

I was certainly inspired by authors like John D. MacDonald, Lee Child, and Zoe Sharp when I started writing Deep Down Dead, my own debut action thriller. I wanted to create a kickass hero who was both tough and able to hold her own against the bad guys to get justice but who also grappled with the pressures of everyday life. From that, Lori Anderson—Florida bounty hunter and single mom—was born. 

Who’s your favorite action thriller hero?

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Steph Broadribb, aka www.crimethrillergirl.com, has an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) and is trained as a Bounty Hunter in California. Her debut thriller Deep Down Dead (Orenda Books) was shortlisted for the eDunnit eBook of the Year award, the Dead Good Reader Award for Fearless Female Character, and Dead Good Reader Award for Most Exceptional Debut. The second book in the Lori Anderson series—Deep Blue Trouble—is out in eBook October 17 and paperback January 18. She also writes the Starke/Bell psychological police procedural series as Stephanie Marland (for Trapeze – Orion), with the first book—My Little Eye—coming out in eBook November 17 and paperback April 18. 


  1. Zoë Sharp

    I’m honoured to be in such company, Steph. Thanks so much for giving Charlie Fox a seat at a very exclusive table.

    (Mind you, knowing Charlie if the trouble started she’d probably kick over the table and then beat someone to death with the chair.)

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