For a while, Ken Follett abandoned the spy genre, but his stories still had powerful narrative drive, strong women, suspense and intrigue. He followed Pillars with Night over Water, A Dangerous Fortune and A Place Called Freedom.

Follett returned to the thriller with The Third Twin, a scorching suspense novel about a young woman scientist who stumbles across a secret genetic-engineering experiment. Miniseries rights were sold to CBS for $1,400,000, a record for four hours of television. It starred Kelly McGillis and Larry Hagman, and was broadcast in November 1997. (Ken Follett appeared briefly as the butler.) In Publishing Trends' annual survey of international fiction best-sellers for 1997, The Third Twin was ranked number two in the world, beaten only by John Grisham's The Partner.

The Hammer of Eden, another nail-biting contemporary suspense story, came in 1998. Code to Zero (2000), about brainwashing and rocket science in the 50s, went to number one on best-seller lists in the United States, German and Italy, with film rights snapped up by Gladiator producer Doug Wick in a seven-figure deal. Jackdaws (2001), a World War II spy thriller in the tradition of Eye of the Needle, won the Corine Prize for 2003, film rights were sold to Dino De Laurentiis. Hornet Flight, published in December 2002, about two young people who escape German-occupied Denmark in a Hornet Moth biplane, is loosely based on a true story. White Out, a contemporary thriller about the theft of a dangerous virus from a laboratory, was published in 2004.

Ken Follett on why he became a writer. Watch

More from the complete reading guide to The Pillars of the Earth.


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