10 Best Authors Like W.E.B. Griffin for Military and Espionage Thriller Fans

Check out our list of the best authors like W.E.B. Griffin. If you’re looking for a military epic or spy thriller to read, they’re sure to have one.

W.E.B. Griffin is a New York Times bestselling author with over 50 military thriller novels and many additional books under his many pen names. After growing up in New York City, he joined the army in 1946. This led to him receiving counterintelligence training and becoming part of the Army Occupation in Germany during World War II. In the 1950s, he was recalled and sent to the Korean War. After his release, he became the Chief of the Publications Division in the Army at Fort Rucker. All of this military experience played heavily into his books.

Griffin has had many pen names throughout his writing career, including Ale Baldwin, Webb Beech, and James McM. Douglas, and John Kevin Dugan, among others. His first book as Griffin was The Lieutenants, which he published in 1982 and started a nine-book series. As W.E.B. Griffin, he is best known for his military epics, with over 50 books across seven series. These have had 50 million copies in over ten languages. If you like this writing style, check out authors like Anthony Horowitz and W.E.B. Griffin.

Best Authors Like W.E.B. Griffin Ranked

1. Jack Higgins, 1929 – 2022

Jack Higgins
Black and white photo of Jack Higgins

Jack Higgins is the pen name for Henry Patterson, a British author of thrillers and espionage novels. Born in Newcastle upon Tyne in an era of political and religious unrest, he saw first-hand the challenges of war. Higgins learned to read at a young age and then studied sociology in college before becoming a teacher. In 1959 he started writing novels and used several pen names throughout his literary career, including James Graham, Martin Fallon, and Hugh Marlowe, before settling on Jack Higgins in the late 1960s. 

The Savage Day and A Prayer for the Dying, published in 1972 and 1973, were his first bestsellers, but with his 1975 book The Eagle Has Landedhe shot his way to success. The book was on the top 10 bestseller list in England for 36 weeks, and many critics state that Higgins changed the face of the war novel with his writing. As of 2016, the author had 77 books, with many of those published under the Jack Higgins mantra.

“Words become meaningless, the mind cuts itself off from reality for a little while, a necessary breathing space until one is ready to cope.”

Jack Higgins, The Eagle Has Landed

2. Stuart Woods, 1938 – 2022

Stuart Woods
Photo of Stuart Woods smiling

American author Stuart Woods is best known for Chiefs, his first novel, which he published in 1981 and which won an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Woods got the idea for his first novel from a blood-stained police chief badge he found at his grandmother’s house. It became popular after CBS broadcast a miniseries based on the book. After this initial success, Woods turned to a series of novels starring Stone Barrington, a former NYPD detective who started working as a lawyer.

The books were quite popular, and at the time of his death in 2022, he had 63 novels in that series. An additional book in the series was published after his death. Woods published several other series and stand-alone novels, and 70 of his books have been bestsellers.

“So people respected foxy. But they also thought he was crazy.”

Stuart Woods, Chiefs
Chiefs: A Novel (25th Anniversary Edition)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Woods, Stuart (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 03/06/2006 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)

3. Tom Clancy, 1984 – 2013

Tom Clancy
Black and white photo of Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy is best known as the author of the Jack Ryan novels, which started with his 1984 novel The Hunt for Red October. Clancy brought the world of CIA analyst Ryan to life and wrote 19 books in the series before he died in 2013. Clancy won several awards for his work, including the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement in 1988. The 1989 novel Clear and Present Danger was the bestselling of the 1980s. When he died, he had an estimated 100 million books in print, and 17 of his novels were number-one New York Times bestsellers. In addition, four feature films were made based on his books.

“The point of life was to press on, to do the best you can, to make the world a better place.”

Tom Clancy, Clear and Present Danger
Clear and Present Danger
  • Clancy, Tom (Author)
  • 05/27/1994 (Publication Date) - Berkley Pub Group (Publisher)

4. Brad Thor, 1969 –

Photo of Brad Thor at a book signing

Brad Thor is an American author of thriller books originally from Chicago. Before he started his writing career, Thor graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in creative writing. The Lions of Lucerne, published in 2002, was his first novel, followed by Path of the Assassin and State of the Union. Thor has 22 thrillers, including Blowback, which NPR named as one of the Top 100 Killer Thrillers of All Time. In his books, Thor draws from his experience as a member of the Analytic Red Cell Unit in the Department of Homeland Security. Before writing, he also created a national public television series called Traveling Lite.

“If there’s one lesson I’ve learned, it’s that life is all about change, and stress comes from avoiding change.”

Brad Thor, Blowback
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Blowback: James Patterson's Best Thriller in Years
  • Hardcover Book
  • Patterson, James (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 512 Pages - 09/12/2022 (Publication Date) - Little, Brown and Company (Publisher)

5. John Altman, 1969 –

John Altman is a thriller author with eight books to his name. A Gathering of Spies is his first novel, published in 2000. Altman fell in love with writing as a young child, writing books in notebooks starting in the third grade. In middle school, he published short stories in the school literary magazine and received praise from teachers and students alike.

As a young man, Altman accidentally set fire to his parent’s home while smoking and this tragedy caused him to run away from home. Ending up in New York City, he sidelined in a band while writing on the side as a freelancer. Finally, when he was 29, he sold his first book, then published three more in just five years. Altman’s books fall in the spy thriller genre, and he continues to add more works to his book list. Check out these authors like Nick Petrie.

“Not all of me is dust. Within my song, safe from the worm, my spirit will survive.”

John Altman, A Gathering of Spies
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A Gathering of Spies
  • Altman, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 296 Pages - 07/10/2018 (Publication Date) - Open Road Integrated Media, Inc. (Publisher)

6. David Downing, 1946 –

David Downing
Photo of David Downing looking directly at the camera

David Downing is an English author who publishes crime fiction thrillers and non-fiction works. After growing up in London, he attended the University of Sussex, earning a bachelor’s in Afro-Asian Studies. He then traveled through Asia, Europe, and South America. Before writing, he worked for Let It Rock magazine. This experience in music led to his first book, a non-fiction work entitled Future Rock, which he published in 1975.

The John Russell novels were his first series, starting with Zoo Station in 2007. These books are set in World War II Berlin, and he has seven. In 2013, Downing introduced the Jack McColl series, starting with Jack of Spies, and these books are set in the World War I era. Because of his work, he has contributed significantly to the studies of both of these wars. He has also written The Moscow Option, a counterfactual history of World War II. You also enjoy these authors like Fredrick Forsyth.

“A woman in a fur coat emerged from the shop with two pedigree schausers in tow. Both had enamel swastikas fastened to their collars, and Russell wondered if they had pictures of the Fuehrer pinned up in their kennels.

David Downing, Zoo Station
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Zoo Station
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Downing, David (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 05/01/2007 (Publication Date) - Soho Press (Publisher)

7. Leonard B. Scott

Leonard B. Scott is a retired full colonel in the United States Army. Because of his illustrious military career, including a Silver Star and Purple Heart award, Colonel Scott has a significant amount of background knowledge to apply to his books. In 1985, nine years before he retired from the military, he published Charlie Mike, his first novel. Unlike many military thrillers, this one was set in the Vietnam War, the war Scott had much experience in, instead of one of the World Wars. He has ten distinct works, including The Last Run, his 1987 novel, and The Iron Men, his 1993 novel.

“The rain forest was still and silent. Its muggy air stank with rot. The midday sun attacked the green canopy above, but the intertwined latticework of foliage allowed only the narrowest shafts of light to dapple the jungle floor.”

Leonard B. Scott, Charlie Mike
Charlie Mike: A Novel
  • Scott, Leonard B. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 05/12/1988 (Publication Date) - Ballantine Books (Publisher)

8. Stephen Hunter, 1946 –

An American novelist, Stephen Hunter was born to parents who put a love for reading and writing into his life. His father was a Northwestern University professor, and his mother wrote children’s books. In 1968 he graduated from college with a degree in journalism before joining the Army. During his time in the service, he wrote for a military paper. After leaving the military, he started working for The Baltimore Sun, then moved to The Washington Post.

As a reporter, he earned many distinctions, including the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2003. While working as a reporter, he also published novels, starting with The Master Sniper in 1980. In 1993 he introduced Bob Lee Swagger with Point of Impact, the first book in a 12-book series about a sniper and Vietnam War veteran. You might also be interested in these authors like Ruth Ware.

“But shooting a man takes one of two things: an overwhelming fear of one’s own death, which Nick did not have in the least; or conviction. It turned out he lacked this component as well.”

Stephen Hunter, Point of Impact
Point of Impact
  • Hunter,Stephen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 528 Pages - 05/28/2024 (Publication Date) - Arrow (Publisher)

9. Richard Herman

Richard Herman writes techno-thriller books that draw from his experience in the Air Force working as a weapons systems officer. After he retired from the service in 1983, he started writing. During his time in the military, he attained the rank of major and had 240 combat missions in Southeast Asia. Many of his books feature the aircraft he enjoyed when in the military. In 1989 he published his first novel, The Warbirds, which was the first in the Jack Locke series. The Matt Pontowski series is another set of books attributed to Herman.

“Locke’s name was right there, correctly spelled and underlined in the Security Police report. The wing commander reread it slowly, savouring what was between the lines.”

Richard Herman, The Warbirds

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10. Stephen Coonts, 1946 –

Stephen Coonts is another author with military experience who turned to writing military and spy thriller books. Following college at West Virginia University, he joined the Navy and became a Naval Aviator. This led to his service in Vietnam aboard an aircraft carrier, earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross. After retiring from active duty, he got a law degree. He spent several years working as a lawyer while writing in his free time.

In 1984, he published Flight of the Intruder, his first novel. It spent 28 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and became a movie in 1991. The success of this first novel and its sequel, The Intruders, allowed him to quit his law degree and write full-time. With 36 novels to his name, including 16 that made it to the bestseller list, he is a successful author in the thriller genre. You might like these authors like Tom Wood.

“Can you believe that? Americans spitting on the men who have sworn to defend them, on the men who’ve sworn to obey the orders of the elected, civilian government.”

Stepehn Coonts, Flight of the Intruder
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Flight of the Intruder: A Jake Grafton Novel (Jake Grafton Novels, 1)
  • Coonts, Stephen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 512 Pages - 12/29/2015 (Publication Date) - St. Martin's Paperbacks (Publisher)

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best spy novels!

  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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