If you could give someone 5 crime novels that for you represents everything great about the genre, what would they be?
It was originally posted on Twitter before I spread it around to some other places. Keeping in mind the character constraints of Twitter I tried to craft the question in such a way as to be a kind of hybrid question that lies somewhere between “What is the best” and “what are your favorites”. Which isn’t to say that I succeeded just that was the goal. My intentions were simple, I was hoping that it would be a cheap ploy to have everyone pass along some recommendations and so that we could talk about books.
I like these kind of open ended questions, without specific parameters nailed down, because it’s interesting to see what the answer says about the person who created it based off of their interpretation of what the question implies, but doesn’t state, to them.
After the jump check out all of the responses
The first person to respond was Jon Jordan:
In A Strange City by Laura Lippman
Place Of Execution by Val McDermid
Sleepyhead by Mark Billlingham
Darkness Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane
George Chesbro – Dark Chant in a Crimson Key
Soon after The Nerd of Noir answered:
Clockers Richard Price
The Sweet Forever George Pelecanos
American Skin Ken Bruen
American Tabloid James Ellroy
Mystic River Dennis Lehane
As I said I posed the question at different places. The following answers came from The Big Adios:
1. The Friends of Eddie Coyle
2. The Hackman Blues
4.The Killer Inside Me
5.The Cat Who Robbed a Bank 🙂
High Priest of California (Willeford – notice how the protagonist gets his yuk-yuks from Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony”)
A Hell of A Woman (Thompson – I’d also single out “Savage Night” and “The Getaway”)
High Life (Stokoe – the absolute end of the line for L.A. noir)
The Vengeance Man (Marlowe – for the bruising sex & violence. Mean!)
Rendezvous in Black (Woolrich – something very dreamlike and fatalistic about this book that does it for me)
THE MALTESE FALCON / Dashiell Hammett
13 FRENCH STREET / Gil Brewer
SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER / David Goodis
THE KILLER INSIDE ME / Jim Thompson
DOUBLE INDEMNITY / James M Cain
Max Allan Collins (with a ps):
THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE James M. Cain (lust-driven crime)
KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE Horace McCoy (criminal narrator — all Thompson derives from this)
THE MALTESE FALCON Dashiell Hammett (defines the P.I. genre)
THE CON MAN Ed McBain (somewhat arbitrary selection by author who defined police procedural)
THE ASPHALT JUNGLE W.R. Burnett (thief as antihero — father to Richard Stark )
Five authors not mentioned above without whom the crime genre would be a sad place indeed:
Donald E. Westlake
1. Caught Stealing by Charlie Huston
2. A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane
3. California Fire and Life by Don Winslow
4. Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
5. The Dramatist by Ken Bruen
Shake Him Til He Rattles- Malcolm Braly
Hell’s Our Destination- Gil Brewer
They Don’t dance Much- James Ross
Simple Plan- Scott Smith
La Brava- Elmore Leonard
THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY by Patricia Highsmith
THE KILLER INSIDE ME by Jim Thompson
THE NEON RAIN by James Lee Burke
LA CONFIDENTIAL by James Ellroy
FATHERLAND by Robert Harris
Plenty of authors missing off the list (Chandler, MacDonald, Menkell, Goodis, etc, etc), but that would probably be my “Desert Island Crime Novels”
FALLING ANGEL William Hjortsburg
THE MONGOL REPLY Benjamin Schutz
THE FAR CRY Fredric Brown
THE AUTUMN DEAD Ed Gorman
BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL Elliott Chaze
Jen Forbus was an early responder too, acknowledging that it would take some time and thought. She eventually posted about the question
but couldn’t quite pull the trigger on a list. The comments provided some more lists. Where’s that list Jen 😉 Jen corrected me she did make a list.
Jen Forbus (go read her post for her reasons plus other titles):
LAST CAR TO ELYSIAN FIELDS
THE BRUTAL TELLING
1) LA Requiem. Duh.
2) DOUBLE INDEMNITY–James M. Cain
3) CAUGHT STEALING–Charlie Huston
4) THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS–Thomas Harris
5) AND THEN THERE WERE NONE–Agatha Christie
THE GODFATHER by Mario Puzo
THE FRATERNITY OF THE STONE/THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE/THE LEAGUE OF NIGHT AND FOG by David Morrell
THE BOURNE IDENTITY by Robert Ludlum
L.A.REQUIEM by Robert Crais
WINTER AND NIGHT by S.J. Rozan
1. The Complete Sherlock Holmes. My first real mystery; my first love!
2. The Three Coffins. John Dickson Carr introduced me to both fair play and locked rooms.
3. And Then There Were None. Christie’s best, IMHO.
4. The Doorbell Rang. Rex Stout created my favorite US detective, and this one would convert almost anyone to a Wolfe fan.
5. The Nine Tailors. Still my favorite Sayers, carrying crime fiction into literature.
Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, Lawrence Block
Roseanna, Maj Sjowal and Per Wahloo
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
The Maltese Falcon
Winter and Night
The Dawn Patrol
The Rap Sheet also picked up on the question and ran with it.
J. Kingston Pierce (who pulls a fast one and slips in an omnibus – that’s ok I admire the creativity):
The Maltese Falcon (1930), by Dashiell Hammett
The Chill (1964), by Ross Macdonald
The Eighth Circle (1958), by Stanley Ellin
Berlin Noir, by Philip Kerr
Waxwork (1978), by Peter Lovesey
From the comments of The Rap Sheet
1. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
2. A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler
3. The Specialty of the House by Stanley Ellin
4. The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowell and Per Wahloo
5. The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow
God, it’s so hard not to just list every Dashiell Hammett novel except for The Dain Curse.
1. The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett.
2. Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene.
3. 813, by Maurice Leblanc: great serial killer/conspiracy novel starring the gentleman thief, Arsene Lupin.
4. The Amateur Cracksman, by E.W. Hornung: because I do love my gentleman thieves.
5. Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. Kind of a cheat, but it’s a novel about agents of the Empire working for Dracula and his wife Queen Victoria to capture Jack the Ripper, who is killing vampire women with a silver knife. It sort of qualifies.
Hound of the Baskervilles (1901-02) by Arthur Conan Doyle – “Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!” Need I say more?
The Maltese Falcon (1930), by Dashiell Hammett – Great dialogue, great writing, and great characters. What else do you need?
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963) by John le Carré – This novel put spy novels into the literature category. Great atmosphere.
Memory (written in 1960s, published 2010) by Donald Westlake – One of the best character studies I have read. It is about a man whose brain was injured during a bar fight. It reaches from the past and shakes you until you understand its present day implications for individual human beings and our society.
2666 (2009) by Roberto Bolaño – Not your traditional mystery and I am not sure what it all (900+ pages) means, but some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read.
We had one responder over on Faceboook.
Matthew C Funk (Make my funk the C funk, I wants to get funked up. I want the bomb, I want the C funk – ahem, sorry):
No Country for Old Men
The Big Sleep
The Big Nowhere
The Killer Inside Me
I think I’ve gathered them all. If I didn’t yell at me in the comments but more importantly. What are your five? (I’ll put mine in the comments)