Sunday, January 16, 2011

Breaking New Ground: Crime

I know nothing about Crime fiction. If asked, I couldn’t even tell you what really distinguishes Crime/Noir/Mystery/Thriller/what have you.

Initially, that was only going to be the opening of several introductory paragraphs of my view of Crime fiction. I was planning to go through the clichés and the reasons I hadn't read it and all of that, but I realized that those two sentences really say it all. I don't know enough about Crime to say more, besides that I should read Chandler at some point.

But, if I don't know anything about it, how did I select books for this Breaking New Ground? Simple: I found a random crime blogger and asked them for a list. The Nerd of Noir was kind enough to comply, and I then picked random books off the list to start with.

Just for anyone interested in the genre, I'll post the rest of the given list (also check the comments for other recommendations):

Modern Noir:

Twisted City by Jason Starr

Hard Man by Allan Guthrie

American Skin by Ken Bruen

Pariah by Dave Zeltserman

Caught Stealing by Charlie Huston

All great, nasty, violent novels by authors with plenty of other great work. Worth looking into.

Modern Private Eye:

Saturday's Child by Ray Banks

The Guards by Ken Bruen

Darkness Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane

Right as Rain by George Pelecanos

Already Dead by Charlie Huston

Books that fuck with the private eye tradition or exemplify what can be done within the genre.

Modern Crime:

The Cleanup by Sean Doolittle

The Pistol Poets by Victor Gischler

The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski

Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith

Deadfolk by Charlie Williams

Dark, criminal-centered novels but not "noir" dark. Some of them are pretty funny too.

Classic Crime:

The Wounded and the Slain by David Goodis

Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins

Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

The Switch by Elmore Leonard

All novels by crime legends that many modern authors will cite to you as major influences of theirs. 


  1. I have enjoyed the crime novels that I've read, but I really don't have much more experience than you in this matter. I can comment on two of the novels you have here:

    Charlie Huston's Caught Stealing was fantastic. It was my introduction to the author and pretty much paved the way towards me preordering all of his standalones when they are announced.

    Already Dead is a good book, too. Vampire noir with some nice twists on the legend. My only problem is that they tend to be very short and, as they are only published in trade paperback, a bit on the expensive side... and that is quite a bit of money to drop on a series that I enjoyed in a popcorn flick sort of way.

    I do recommend that you read Huston, and I would also suggest adding his The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, which is damn good.

  2. I have Huston on my list for Urban Fantasy; I somehow didn't realize he was on both until now. Guess I'll add him to the main list as I'll be reading Already Dead anyway.

  3. Hmm. The Joe Pitt books are definitely more on the side of urban fantasy, but both Caught Stealing and TMAoEASoD are crime fiction and have no fantasy elements. Huston throws his hat in different rings. He does UF, he does crime, he does SF, and he even had a run doing Marvel's Moon Knight, which was pretty good, too.

  4. I think you will enjoy anything by Mr. Huston. You might want to add the earlier Dennis Lehane series to your "must read" list.

  5. Would you put the Lehane over Saturday's Child or in addition? (Trying to have one from each "category" for variety's sake.)

  6. But what of Christie and Doyle? It's not all gritty hardboiled stuff, you know!

  7. Hmm. It probably highlights my crime-ignorance that it never occurred to me that either of those were Crime. I already am reading some Doyle (I reviewed A Study in Scarlet here: and would be doing more if my edition wasn't so big that I can't really take it out of the house. Very good, but absurdly over sized. As for Christie, you're right; I should look into some of her work.

  8. Also, here's a couple of historical whodunnits for your list:

    A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters, first book in the Brother Cadfael series (An unusually worldly monk with a mysterious past investigates crime in 10th century Britain.

    The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis, first book in the Marcus Didius Falco series (A hard on the luck private investigator in Imperial Rome. Fun, fast reads, a lot of action, humor and romance.)

    The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin, first book in the Erast Fandorin series (An investigator in 19th century Russia. Each novel in the series tackles a different crime sub-genre. (Cozy, Spy, Serial Killer, etc) )

  9. As for Christie, you should probably just go straight for And Then There Were None.

  10. I haven't read Saturday's Child, but I can't say enough good things about the Lehane Private Eye series.

  11. Thanks for the recommendations Megazver and CWALKER228/LordWalker; I've added And Then There Were None, the Lehane novel, and The Winter Queen. I considered adding a Doyle, but figured that, as I've already read some, it sort of violated the ideas of the challenge.

    Perhaps I'll also reread Poe's detective stories, as I've been meaning to read more Poe for a while and those seem to fit here.

    This has become a rather huge reading list, but I suppose that most of them are short, and I've enjoyed the crime novels I read so far, so I doubt it'll be onerous.

  12. Hi there. I have read quite a few crime novels and the list you have been given is flawless, both regarding modern and classic novels. Let med add just three names. Charles Willeford had a long career so he is to be found in both classic noir and modern crime, writing stories that usually border on the depraved and surreal. For classic look for "A Burnt Orange Heresy", an interesting mix of noir and art history, and for modern "Miami Blues", the first of the four great Hoke Mosely-novels. James Lee Burke is literary, lyrical and action-packed at the same time, setting his Dave Robicheaux-novels in hot and humid Louisiana. "Dixie City Jam" is a great and scary example. Then, Robert Crais from L.A. His series about P.I. Elvis Cole and his back-up side-kick Joe Pike, a ghost-like ex-mercenary, are excellent modern and violent crime, particularly notable for his fine portraits of women and children in situations gone bad. His "L.A. Requiem" is as good as it gets.

  13. Thanks for the suggestions, Mattias. Once I finish the initial list up there I think I'll make a secondary one for further Crime exploration, and I'll be sure to put those authors on it.