Saturday, August 29, 2009
Three From A Long List (that keeps getting longer)
Which crime novel do I wish I could read again for the first time?
There are too many to mention, and still more to be discovered. That's the extraordinary thing about crime fiction — a novel can have a contemporary, fresh voice yet still tell a timeless story that you want to come back to, again and again. One foot planted firmly in the traditions of the genre, the other foot swinging out unexpectedly to kick you upside the head and rattle any preconceived notions of what makes a mystery. I've lost track of the number of books I've read more than once, wanting to recapture that feeling of discovery, but here's a short list...
Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard opened new frontiers for me as a reader. It revealed how dialogue can carry a story, and it demonstrated how characters' motivations can be catalysts for mayhem even when intentions are good. And most importantly, how humor and murder can be blended into a seriously addictive cocktail. I've demanded humor in my crime fiction ever since.
No one swings the pendulum from laugh out loud funny to gripping suspense in a single narrative like Joe Lansdale, and Bad Chili is one of my all time favorites. I must have read the opening to this novel ten times, and it's always just as funny and surprising as the first time I cracked the spine.
The late Ross Thomas is an often overlooked giant, a man who seamlessly fused the spy novel with the crime caper. I've written about Chinaman's Chance before for The Rap Sheet. It remains one of the most original crime novels ever written.
But the stack on my nightstand is only getting bigger, and every month I discover a new book or author that raises the bar and changes my expectations. History, romance, science fiction, adventure — they can all be found within the endlessly entertaining category of crime fiction, a classic genre that never gets old.