Tuesday, November 10, 2015

No Shortage of Greatness


Do You Prefer to Read Classic of Contemporary Mysteries? Why?

This is going to be a cop-out answer, but...both.

I teach a "Drama and the Novel" course, and my syllabus usually includes two classics, like Mousetrap, Hound of the Baskervilles, or The Glass Key, and works by two contemporary crime novelists--Sue Grafton, Walter Mosely, or (a favorite of my students) Qiu Xiaolong. 

On the classic side, I can't get enough of Josephine Tey. Daughter of Time is one of the most original novels ever, and even her lesser works like To Love and Be Wise are entertaining and witty Her writing can be curmudgeonly, but is always sharp and betrays a deep perceptiveness and love for the truth. She doesn't suffer fools, and neither does her recurring protagonist, Inspector Grant.

On the contemporary side, I just finished Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich. There was tremendous buzz around the book heading into Bouchercon, and the convention's book rooms actually sold out. The book deserves its praise. A multi-generational crime saga and the Burroughs family, it reads like an episode of Justified co-written by Daniel Woodrell and Nick Cave. Really fun stuff.

8 comments:

RJ Harlick said...

I haven't read Josephine Tey in an age. Time to read her again. And thanks for the tip on Panowich. Welcome to Criminal Minds, Sam. Any word yet on whether a new Spano has arrived into this world?

Sam said...

Not sure!

Alan Orloff said...

Welcome to the blog, Sam!

Susan C Shea said...

Loved Bull Mountain, which was recommended by Elizabeth White, the book reviewer. I agree - it reminded me very much of the TV show Justified. If I hadn't watched and loved Justified, I think Bull Mountain wouldn't have scored with me, though. A whole lot of casual violence. I needed what I remembered of the contextual environment to make it palatable.

Sam said...

Alan: Thanks, man!

Susan: I thought the violence in BM was really well done. I don't like crime novels where violence has no consequences, or it's treated as meaningless (or victimless). Every violent act in that book was visceral, and admittedly sometimes hard to read, but it made you aware of how it affected the characters--both the victims and the perpetrators.

Kristopher said...

Bull Mountain is a stunner. I expect to see it on many an award short list next season. Panowich is definitely one to watch after a debut like that.

And yes, Daughter of Time really holds up remarkably well. Some day, I do need to explore more of Tey's lesser known work.

Catriona McPherson said...

Sorry I missed you yesterday, Sam. Belated welcome, fellow Tey-fan! The Franchise Affair is one of my re-reads. So quietly nasty.

Sam said...

Thanks, Catriona!

Kristopher: I agree, I can't think of a better debut. And there really isn't a bad Tey novel. To Love... wouldn't shock a contemporary reader, but it's well-written nonetheless.