“I let go of the gun and took hold of his wrists. They were greasy and hard to hold. The Indian breathed gutterally and set me down with a jar that lifted the top of my head. He had my wrists now, instead of me having his. He twisted them behind me fast and a knee like a corner stone went into my back. He bent me. I can be bent. I’m not the City Hall. He bent me.
I tried to yell, for no reason at all. Breath panted in my throat and couldn’t get out. The Indian threw me sideways and got a body scissors on me as I fell. He had me in a barrel. His hands went to my neck. Sometimes I wake up in the night. I feel them there and I smell the smell of him. I feel the breath fighting and losing and the greasy fingers digging in. Then I get up and take a drink and turn the radio on.”
That is a quote from Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely.
He was a plump, dark, youngish man of medium height, broad through the jaws, narrow between the eyes. He wore a black bowler hat, a black overcoat that fitted him very snugly, a dark suit, and black shoes, all looking as if he had bought them within the past fifteen minutes. The gun, a blunt black .38-calibre automatic, lay comfortably in his hand, not pointing at any-thing.
This is a quote from Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man
If you love crime fiction, why not go back to the source and read some of the classics? Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler were the first to write about the LA detective, a witty, hard-boiled guy who didn’t melt down under pressure and who survived to tell his sometimes-confusing tale in a dark, cynical tone.
Readers of any crime fiction will love these hard-boiled classics. There are some hallmarks of hard-boiled crime that you won’t find anywhere else, at least not this clear-cut. The plot is usually linear and the audience doesn’t know that a man is about to come through the door with a gun in his hand until he does. Likewise, if the detective gets conked on the head and knocked out (that may very well happen, since while hard-boiled detectives are often shrewd and very smart, they’re not superhuman or endowed with the catlike reflexes of some of our more contemporary heroes), we don’t know what’s going to happen until he wakes up. This close, almost claustrophobic POV highlights the seamy underbelly of Los Angeles, where most of these early detective novels are set.
The detective himself is a cynical, world-weary type. He’s more intelligent than he is a thug, but he won’t hesitate to take out his gun and menace people. He’s often principled and well-read, so you get the feeling that this is a detective who oscillates between wanting to be in the world he is in (wanting to stand up for his client, wanting to solve the crime or simplify it) and condemning it, as if he landed in this world of greys, of lies and half-truths, of crime and virtue, by no fault of his own. Chandler’s Philip Marlowe explains in his first novel appearance, The Big Sleep, that he is a college dropout who worked for the DA until he was fired for disobeying orders. Later on we see that he grew up in a small town and that he abhors the thought of that stultifying life: working in a hardware store and marrying the boss’s daughter. Although he hates the lies and murky morality that some of his clients surround him with, he prefers this life to another. He values his education and is widely read, but he feels smothered in rich settings. He enjoys living by his wits. Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer is a similar knot of contradictions. Archer has a past as a juvenile delinquent, and although he falls in love with many of the women he meets we know that he is divorced and that he is often disgusted with himself when he falls in love with another femme fatale. Archer hates being a tough guy, but he can’t help it.
The detective is always just a little bit detached, a little bit of an outsider. He’s tailor-made to observe and pass silent (and sometimes not-so-silent) judgement.
Many hard-boiled detectives have a quirk that makes them more reflective, something they use as a sort of escape from their work: Chandler’s Philip Marlowe often makes observations informed by the chess games he plays against himself.
If you’re a crime fiction fan (as I am), come in and have a look at our classics. We have plenty of Ross MacDonald, some James M. Cain, the last of Chandler’s novels and a couple by Dashiell Hammett. It’s refreshing to see the roots of the hard-boiled crime fiction we see today, and they’re always a great, breathless read.
- AgnesFiled under Cool Crime Writers | Tags: Classic Crime, Cool Crime Writers, Recycled Books | Comments Off
The station master of my local train station is nice enough to provide a “book table” for the use of patrons. The idea is that you bring in your old books (as a second-hand book-seller in training all I can say is that these are usually not the cream of the crop) and take a book to read on the train occasionally. It’s an honour system. There are usually a whole lot of nice old National Geographics, a few Reader’s Digest condensed books (don’t you think it’d be weird to have a job as a book condenser?), stuff like that. Occasionally you get a nice gem. I’ve picked up a few Sherlock Holmes books, and a couple of science fiction classics.
The other day I picked up a copy of Elizabeth George’s book Well Schooled in Murder. I already had a book in my bag (I’m in the habit of setting my iPod to shuffle and reading to and from the city), but since I’m an omnivorous reader and I vaguely recognised the title and blurb from an ABC drama I’d seen a few years earlier — an Inspector Lynley mystery — I decided to read the book on the train.
The train pulled in to Central and I was three-quarters of the way through, and I was a bit iffy on Elizabeth George. She was one of those authors who I couldn’t decide whether I liked or disliked. The book’s narrative got along fine, but I couldn’t decide whether the descriptions were apt or just plain weird. I finished the book, and I still couldn’t decide. Occasionally I research authors in this fashion, seeking out whether or not they’re worth reading a lot of. Crime fiction is so easy to read that it’s a lot easier to form a complete picture of the author’s shortcomings and strengths very quickly. This is compared to someone like, say John Irving or Faulkner.
I picked up a copy of In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner from the library, since I was “experimenting” and didn’t want to buy it. Well, dear reader, if you’ve read this far into this post I’m going to reward you by telling you that it was absolutely DIRE.
George is an American, and that shows through in her over-exaggerated treatment of Cockney accents and London in general. Inspector Lynley’s friend Simon St. George (can you think of a more cliche` English toff name?) was crippled! In an accident! Years ago! and Lynley feels the need to emote about it much more than I feel his background as a count or an earl or whatever would evince.
Inspector Lynley seemed to be the most balanced character to me, and I will admit that the idea of an English Lord working as a police detective was one of the things that got me interested in the novels in the first place, in a similar way to the TV series — sort of like a crime fiction version of Carter on ER.
In contrast his sidekick Barbara Havers is overburdened with unattractive descriptions. In attempting to inject some traditional British class division into the book George has made Lynley into some sort of James Bond type while Havers chain-smokes and constantly eats bad food. Not even her POV is sympathetic to her, so I feel a bit sorry for the character.
I didn’t finish the second book. I felt like I got derailed by the high drama going on in the character’s lives, and the murder mystery was so bland in contrast that it didn’t interest me one iota. One jot!
I’m confident that our crime fiction section at JimmyD’s is extensive. When I first came into the shop I was pleased that it encompassed all the crime sub-genres: classic crime, real-life crime, cheesy crime, thrilling crime, procedural crime, cosy crime… The cheesy crime section I feel is well represented by the five or so Elizabeth George books that we have in stock, including In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner.
My question is this: what were your experiences with Elizabeth George? Should I keep reading? Are her “off” moments worth the rather gripping storylines in her other books? Am I being a crime fiction snob – am I too spoilt by P. D. James? Discuss for your chance to win a voucher at JimmyD’s.
- Agnes.Filed under BOOKS, Cool Crime Writers | Tags: Cool Crime Writers, The Crime Fiction Detective, Your two cents worth - book reviews | Comments Off
Yes, the world is enamoured with Scandinavian crime writers. Ever since Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall wrote their series of ten police procedurals from 1965 to 1975, there have been writers from Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Finland writing a range of thrilling psychological stories. To me they have far greater character depth and development than many of the American or even British authors. The best known of these authors is probably Henning Mankell, who has written a series of stories about Inspector Kurt Wallander and his daughter, which has been turned into a television show. However you have probably seen that The girl with the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson, has been on the best selling list for many months.
If you enjoy finding crime stories that are a bit different, settings in countries unfamilar or that seem to take things a bit slower, perhaps reflecting real life investigations, you should try some of these great authors. They arent always easy to find second hand – at JimmyDs when we get them they go pretty fast! But persevere and they will turn up.
The link below is something I found recently. My personal favourites at the moment are Kjell Eriksson, Henning Mankell and Arnaldur Indridason. Come in and talk to me about your favourites.
Cool Crime Writers | Tags: Cool Crime Writers | Comment (0)
James Lee Burke is an American author of mysteries, many of which feature Detective Dave Robicheaux. They are set in Louisiana and Burke gives us a good feel for the settings through the language of the South, the food, the humidity and the people. Burke is a great crime writer who gets you in with his characters and makes you want to read everything he has written.
Early days. Burke’s college English papers earned him a string of D-minuses until he talked to his professor about what was wrong. “She said, ‘Your spelling is an assault upon the eyeballs. Your penmanship makes me wish the Phoenicians had not developed the alphabet. But I couldn’t give you an F because you have so much heart,’” ‘Burke’ said in a 1996 interview with People. “Every Saturday I went with her and rewrote the essay for the week. I got a B and made the dean’s list. (She) changed my life.” (A quote from Barnes and Noble-Meet the Writers)
If you like James Lee Burke you might also like Lee Child, John Sandford and Dennis Lehane.Filed under Cool Crime Writers | Tags: Cool Crime Writers | Comment (0)
Four women, a homicide inspector, a district attorney, a coroner and a journalist, join forces to bring a killer of honeymooning couples in San Francisco, to justice. It is the beginning of the Women’s Murder Club. This book contains the first three exciting stories by James Patterson, which have now become a TV series.
James Patterson is the worlds second highest paid author. He has written over 50 novels since the 1970′s. His best known series is about Alex Cross a former forensic psychologist who now works for himself. Titles include Along came a spider, Kiss the girls and Jack and Jill. JimmyDs has numerous titles in stock.
IF YOU LIKE JAMES PATTERSON WHY NOT TRY Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Karen Slaughter, Dennis Lehane.Filed under Cool Crime Writers | Tags: Blue Mountains, Cool Crime Writers, if you like | Comments Off
Gwendoline Butler born in 1922, is a British writer of crime fiction who has written over 50 novels. Mainly known for her series of Inspector John Coffin novels she also writes under the pseudonym Jennie Melville and has won numerous awards including the Crime Writers Association Silver Dagger Award.
If you like Elisabeth Peters, Mary Higgins Clark, Paul Doherty or Alys Clare try Gwendoline Butler. JimmyD’s has Gwendoline Butler and Jennie Melville in stock right now.Filed under Cool Crime Writers | Tags: Classic Crime, Cool Crime Writers | Comment (0)
We need to make room for new books so this author of legal thrillers is on sale. Titles include: The last innocent man, Wild Justice, After dark. Margolin is a criminal defence lawyer who writes from experience.Filed under Cool Crime Writers | Tags: Cool Crime Writers | Comments Off