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Culture Forum

  1. Standard member c99ux
    'Sir' to you
    01 Mar '08 13:13
    Recently I've been reading the following series:

    Ian Rankin's John Rebus,
    Reginald Hill's Pascoe and Dalziel,
    Michael Connely's Harry Bosch.

    They are all very entertaining, but I can usually guess what's going to happen next.

    Who writes the best crime fiction novels, and why do you think they are better than other writers?
  2. 02 Mar '08 04:01
    James Ellroy used to be my favorite (Buzz Meeks is a character in both The Big Nowhere and LA Confidential) but he went around the bend with his experimental style. Then I liked Dennis Lehane but he has his sights on being a "serious" author now. I've been reading Simon Kernick (his first two were excellent), Ken Bruen (he's up and down; a lot of his characters are very unlikable and his main series character Jack Taylor is too remiscent of Lawrence Blocks Matt Scudder although the books are completely different in tone). Connelly's Harry Bosch is a total cliche but it works anyway. They aren't cliche's for nothing. I dislike most of the "famous" authors and only seem to find one book here and there in the crime genre that I enjoy.
  3. 02 Mar '08 23:58 / 8 edits
    Originally posted by c99ux
    Recently I've been reading the following series:

    Ian Rankin's John Rebus,
    Reginald Hill's Pascoe and Dalziel,
    Michael Connely's Harry Bosch.

    They are all very entertaining, but I can usually guess what's going to happen next.

    Who writes the best crime fiction novels, and why do you think they are better than other writers?
    Julian Symons has written some good stuff. The Blackheath Poisonings, and The End of Solomon Grundy, stand out in memory. Symons tends to be more cynical than I prefer but his writing, when good, is so good that I am often prepared to overlook this. Both titles will keep you guessing, and both are exceedingly well constructed.

    Henry Cecil is another author of much the same kind as Symons. The Asking Price is rather good, though not at all mysterious.

    Robert Wilson's "Instruments of Darkness", the first of his novels involving an expatriate Brit who has set himself up as a kind of consultant/troubleshooter in sub-Saharan Africa, is excellent. The writer has the unfortunate tendency to introduce some tremendously gruesome elements into his work, but, at least in this novel (where that particular plot element tends to stay in the background most of the time) the quality of his writing is so high that I was prepared to overlook this. By quality of writing I mean command of language, power of evocative description, wit, humor, etc.. Very few writers could turn a description of a drunk falling off his barstool into a feast of literary description and wit, but this one managed to. I found myself constantly amused by the one-liners and elegant irony to be found in the first half of the book.

    Patrick Quintan wrote an excellent mystery/crime novel called A Puzzle For Fools, which is certainly not predictable, and indeed, contains some surreal and baffling elements (which I seem to recall being nevertheless satisfactorily explained). It takes place in a sanatorium and the narrator/protagonist is a theater director who has voluntarily committed himself to be treated for alcoholism.

    Margaret Millar's A Stranger In My Grave is another example of the (realist) surreal crime novel, quite strange, baffling, and largely unpredictable, as well as highly atmospheric.

    Eric Ambler's A Coffin For Dimitrios is must-read. (I believe that the title outside the U.S. is The Mask of Dimitrios.) The Levanter is among his better later-period novels. Realism, and superb writing quality are Ambler hallmarks. (Skip his first novel, The Dark Frontier, which is perhaps the single example of unrealistic plotting among his works. With the exception of this title, which I threw away, I've read and enjoyed just about everything he's written. He is also one of the very few practitioners of the "spy novel" whom I can read without cringing.)

    Dashiel Hammett has written what are probably the best of the classic noir novels (practically defining the genre which Raymond Chandler later became synonymous with, though generally I consider the latter inferior as a writer). The Maltese Falcon is a silly, boring movie, but an excellent novel.

    The best place to find most of these titles is through amazon.com (which also sells used copies at a discount). Used mystery bookstores are the second best option.

    You did specify "crime novel" rather than "mystery novel" -- the former term usually suggests a strong degree of realism and noir, so the selections I've suggested reflect that. They are not, however, police procedurals. The titles indicated are among the best of the respective authors, and so constitute the proper introduction through which to determine the appeal of those authors to the reader, but all of them have large bodies of similar work.

    There is not a lot of padding in these books. Most of these titles are considerably shorter than most contemporary novels.
  4. 03 Mar '08 02:31
    Eric Ambler's A Coffin For Dimitrios is must-read.
    I just recently caught part of the old movie with Peter Lorre and, I think that was Sidney Greenstreet. Does it follow the novel? Any critique? Of course, you may not have seen it as I have not read the book (yet).
  5. 03 Mar '08 02:49
    Originally posted by Buzz Meeks
    I just recently caught part of the old movie with Peter Lorre and, I think that was Sidney Greenstreet. Does it follow the novel? Any critique? Of course, you may not have seen it as I have not read the book (yet).
    I haven't seen the movie, though I enjoy many such films of the same era. Apparently the screenplay was written by Graham Greene, which is a plus right away as it suggests someone with a respect for the genre and presumably the original author. What I have seen on the Net suggests that the movie is well received and "fairly faithful" as an adaptation of Ambler's novel. Of course, Ambler is a writer and it is for his beautiful use of language in addition to his realistic, logical plotting and interesting story that I recommend the book. Film, being a visual medium, has its own strengths that must be played to; and however competently this is done, and however inspiring the result, the total number of words spoken in the film can only be a fraction of those written by the novelist. Lorre and Greenstreet are, of course, marvelous actors, and (given something to work with) seldom disappoint. Occasionally, of course, Hollywood manages to improve on the original material, as I believe to be the case for Hitchcock's treatment of John Buchan's novel The 39 Steps. But that was a considerably weaker novel.
  6. 03 Mar '08 14:31
    Originally posted by Buzz Meeks
    James Ellroy used to be my favorite (Buzz Meeks is a character in both The Big Nowhere and LA Confidential) but he went around the bend with his experimental style. Then I liked Dennis Lehane but he has his sights on being a "serious" author now. I've been reading Simon Kernick (his first two were excellent), Ken Bruen (he's up and down; a lot of his char ...[text shortened]... authors and only seem to find one book here and there in the crime genre that I enjoy.
    I love Ellroy's unorthodox narrative style. American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand are two incredible novels and I have been waiting nearly 5 years for the final part of that trilogy to come out. All in all I've read 4 Ellroy novels and I've enjoyed all of them - weird ones included. 🙂
  7. 03 Mar '08 14:42
    Elroy is terrific. I have to throw Elmore Leonard into the conversation as well.
  8. 04 Mar '08 00:08
    I still love Ellory's "LA Quartet" and American Tabloid but I can't work my way through the Cold Six Thousand. I think White Jazz should have been the culmination of his "weird style" as he backed off of it for Tabloid. Then, it seems to have taken him over.
    I read one Rebus book, didn't like it much.
    Has anybody read any of the Morse novels? My wife has a used copy of the first one. Doesn't look too inviting but the TV shows were mostly OK.
    I think Elmore Leonard has really good premises but I just can't get into them. I can't put my finger on it, but there is a scene in Mr. Paradise where there are several people standing around comtemplating killing each other and no one is the least bit scared or even concerned. That sort of thing seems to happen in a lot of his books. I know I sound too critical, but Ellroy seems to have spoiled me. Most other authors don't seem to match up.
  9. 05 Mar '08 03:46 / 2 edits
    Originally posted by Buzz Meeks
    I still love Ellory's "LA Quartet" and American Tabloid but I can't work my way through the Cold Six Thousand. I think White Jazz should have been the culmination of his "weird style" as he backed off of it for Tabloid. Then, it seems to have taken him over.
    I read one Rebus book, didn't like it much.
    Has anybody read any of the Morse novels? My wif ical, but Ellroy seems to have spoiled me. Most other authors don't seem to match up.
    I own half a dozen of the Morse books and have read a few more. I enjoyed the television series quite a bit, and some of the books have something to recommend them, but really, if I want donnish fiction (and I do) with unrealistic plotting and silly denouements (and I don't), then I'd much rather read Michael Innes or Edmund Crispin.

    The Morse books pose as police-detective crime novels, but no police detective this side of the 19th century would conduct cases as Morse does. I read far more mystery novels than crime novels (including John Dixon Carr, for christ's sake!), so that isn't automatically a deficit, but I feel like a dog begging for a bone and getting a slap on the snout with the paper, most of the time, reading the Morse novels; waiting for the occasional reference to Ximenes, Ernest Dowson, or classical music, and getting in its stead Morse's infantile pornography fixation.

    If we've broadened the thread from crime novels to mystery novels, here are two highly recommended works by each of the aforementioned authors, both of which are long on assets and short on the lamentable deficits which both authors sometimes suffer from:

    Michael Innes:

    Appleby's End

    Old Hall, New Hall


    Edmund Crispin

    Buried For Pleasure

    The Glimpses Of The Moon


    And incidentally, Glimpses of the Moon is one of the funniest mystery novels I've ever read, despite containing a gruesome intrusion here and there (e.g., someone's severed head affixed to a little handmade, wooden raft and sent floating down the river).
  10. 06 Mar '08 22:53
    Originally posted by Mark Adkins
    I own half a dozen of the Morse books and have read a few more. I enjoyed the television series quite a bit, and some of the books have something to recommend them, but really, if I want donnish fiction (and I do) with unrealistic plotting and silly denouements (and I don't), then I'd much rather read Michael Innes or Edmund Crispin.

    The Morse book ...[text shortened]... vered head affixed to a little handmade, wooden raft and sent floating down the river).
    hey I love Edmund Crispin. My favourite is

    "The moving toyshop"
  11. 02 Oct '08 00:01
    Originally posted by c99ux
    Recently I've been reading the following series:

    Ian Rankin's John Rebus,
    Reginald Hill's Pascoe and Dalziel,
    Michael Connely's Harry Bosch.

    They are all very entertaining, but I can usually guess what's going to happen next.

    Who writes the best crime fiction novels, and why do you think they are better than other writers?
    A friend got me hooked on the Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen If I recall "Gaurds" is the first of six present novels. They are good reads, very short almost all dialog, but easy to follow. He makes tons of refrences to crime writers.
  12. Standard member lordhighgus
    Kara Thrace &
    04 Oct '08 00:15
    Its a stand alone novel, but "The Winter Of Frankie Machine" is an enjoyable read about a 62 year old mafia hit-man trying to retire. Great read.