The Rap Sheet: It Was the Best of Crimes: Critics’ Choice

Over on The Rap Sheet, they have compiled a list of the 100 best crime novels of the past 100 years. The list has a decidedly British bent, being compiled by H.R.F. “Harry” Keating who dies this week, and Mike Ripley, but it does include a number of American Crime Fiction writers i.e.: Dashiell Hammett, Kenneth Fearing, Raymond Chandler et al. But I was disappointed by the exclusion of some notable titles. For instance, Mickey Spillane’s , I, The Jury   I The Jurywhich sold 6.5 million copies with the combined total of the 1947 hardcover and the Signet paperback the next year, in the U.S. alone. There are many more I’d have liked to see on this list, even if it is compiled by two British Critics, but it did remind me of some classics that I haven’t read in awhile. Take a look at the list and let me know who you think is missing.

It Was the Best of Crimes: Critics’ Choice

In the summer of 2000, British critics H.R.F. “Harry” Keating and Mike Ripley were commissioned by the London Times newspaper to conduct a survey of the best crime novels (mysteries/spy stories/thrillers) of the 20th century, choosing one per year, 1900-1999. This, said the two critics, couldn’t be done so neatly, but what they would do was select 100 books to represent a century which began with the recall of Sherlock Holmes and ended with the death of Inspector Morse.
In the end, Ripley cheated a bit by nominating 101 titles to include Keating’s own The Perfect Murder from 1964, which modesty had forbidden its author from suggesting.
The survey, with a brief justification for each title, was published in a 16-page supplement to The Times on Saturday, September 30, 2000. The basic list of titles selected is republished here for the first time as a tribute to author and scholar Harry Keating, who died earlier this week at age 84. (Titles and years are as when published in the UK.)

The Rap Sheet: It Was the Best of Crimes: Critics’ Choice

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Top Suspense:13 Classic Stories by 12 Masters of the Genre-Review

Book Review.

Top Suspense

The great attraction of short fiction for me is the sheer mastery it takes to develop a character, often many characters, lay out a plot that has to grab the reader right away and then tell a tale that will leave the reader not only entertained but thinking about it long after it is finished.  This is harder than it sounds and can be much harder than writing a full length novel.

Lucky for us readers, there are some authors out there that have mastered the form and in this book from CreateSpace and the Top Suspense Group 12 of those award winning masters have put together a collection of 13 Classic Stories that fulfill those requirements.

Unreasonable Doubt by the prolific Max Allan Collins is batting lead off. This is a tale of greed and murder taken from a real life story in the 50’s with Mr. Collins iconic hardboiled detective, Nathan Heller, from True Detective (November, 1983) and The Million Dollar Wound (1986). Nate is on vacation, but he is on the case. Max Allan Collins has written novels, screenplays, comic books, comic strips, trading cards, short stories, movie novelizations and historical fiction. He wrote the graphic novel Road to Perdition which was developed into a movie starring Tom Hanks.Road To Perdition

  Next up is Deaths Brother by Bill Crider, perhaps most famous for his  Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. Bill Crider has a PhD. and wrote his dissertation on the hardboiled detective novel. Deaths Brother  is the tale of a college poetry professor who has fallen in lust with one of his beautiful students and perhaps picturing himself as Dr. Jonathan Hemlock the Art History Professor and hit man  of The Eiger Sanction fame, decides to help her kill off her rich but terminally ill father..except her father isn’t the man he is sent to kill.

Next up is Poisoned by Stephen Gallagher who has written several novels and television scripts, including for the BBC television series Doctor Who. Poisoned is an eerie story about a “boy” bullied by the neighborhood kids except this story and this boy have a twist.

Poisoned is followed by perhaps my favorite, Remaindered by Lee Goldberg probably best known for his work on several different TV crime series, including Diagnosis: Murder, A Nero Wolfe Mystery, Hunter, Spenser: For Hire, and Monk.  Lee also  wrote and directed the short film Remaindered, based on this short story originally  written for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

The story involves an author who was touted as“The Voice of a New Generation” after his first novel, but finds himself signing books in a K-Mart a few years later amongst the Kotex sales and the potato chip sales, and taking advice like, “write a book about cats if you want success.” He sees redemption when a young, beautiful fan shows up and asks him back to her place to “see her library.” After an afternoon of fan appreciation, she want him to sign her autograph book which is filled with the signatures of all the other authors she has “appreciated”. Kevin Dangler learns the price for artistic redemption, ardent fan appreciation, and just how hard it is to write, or live, the perfect crime.

Next up is Joel Goldman’s Fire In The Sky a tale of a couple of good old young boys who dream of breaking out of the hum drum life in the American Heartland and also of the seemingly unobtainable girl in the fountain at a local water park. They might just get their chance during Joel Goldmana fire which consumes not only the park, but a number of lives.  Joel Goldman is a fourth generation Kansas Citian, and spent twenty-eight years as a trial lawyer and plan to spend at least as many as a writer.  Check out his great novel, No Way Out.

The Baby Store is a futuristic story from Ed Gorman, the  award winning American author best known for his crime and mystery fiction. He wrote The Poker Club which is now a film of the same name directed by Tim McCann. I first became aware of Ed through his contributions to The Book of Noir . A collection that explores the sense of existential nihilism, where betrayal is how romance best expresses itself and fear is only another name for foreplay.

The Book of NoirThe Baby Store invokes a time when the upper classes design their children. When Kevin McKay and his wife lose their designer child, Kevin begins to plot on how to replace him.

Next on our plate is a great crime story by Libby Fischer Hellmann, The Jade Elephant, a tale of a burglar who after escaping cancer, suddenly grow a conscience. After getting the good news in the hospital, he over hears a woman being given a death sentence because she can’t afford a kidney transplant. The woman is a past victim of Gus and his partner in crime. Because they cleaned her out when they robbed her apartment and left her tied up, she is now destitute and destined to die. Unless Gus finds a way to right wrongs and return the Jade Elephant they stole from her.This would allow her to sell it for money to pay the doctors. There is only one problem…or two….or three. Charlieman, the fence who has the artifact and Pete, his greedy partner. Blackleathersm Hellmann

Hellmann’s first crime fiction novel, An Eye For Murder, was published in hardcover in 2002 by Poisoned Pen Press and in paperback by Berkley Books. It was nominated for an Anthony for Best First, and won the Best First Readers Choice Award at Chicago’s ‘Love is Murder’ conference. Last years, Set the Night on Fire,  

was one of my favorite novels of the year.

  The Big O by the great “Tart Noir” writer, Vicki Hendricks is a white trash tale of a swamp, a couple of losers and a hurricane and how one not so innocent woman uses sex and her child to escape. if she can pull this off, she just give her son, Chance, a chance in life. It’s a memorable story of the extremes the “weaker sex” can employ. Ms. Hendricks is best known for her noir novels, MIAMI PURITY, IGUANA LOVE, VOLUNTARY MADNESS, and SKY BLUES.Iguana love Her novels invoke James M. Cain, the author of the noir classic, The Postman Always Rings Twice, but contain graphic sex that would never have gotten by the censors back in Cain’s day. Her work will give you many hot sweaty days and nights of reading fun, even in the dead of winter in Portland, Oregon surrounded by cold, drizzly, and damp that can’t even cut through her heat.

The Chirachi Covenant by Naomi Hirahara,  the 2007 winner of The Edgar Award for Snakeskin Shamisen is a tale taking place right after WWII when the Japanese-Americans were allowed to return to their homes and lives after the internment camps. Snake Skin

It’s an insightful tale of the clash of cultures, lust and honor. You’ll want to read more of Ms. Hirahara’s work after this story.

El Valiente En El Infierno is a border tale of a boy trying to reach his father in North America after the death of his mother in Mexico. he must pay a Coyote and make  a quick night trip over the fence, dodging vigilantes with rifles and cruel streaks. Along the way he meets and confronts xenophobes, his own manhood and pride as well as the unscrupulous coyotes who ply their trade by exploiting their own people. Paul Levine, as usual, writes a poignant story that you will think about many times over the next few days.

This was another of my very favorites from this marvelous collection. Paul is probably best known for his  Jake Lassiter Series.  Jake is Paul levine“Travis McGee with a law degree.” of crime fiction. Paul also writes the humorous "Solomon and Lord” series and moonlights on Facebook as a food critic….okay, I made that part up, but the man seriously knows the best restaurants anywhere in the world.

A Handful of Dust is the next story in this great collection. It is by Harry Shannon, the novelist, songwriter and entertainer who coincidentally lived in my home town of Pomona, California and attended Ganesha High School about the same time as my father. Besides being a great fiction writer, Harry co-wrote a number of songs recorded by artists such as Eddy Arnold (Cowboy), Reba McIntire (Small Two Bedroom Starter), Engelbert Humperdinck (Love You Back To Sleep), and Glen Campbell (Why Don’t We Just Sleep On It Tonight). Harry Shannon

The immensely talented Mr. Shannon also writes the Mick Callaghan novels. In A Handful of Dust Harry tells the story of a professional hit man, a monster named Pike and a late night meeting with a client at a road side bar. Pike, more at home in Vegas in his Armani suits and city slicker shoes, may just have run into a killer more deranged than himself. He’ll find out as he runs through the desert and finds fear in a handful of dust.

The 12th author to entertain us here is Dave Zeltserman the winner of both the Shamus and Derringer awards for his novelette "Julius Katz" in 2010. His ‘man out of prison’ crime noir series features the novels Small Crimes, Pariah and Killer. Small crimes Small Crimes was one of my favorites of 2008, featuring  corrupt cop Joe Denton, just out of prison after serving seven years for a drug fueled assault that left a D.A. permanently scarred. The Canary, The story presented here, is the story of a big time bank robber and armored car robber Karl Haskell and his attempt to reclaim the key to the storage shed where the $300,000 is stashed. The key is hidden inside a painting that, until recently, was in the possession of his partner, Pete Sifer. Sifer has been busted for drugs, and all his property, including the painting where the key is hidden is to be sold at auction. When Haskell can’t buy the painting legitimately at auction, he resorts to nefarious means. A neat, tidy little tale proving that crime might pay, but the tax on greed can be your undoing.

The final tale here is The Chase, this is a great little story written by all 12 of the authors. The deal was that each would write 250 words, then pass the story to the next author on the list. This sounds complicated, but these folks demonstrate why they are the award winners. The story is seamless! I seriously resorted to counting words trying to determine where one author stopped and the other took up the story. That didn’t help. Even once you figure out where the “breaks” must have been you can’t guess who wrote what. You’ll just have to buy this great collection, and read through the end to receive the link that will reveal who wrote what. Besides the “whodunit” of figuring out the last story, it is a great story and well worth the price of this great little book. get it here, today. Top Suspense

The Dirty Lowdown

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The Thin Man–Harry Bosch in the Movies

Thin Man 1

Great news for Noir Movie lovers. Word has it that Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man is in production to star Johnny Depp62834916 and directed by Robb Marshall. Warner bros. put the project in to production in October and Depp is also lined up to produce.

The original movie was based on a Dashiell Hammett novel, which centered on former private detective-turned-professional drunkard Nick Charles, his lovely socialite wife Nora and their schnauzer Asta.


The original novel was published in 1934 and even though Hammett never wrote a sequel the book became the basis for a successful six-part film series which also began in 1934 with The Thin Man and starred William Powell and Myrna Loy. The 1950’s saw a TV show. The Thin Man was Hammett’s last novel.

The story is set in Prohibition-era New York City. The main characters are a former private detective, Nick Charles, and his clever young wife, Nora. Nick, son of a Greek immigrant, has given up his career since marrying Nora, a wealthy socialite, and he now spends most of his time cheerfully getting drunk in hotel rooms and speakeasies. Nick and Nora have no children, but they do own a schnauzer named Asta, changed to a wire haired fox terrier for the movies. Nick is a fast talking lovable lush as seen in this clip.

The studio intends to give the new film a contemporary attitude but retain the period setting. Author and screenwriter Jerry Stahl has been tapped to pen the script. Stahl is best known for his memoir of addiction Permanent Midnight. A film adaptation followed with Ben Stiller in the lead role. The Thin Man gig marks the second hot project he’s involved with, the first being Hemingway & Gellhorn. That HBO movie, which sees Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen toplining, just began shooting.

Also rumored to be translated to film sometime soon is ConnellyMichael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. Connelly is said to be in talks with Yellow Bird, the same Swedish film company behind the Stieg Larsson crime novel trilogy.

Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch is the detective who made his first appearance in the 1992 novel The Black Echo, and the lead character in a police procedural series now numbering sixteen novels.

Black echo

Bosch’s mother was a prostitute in Hollywood, who was murdered in 1961 when Bosch was 11 years old. His father, who he met later in life, was a powerful defense attorney. He spent his youth in various orphanages and youth halls, as well as with the occasional foster family. After learning of his mother’s murder, Bosch, then living at a youth hall, dove to the bottom of the pool and screamed until he ran out of air and then swam back to the surface. Bosch is also a Vietnam vet who served as a tunnel rat, a specialized soldier whose job it was to venture into the maze of tunnels used as barracks, hospitals, and on some occasions, morgues by the Vietcong. Having had similar experiences during my military service, Bosch runs head and head as my personal favorite neo-noir (Noir written since 1964) “detective character” along with Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder. Drop of the Hard StuffBosch is a maverick and a rebel who often is at logger heads with his bosses,which leads him to leave the LAPD and work as a private detective for a few years. The reader gets the feeling that Bosch is “this close” to becoming the typical hard drinking hardboiled detective, but Harry is ultimately too much in control and too much obsessed with catching the bad guys. The only thing stereotypical about him is his love life, he does appeal to the ladies. Harry was married once, Eleanor Wish was a disgraced former FBI agent, ex-con and subsequent professional poker player.  But relationships with Harry are complicated. Bosch has aged well over the years and as much as us fans have yearned to see his stories translated to the screen, Connelly was forced to sue Paramount Pictures to recapture rights to his first two Harry Bosch crime novels , so after nearly 20 years us fans may just finally get to see Harry on the silver screen. The only two Michael Connelly books to make it to the movies – Blood Work starring Clint Eastwood, in 2002 and most recently The Lincoln Lawyer imageOut now and ruling the box office, have been pretty successful so it is about time we get to see his iconic character, let’s hope the rumors are true. There is certainly enough material for a string of films, so it will be interesting to see if they choose one out standing novel to translate (and there are many in the series) or if they make a sort of collage’ with room for a sequel. Either way, us Michael Connelly fans who have followed Harry Bosch for all these years have something to look forward to.


The Dirty Lowdown

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Crime Always Pays: EIGHTBALL BOOGIE by Declan Burke

Among all of the recent crop of Irish crime novelists, it seems to me that Declan Burke is ideally poised to make the transition to a larger international stage.– John Connolly, author of THE WHISPERERS


“I have seen the future of Irish crime fiction and its name is Declan Burke.” – Ken Bruen, author of THE GUARDS

Down in the Old Quarter, two times out of three you flip a double-headed coin, it comes down on its edge.
  ‘Last time, it doesn’t come down at all …’
When the wife of a politician keeping the Government in power is murdered, Sligo journalist Harry Rigby is one of the first on the scene, where he quickly discovers that he’s in out of his depth when it transpires that the woman’s murder is linked to an ex-paramilitary gang’s attempt to seize control of the burgeoning cocaine market in the Irish Northwest. Harry’s ongoing feud with his ex-partner Denise over their young son’s future doesn’t help matters, and then there’s Harry’s ex-con brother Gonzo, back on the streets and mean as a jilted shark …

Crime Always Pays: EIGHTBALL BOOGIE by Declan Burke

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The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing

The Big Clock

The Big Clock by poet Kenneth Fearing is one of those pieces of crime fiction that you can call literature and no one in the know would raise an eye brow. There is no wise cracking detective here, so if you are into those kinds of things, it would be classified as Noir. It is unusual in another way, and that is that we know who the murder is almost from the start. It’s been called a “whodunit” in reverse. And I thought David Ellis invented that way of telling a story in In The Company Of Liars.In The Company Of Liars

The story ‘s main character is George Stroud, the Executive Editor of Crimeways Magazine (that’s where this blog got it’s name) one of the bigger publications of Janoth Publications. It has been said that the model for Crimeways and Janoth Publications is Time-Life. The Big Clock of the story is the “worlds biggest clock” that stands like an overseer in the lobby of the sky scrapper that houses Janoth Publications’ various concerns. It is also a metaphor for everything  George feels is wrong with his life; the job where he feels he deserves not only a raise, but more money than all the other people in a similar position. It is the daily grind of family life and a safe, but dull marriage, it is the establishment itself which doesn’t recognize individual talent.bigclockposter_c “The big clock ran everywhere, overlooked no one, omitted no one, forgot nothing, remembered nothing, knew nothing. Was nothing. “  But George thinks, he can escape the big clock. Out think the big clock. Even if for only a few hours now and then. George is married-and you can tell Fearing had some fun here-to Georgette and has a daughter named Georgia.  One night at a cocktail party attended by George and Georgette and thrown by Earl Janoth, his boss, he meets Pauline Delos. Pauline is Janoths mistress…and stunningly gorgeous. “She was tall, ice-blonde, and splendid. The eye saw nothing but innocence, to the instinct she was undiluted sex, the brain said here was a perfect hell.”  blond

About five weeks later he wakes to the gong of the big clock. Work is going to be a challenge, he gets a letter from Haiti where a college friend has managed to escape the big clock and dreams of adventures there, his daughter demands attention and though George, ever the manager, can handle these occurrences, his wife is seeing a doctor about having another child, George Junior no doubt. The big clock threatens to catch him in it’s gears and cogs and grind him up with the rest of humanity.  That night, after having told Georgette he would be staying in the city to plot with his fellow editors how they were going to talk Janoth into more money and expanding Crimeways, the meeting gets canceled. He calls his wife to say he will be home after all, but the maid tells him that his wife has gone to her sisters on some emergency. So, with the evening to himself he hits the bars. At about the third bar he runs into Pauline.  Thus begins an affair. George has had affairs before, and his wife knows it and has read him the riot act and won’t put up with it again. But George can fool the big clock, George is smarter than the big clock and won’t be ruled by it. the_big_clock_1

After many different trysts and evenings exploring Gil’s Bar, a quaint little dive where Gil keeps his personal museum and plays the game. Ask Gil to see anything and from the bric-a-brac behind the bar he would tell you a story. The game was to stump him. Ask to see a shrunken head, he had one or an item he could work a shrunken head into his history.  Fearing works things like the night spots and projects at work (Funded Individuals, there one for a whole nother post!) into the story that makes you think he could write entire novels about them. George and Pauline plan a weekend out of town. Georgette and Georgia are away to see relatives and Earl Janoth is out of town. They have a wonderfully romantic weekend and finish it off with a round of their haunts in New York and a trip to an art gallery where George buys a painting from the dust bin by an artist he collects. Later, he drops Pauline off at her apartment, but as she is getting out of his car who should pull up in his limo, but Earl Janoth. But Earl doesn’t recognize George in the street light and he shortly escorts Pauline up to her apartment. After a few drinks they argue. He wants to know who the man is and makes a remark that “at least this time it isn’t a women.”.  TheBigClock_smRisqué for a novel written in 1946. She then accuses him of being homosexual, especially with his business partner, Steve Hagen. A fight breaks out and Earl kills Pauline with a crystal decanter. In a panic, Earl wipes all traces of his visit that evening. But of course, it is well known that Pauline is his mistress so he is bound to be a top suspect. he walks, through the cold night to his partners Steve Hagen’s apartment,  Steve quickly takes charge and cooks up a plan to cast the unknown stranger seen dropping Pauline off at the corner as the suspect. He provides an alibi for Earl and throws the investigative powers of Janoth Publications into locating this man. Pauline had given him some clues as to where they had gone that evening and Earl had found out about the out of town trip. Soon they are on to the painting and where it was bought. They, Earl and Steve,  decide to take these clues and give them to none other than George Stroud with complete authority and finances and all the personnel of Janoth’s various publications to track him down. heart of noir

As George mounts a man hunt for himself we are shown the personalities of the various players, including George, corporate lackeys, the artist, the millionaire as his life come apart, his “friend”  Steve who is not so much a friend as protecting his investment, and the vultures in the wings waiting to dine on Janoth Publications. We are treated to a peek behind the curtain into Fearing’s intricate portrait of murder and the corporate mentality and it  couldn’t feel more current. Fearing’s writing style maintains a taut, yet relaxed feeling that reads so easy in this work of classic noir. This classic belongs on the shelf next to the works of Hammett, Chandler, Cain and Woolrich of every reader of the genre.


The Dirty Lowdown

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The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett

When I decided to review the classic hardboiled, noir crime fiction stories, I knew I had to start with Hammett.  The the question arose, where to start?  I knew I wanted to start with a novel, not a short story. Not that the short stories weren’t worthy of a review, indeed, I’ll cover a lot of them, but I wanted to do a novel.  At first I figured I’d write about Red Harvest Red Harvest which is often considered his master piece.

Time magazine included Red Harvest in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. And Nobel Prize-winning French author André Gide called the book “a remarkable achievement, the last word in atrocity, cynicism, and horror.”  But, in the end I decided that I’d start with Hammett’s own favorite, The Glass Key.

The Glass Key

The Glass Key is  ultimately the story of a man’s devotion to a friend. It is the story of gambler and racketeer Ned Beaumont, whose devotion to crooked political boss Paul Madvig leads him to investigate the murder of a local senator’s son. Ruffling some feathers during his investigation and setting up his own alibi – Ned is at first a suspect – he stirs up a  potential gang war. While conducting his investigation, he also never misses an opportunity for political maneuvering, dirty tricks and throwing a wrench into the oppositions own political/criminal machine all for a friend he seemingly doesn’t care that much about or cares for him.

On the surface, the book is a “traditional” whodunit with its linear plot, subtle hints, red herrings, false leads, and disclosure of the murderer in the final chapter. It’s his only novel with enough clues to allow readers to figure out who did it–although the identity of the killer will still surprise most readers. Yet, it is classic hardboiled fiction. As the reader turns the pages, they’ll notice a seeming lack of emotion, at least on the surface, of one character for another. Even when one character shows love or friendship, it feels as if there must be an ulterior motive. It fits the classic “noir” standard where all of the characters are flawed, and seem morally scarred and maybe, just maybe beyond redemption. Even the hero, Ned, if you can call him that, very casually-if elaborately, frames a man for murder and potentially sends him to his execution all because the guy cheated him on a bet. The language is spare, frugal, hard-boiled, but he does it over and over again as only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes here that seem never to have been written before and seldom since.  It’s debated whether Hammett or Ernest Hemingway first used this sparse, realistic and almost cold-hearted way of writing, but one thing remains clear. Hammett took a cheap, shoddy and utterly lost kind of writing, something meant only for dime novels and made of it something that intellectuals crow about. He took hardboiled and made it literature and set a standard that writers are still trying to achieve.  Hammett’s mastery of the American language, his adherence to reality, and that he (as Raymond Chandler put it)  “gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse.” It is a world in which gangsters can rule nations and almost rule cities … it is “not a fragrant world”, but it is the world we live in. While most of his fiction deals with the underworld and its corruption and squalidness, this work shows most effectively the seedy alliances among businessmen, political bosses, elected officials, law enforcement, media figures, and organized crime…and let’s not forget, beautiful women.


The Dirty Lowdown

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Hard Boiled Noir

Hard Boiled Noir 001So, just finished reading ‘Dan Brown’s’ The Lost Symbol, Which I’ll be doing a review on shortly. Enjoyable read. Whole story takes place in about 10 hours, which makes you think, in retrospect, that the characters are ready for a marathon and will damn sure win it. Definitely big screen ready and Hollywood bound. It’s very  involved and will have you Googling  to see if he’d left any possible conspiracy theory untouched. But, this isn’t about that.

This is about violence and sex (not at the same time….usually). Rye whiskey and fedoras. It’s about characters with tough attitudes. Cool, cocky, flippant and cynical one liners. It’s about dirty cities at night. I wanted Terry Mack and Race Williams. Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe. Characters nearly beyond redemption. So, I went to the shelves, let’s see I’ve got Cain and Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Walter Mosley (one of the best ‘modern’ noir authors and an American treasure). I’ve got Cornell Woolrich, Dorothy B. Hughes, Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Charles Williams, Chester Himes, Mickey Spillane, Ross Macdonald, John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton and even  Elmore Leonard. But I had recently read Leonards’, When the Women Come Out to Dance. Hammett and Chandler are a bit too familiar as I am always rereading them and still love the short pulp stories. Recently reread most of Walter Mosley’ EZ Rawlins books-always fun and I always find something new. The others, though admirable and true to the genre, just were quiet there. Then I found James Ellroy Because The Night. I had forgotten I even had this! Cat’s must have knocked it down behind the book shelf. It was next to an empty bottle of Thunderbird wine and a crumpled pack of Lucky Strikes with a book of matches displaying an anonymous phone number for some one named ‘Dixie’. Lip stick on the corner and hearts in place of the ‘dots’ over the ‘I’s’ in Dixie. There’s the advertisement for an All-Nite Bail Bondsman on the cover.

This is written before Ellroy became the "Demon Dog of American crime fiction." before he had fully developed that postmodern historiographic metafiction, staccato, no-verbs allowed style.

Because The Night is the second in the Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy. Lloyd Hopkins, a LAPD detective with almost as many flaws as admirable traits. He has an very high IQ., is a sex addict classic womanizer and sometimes feels entitled to break the law in order to right wrongs. In short, Lloyd is the classic hard boiled, noir, character. Just what the doctor ordered after Lost Symbol.

Here’s a taste:

Lloyd laughed. “Nice pad, Linda. Out of the low-rent district.” Linda feigned a return laugh. “Don’t be formal, call me suspect.” Lloyd stuck his hand in his jacket pocket and pulled out snapshots of Thomas Goff and Jungle Jack Herzog. He handed them to Linda and said, “Okay, suspect, have you seen either of these men before?”Linda looked the photos over and returned them to Lloyd. There was not the slightest flicker of recognition in her eyes or her hands-on-hips pose. “No. What’s this about Stan Rudolf? Are you with Vice?” Lloyd sat down in the easy chair and stretched his legs. “That’s right. What’s the basis of your relationship with Rudolph?” Linda’s eyes went cold. Her voice followed. “I think you know. Will you state your purpose, ask your questions, and get out?” Lloyd shook his head. “What do you know?” “That you’re no fucking Vice Cop!” Linda shouted. “You got a snappy come back for that?” Lloyd[‘s voice was his softest; the voice he saved for his daughters. “Yeah. You’re no hooker.” Linda sat down across from him. “Everything in this apartment calls you a liar.” “I’ve been called worse than that,” Lloyd said. “Such as?” “Some of the choicer shots have included ‘urban barracuda,’ ‘male chauvinist porker,’ ‘fascist cocksucker,’ ‘wasp running dog,’ and ‘pussy hound scumbag.’ I appreciate articulate invective. ‘Motherfucker’ and ‘pig’ get to be boring.” Linda Wilhite laughed and poked a finger at Lloyd’s wedding ring. “You’re married. What does your wife call you?” “Long distance.” “What?” “We’re separated.” “Serious splitsville?” “I’m not sure. It’s been a year and she’s got a lover, but I intend to out last the bastard.”

Classic noir, from the pessimistic worldview to the jazz slang, cop patois, and creative profanity. It’s even got a ‘mad scientist’ …okay, mad psychiatrist as a bad guy and is filled with dirty cops dirty tabloid journalists and more irredeemable characters than you could find in South Centrals drunk tank on a Saturday night. I’ll have to look under the book case more often. Maybe I’ll call Dixie.

The Dirty Lowdown

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The Usual Suspects

The Writers:

Carroll John Daly (1889-1958) created the first hard-boiled detective in his 1922 story The False Burton Combs. black_mask Daly’s most famous detective, Race Williams, was the prototypical hardboiled detective made of equal doses of street toughness and quick thinking action. Race always managed to escape impossible situations, usually by shooting his way out. Daly’s other main characters, Vee Brown and Satan Hall, were made from the same hardboiled genre. the first appearance of Williams predated the debut of Dashiell Hammett‘s Continental Op character by several months.

Dashiell Hammett

Samuel Dashiell Hammett (May 27, 1894 – January 10, 1961) has long been considered the most important writer of hard-boiled fiction. Not only did he give the genre its hallmarks in his short stories, but he also wrote three of its masterpieces in his novels. He was recognized immediately for lifting a previously disreputable style of fiction into literary prominence. "Sam," as he was known before he began writing, left school when he was 13 years old and held several jobs before working for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. He served as an operative for the Pinkertons from 1915 to February 1922, with time off to serve in World War I. However, the agency’s role in union strike-breaking eventually disillusioned him. His work at the detective agency provided him the inspiration for his writings[His novels were:

Among his best short stories were The Continental Op stories and Sam Spade stories.


Raymond Thornton Chandler (July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959)raymond-chandler_1214443c

Without him, what we know today as the hard-boiled crime tale might be quite different–probably less literary in aim, if not always in execution. Chandler took the raw, realistic intrigue style that Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and others had begun cooking up in post-World War I America, and gave it an artistic bent, filling his fiction with evocative metaphors and sentences that refuse to shed their cleverness with age (“It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window”; “She sat in front of her princess dresser trying to paint the suitcases out from under her eyes.”). Like Ernest Hemingway, Chandler had an idiosyncratic prose “voice” that is often imitated but rarely duplicated. Although he was born in Chicago on July 23, 1888, Raymond Thornton Chandler moved with his divorced mother, Florence, to England in 1895. After attending preparatory school in London, he studied international law in France and Germany before returning to Britain and embarking on a literary career that produced, early on, mostly book reviews and bad poetry.

In 1907, he was naturalized as a British subject in order to take the civil service examination, which he passed with the third-highest score. He then took an Admiralty job, lasting just over a year. His first poem was published during that time.[3]Chandler disliked the servility of the civil service and resigned, to the consternation of his family, becoming a reporter for the Daily Express and the Bristol Western Gazette newspapers. He was an unsuccessful journalist as well.

In 1912, he borrowed money from his uncle (who expected it to be repaid with interest), and returned to North America, eventually settling in Los Angeles with his mother in 1913.[5] He strung tennis rackets, picked fruit and endured a lonely time of scrimping and saving. Finally, he took a correspondence bookkeeping course, finished ahead of schedule, and found steady employment. In 1917, when the US entered World War I, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, saw combat in the trenches in France with the Gordon Highlanders, and was undergoing flight training in the fledgling Royal Air Force (RAF) in the United Kingdom at war’s end.[2]

After the armistice, he returned to Los Angeles. He soon began a love affair with Cissy Pascal, a married woman eighteen years his senior. Though, he had many affairs, he remained with Cissy until her death.

His first story, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot”, was published in Black Mask magazine in 1933; his first novel, The Big Sleep, featuring his famous Phillip Marlowe detective character, was published in 1939, which cannibalized, in Chandler’s words, some of his earlier short stories. Literary success led to work as a Hollywood screenwriter: he and Billy Wilder co-wrote Double Indemnity (1944), based upon James M. Cain‘s novel of the same name. The prototype noir classic screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. His only original screenplay was The Blue Dahlia (1946).

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