Friday, 17 September 2010

A new wotsit

Right.  I have to be honest.  I'm pretty new to this crime/noir lark.  I've read a few Elmore Leonards, James Ellroys, Nick Quantrill, Andy Rivers, and a load of short stories.  But I have a favour to ask. Basically, any recommendations.  What book has influenced you the most in your journey through the world of crime/noir?  I'll post any answers in my new 'Library' section, and see if I can put a picture up there too.  Our own little library of great and recommended reading, eh.

I've set the ball rolling with 'LA Confidential' by James Ellroy.  I remember reading it, not realising you were allowed to write like that.  Knocked me sideways, it did.  Changed my writing life.


  1. Great idea Ian.

    For me anything by the genius Ken Bruen. One of the earliest I read by him was A White Arrest: A serial-killer is picking off the England cricket team, and in Brixton, a vigilante group is hanging dope dealers from lampposts. Chief Inspector Roberts and Detective Sergeant Brant, two tough, corrupt cops, are out to clean up the streets....

    The “White Arrest” novels contain a brilliant cast of motley characters; topped by the manic and brutal Detective Sergeant Brant.

    Reading Bruen’s work made me realise how much I enjoy dark humour in a story and how this just adds to the mix that makes a good story a great and immensely enjoyable read. If only I had KB’s talent to write it like he does!



  2. Leonard was the one that really got me into crime fiction but I'd also throw in Patricia Highsmith's This Sweet Sickness and most recently Allan Guthrie's SLAMMER but there are loads more...

  3. Cheers, lads. Initially thought this would help me out with my reading, but think perhaps it could be quite a good resource for all of us. Yeah. And I've only had two coffees this morning.

    Right, lets see if I can get them picture things up . . .

  4. Books that knocked my socks off... anything by Jim Thompson, and perhaps especially The Getaway and The Grifters. (Whilst I still have many of his books to read, all of the ones I have have read so far are fantastic - I'd give a cup size to be able to write half as well!)

    James M Cain - again, I've only read a handful so far: Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce and The Postman Always Rings Twice, but they are wonderful, powerful books.

    With more recent writers, you really can't go wrong with anything by Ken Bruen, Allan Guthrie, Ray Banks, Kevin Wignall or Duane Swierczynski. Also Dope, by Sara Gran. So noir it hurts.

    Finally, a special mention for Charlie Houston. So far, I have read only the Joe Pitt novels - vampire noir - and I would highly recommend them. His style is awesome - when I started reading Already Dead (the first in a 5-book series) I had to pause a moment to do a happy dance! I'm working my way through Mount TBR to his crime novels and I don't doubt they will be every bit as good.

    I'm sure I've failed to mention many books and writers who should be in there, but these are undoubtedly strong influences for me. This thread is a great idea - but it could prove costly for us all! :D

  5. Hi Julie. Blimey. Looks like my mountain's getting higher. Love the cup size comment. Very funny :) I've nicked 'The Getaway' from your list. Only because I've heard of it. All the others are stored on here anyway, and I've written them all down. That's my Christmas/birthday/Father's day list sorted anyway.


  6. The Getaway has a scene in it that had me reeling. I haven't seen the films, so it blindsided me. No spoilers necessary, because you'll know it when you read it!

    My Mount TBR is comfortably in treble figures now, not helped by the fact that my boyfriend is as big a fan of books as I am. Mind you, as 'problems' go, I can't think of a better one to have! :)

  7. Yep, The Getaway is certainly one of THE books. Remember the film of The Kill-Off? That worked really well.

  8. Thanks for the great recommendations. I'm also pretty new to the noir side of things--read a ton of short stories but not too many novels. I'm reading Bruen/Starr's THE MAX right now--and that is kicking some ass.

  9. Ken Bruen, yes, anything and everything. My list could go on for a long time, but if you read Bruen, he recommends other writers' work, in his stories and in the dedications of the books, even in chapter titles. If you follow Bruen's taste, you can't go wrong. That's how I found Dave Zeltserman, Craig McDonald, Charlie Stella, Duane Swierczynski, and a host of others.

  10. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene always made me shudder!

  11. A Shooting At Midnight by Greg Rucka is as black as it gets. Flesh House by Stuart Macbride ditto. The Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust for clear, precise style. many more but those are some good ones

  12. Thanks Chris, Naomi, Stu, and AJ. I've entered all your recommendations into the library. Naomi, I've chosen 'Small Crimes' by Dave Zeltserman. Hope that's okay.

  13. For me it's Ted Lewis's GBH. Lewis practically invented British noir with Jack's Return Home (Get Carter), but it's his swan song, GBH, that is really his strongest work - it's a chilling suspense novel and cry from Hell.

  14. Brian raises a very good point. Having only read "Jack's Return Home" (the only one in print?), it's still clear we owe him a great debt. A real touchstone of a book.

    Not so much noir, but as a reader, Ian Rankin's "Black and Blue" showed me what crime fiction do could, and then as a writer, George Pelecanos's "The Night Gardener" shows how far I still have to travel!

    I really must read some Jim Thompson, too...

  15. THE WOMAN IN WHITE, THE ALIENIST and GORKY PARK, (I seriously need to read BRIGHTON ROCK) and, yeah, Leonardo Sciascia, Patricia Highsmith and Jim Thompson - but I'm afraid 21rst century books have not produced many standouts, esp. from the American writers.

  16. Without a doubt, one of the best you'll ever read is Raymond Chandler's 'Fairwell, My Lovely.' The guy could paint in words the feel of Los Angeles like no other. And this was back in the 30's!

  17. James Ellroy
    Jim Thompson
    David Goodis
    Ken Bruen (yeah, your gonna get that from everyone)
    Daniel Woodrell
    Larry Brown
    Michael Connelly (you're not going to get that from everyone, but Connelly knows how to sell books and they're dark as hell)
    Laura Lippman (same thing as Connelly)
    Victor Gischler (no one writes a better action scene)
    Shit, there's too many to name

  18. I'm with Keith re Michael Connelly. Clever, emotional writing that crosses over to a big market. He can write series and standalone. A top quality writer.

  19. Cheers, everyone. Thanks so much for your fantastic recommendations. I'm hoping this will become not only an unbelievabel resource for me, but for us all. It's ongoing, so please, if you think of anymore, just let me know. Cheers, Ian.

  20. Thought I'd weigh in with a couple of thoughts and authors.

    I agree that Michael Connelly is someone who needs to be on the list, and Elmore Leonard is almost god-like (check out some of his earlier work around the late 70'2/early 80's like Stick and Swag). James Ellroy is tops for gritty LA-based crime fiction, while if you're looking for something lighter try both Robert B. Parker and Lawrence Block - nobody writes dialogue better than these two guys (okay...maybe Elmore Leonard does).

    I also think Dennis Lehane and Wallace Stroby deserve special mention.

  21. Cheers, Kevin, for your thoughts. I'll be looking all those up and sticking them in the library. Might have to change the format of the thing - get rid of the pictures and run it as a list. Had no idea I'd get so many. Hope it's becoming a useful resource for more than just me.

    Cheers, mate.


  22. Michael Connelly is a good shout from Keith. Bruen's new to me, but is brilliant.
    If I were to pick three, James M Cain is hard to lick, Allan Guthrie (take your pick) is outstanding and an outside slant Donald Ray Pollock does something remarkable in Knockemstiff. I've just read 'The Friends Of Eddie Coyle' and think it might have an impact on what I do.