February 23, 2008

THE THRESHOLD QUESTION IS: WHY THE GENRE?:

50 crime writers to read before you die: From G K Chesterton to Elmore Leonard, The Daily Telegraph presents a list of of its favourite crime writers of all time (Daily Telegraph, 2/23/08)

GK Chesterton 1874-1936
The most fluent journalist of his generation, Gilbert Keith Chesterton was also a master of the detective story. Father Brown - his sceptical and worldly-wise priest - featured in dozens of exquisite entertainments. Settle into a comfy chair and enjoy. SL

Read: The Complete Father Brown (1986)

Arthur Conan Doyle 1859-1930
Conan Doyle's pipe-smoking detective is so well known that Sherlock has become a synonym for sleuth. He never said the catchphrase; the illustrator gave him the hat; continuity errors abound… but he's brilliant. SL [...]

Dashiell Hammett 1894-1961
It’s a cinch to argue that Hammett was the most influential stylist of the past century and probably the father of the modern literary novel. After honing his style on pulp magazines, he famously proved that high literary art was not only possible, but best achieved, through spare rather than florid or heavily mannered prose.

He influenced Raymond Chandler, who then inspired generations of writers to explore the lyrical possibilities of laconic, muscular writing while instinctively rejecting popular pre-Hammett styles as dull or overwrought. Hammett created revolutionary models for the morally ambiguous hero (Sam Spade) and the equal partnership of modern marriage (Nick and Nora Charles) now so universal that we have forgotten our debt to him.

Reprinted in 2004, his Continental Op stories proved so stunningly fresh that the 1920s hero could have carried a Blackberry without raising eyebrows unduly. JJ

Read: The Maltese Falcon (1930)

Raymond Chandler 1888-1959
He may have forgotten to tell us who murdered the chauffeur in The Big Sleep, but otherwise Chandler can't be faulted. Every reluctant step Philip Marlowe takes through California's mean streets carries him further into legend. JK

Read: Farewell, My Lovely (1940)


A list like this that doesn't include James M. Cain, Ross MacDonald, Loren D. Estleman, Ian Rankin would seem to have missed the point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 23, 2008 8:42 AM
Comments

I know that for some odd reason you dislike Tony Bourdain, oj, but a few weeks ago on his No Reservations he was in Edinburgh and your man Rankin took him around town.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at February 23, 2008 10:41 AM

Colin Dexter wasn't included either.

Posted by: Bartman at February 23, 2008 11:01 AM

Some reason? He's a (rhymes with click).

Posted by: oj at February 23, 2008 11:40 AM

An oddity, Dexter's books improved late because of the tv version of Lewis.

Posted by: oj at February 23, 2008 11:41 AM

No Ellery Queen. One of my favorites at one time.

Posted by: Tom W at February 23, 2008 11:59 AM

"Maximum Bob" is the suggested read from Elmore Leonard? He can't be serious. Leonard had gone from great mysteries to farce by the time that book came out.

Posted by: Patrick H at February 23, 2008 1:09 PM

Rex Stout didn't make the list, either.

Posted by: PapayaSF at February 23, 2008 1:31 PM

Elmore Leonard was writing snappy dialogue when George Higgins was still in high school. Who are the English twits that created the list?

Posted by: ed at February 23, 2008 8:25 PM

Rex Stout and MacDonald are reasonable objections as omissions from the list. But it was supposed to be about people who could write. Neither Dexter nor Rankin can write for toffee.

Posted by: mckie at February 23, 2008 10:04 PM

ed:

elmore leonard is on record as saying that higgins was "the man who showed me how to do it".
leonard mostly wrote westerns until higgins published the friends of eddie coyle. they're ok, but nothing like as good as his crime stuff.

Posted by: mckie at February 23, 2008 10:09 PM

ed:

elmore leonard is on record as saying that higgins was "the man who showed me how to do it".
leonard mostly wrote westerns until higgins published the friends of eddie coyle. they're ok, but nothing like as good as his crime stuff.
I'm not English, by the way.

Posted by: mckie at February 23, 2008 10:12 PM
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