In an alternate universe, names like Gar Anthony Haywood and Walter Mosley are known in the same company as those of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. For they too write talented PI characters set in California locations that deal with social issues. Fear of the Dark is Haywood’s freshman effort and it netted him multiple prestigious writing awards for best first novel, including the Anthony and Shamus awards respectively. He should be better known than he is and yet I hadn’t heard of him until I read his contribution to a round table of black mystery writers that was published in the LA […]
To conclude his first LA Quartet, James Ellroy goes back to his roots a little: the entirety of this book is told in the first person as opposed to the shifting points-of-view we usually get from his other stuff. The result is as my headline says: an entertaining mess. When reading the first few chapters, I was relieved to only have to follow one character’s motives instead of three or four. But as with the rest of his books, the plotting here is dense and having it filtered through the POV of only one character, it becomes unwieldy. Too many […]
I read almost all of Charlie Huston’s catalogue between 2011-2012. I loved the Hank Thompson trilogy and The Shotgun Rule was good as well. I don’t often enjoy fun, trashy Tarantino-esque thrill writers but Huston has more talent than most. I couldn’t put his books down. The ending of the Hank Thompson trilogy stays with me to this day. However, I avoided the Joe Pitt series series for a long time because I don’t like those kinds of monster crossover works. I tried one Jim Butcher book and while it was fine, I didn’t feel compelled to return to the rest of the […]
I read Steph Cha’s first novel a few months ago and in that time, I’ve discovered her work outside of this series is as important as the series itself. She’s listed as the “noir” editor for the LA Review of Books and it appears she writes for the LA Times on a weekly basis. Her column in the Times which covered Linda Fairstein’s unfortunate history as a prosecutor in the Central Park Five case* (and her continuously unrepentant attitude for how the case was handled) helped inspire the Mystery Writers of America to withdraw the prestigious Grand Dagger Award from Fairstein. She’s got a lot […]
James Crumley is basically the Raymond Chandler of the American west. I mean that as both a compliment and a dig. I like Chandler and appreciate his status as the OG of the contemporary American mystery novel but I wouldn’t say I’m one of his acolytes. His plots were often heavily convoluted and though I don’t like applying 2018 sensibilities to works published sixty-plus years before, the vast majority of his female characters and how they are treated by Marlowe is nothing shy of misogynistic. Nevertheless, the man had a gift for both dialogue and scenery. He created a Los Angeles […]
My word, this feels like the police procedural to end all. For reasons I can and cannot spoil. I’m not a big fan of police procedurals. I prefer private eyes or unlikely detectives in the mold of Hitchcock. In real life, detective work doesn’t get solved by a Sherlock Holmes-type using inductive reasoning until the killer is revealed by sheer cleverness. Instead, it takes hard, grinding work, and if a case is solved, it’s usually due to a combination of labor and luck. If a police procedural does this with a degree of verisimilitude, it is likely a boring read. […]
I discovered Charles Willeford’s work last year and he’s become one of my favorite crime writers. Cockfighter was the best crime book I read in 2017 and his first Hank Moseley story Miami Blues will be chalked up to one of the best I’ve read this year. A raucous tale of the worst cat-and-mouse game ever played between cop and criminal. Willeford has a skill for three-dimensional characters, good-but-not-flashy dialogue, wry humor, and measured cynicism. All of those are on display for New Hope for the Dead, a book I enjoyed but didn’t like as much as I wanted to. This is less of […]
To whichever reader sent me those two awesome Hard Case Crime novels, thank you so much! I almost bought the Oakley one for myself and now I’m so glad I didn’t. Thanks and happy holidays!