Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bring on the Half-time Show

2010 has been a pretty good year so far for crime fiction. We’ve seen the launching, for instance, of Needle: A Magazine of Noir, an ambitious print magazine for short, suspenseful stories (spearheaded by Steve Weddle) that rolled out with its first issue this last spring, and has a second edition due to appear soon. The onetime Australian print mag Crime Factory has been reborn as Crimefactory, a Web-based PDF-format publication filled with short tales, features, and reviews having to do with crime/mystery fiction and the people who bring it to us. Several new blogs have contributed to the reading public’s focus on this genre, among them New Zealander Craig Sisterson’s Crime Watch, author J. Sydney Jones’ Scene of the Crime, and Nicolas Pillai’s Squeezegut Alley. In March, once issue-based Spinetingler Magazine was re-launched in a continuous publication format.

And of course there have also been some excellent new crime, mystery, and thriller novels released over the last six and a half months.

When it comes to choosing “best books,” I generally prefer end-of-the-year appraisals. However, after seeing Maxine Clarke of Petrona and Kerrie Smith of Mysteries in Paradise both reveal the five to 10 crime novels--new and old--that they enjoyed reading during the first half of 2010, I was provoked to do an assessment of my own experiences. What follows, then, are the 10 crime novels (all currently available) that I most relished reading over the last six months:

The Big Bang, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
The Case of the Fiery Fingers (1951), by Erle Stanley Gardner
City of Dragons, by Kelli Stanley
The Convertible Hearse (1957), by William Campbell Gault
The Detective Branch, by Andrew Pepper
Gone ’til November, by Wallace Stroby
Infamous, by Ace Atkins
The Information Officer, by Mark Mills
Peeler, by Kevin McCarthy
A Razor Wrapped in Silk, by R.N. Morris

This list deliberately leaves out several books I have enjoyed, but that aren’t yet available to the general reading public; I’ll save those for later mention. And keep in mind: Just because I am enthusiastic about a novel at this point in the year doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed a place on my “best books of 2010” roster in December. I still have stacks of books I am hoping to get through by Thanksgiving Day.

Besides crime and mystery fiction, I have also had the pleasure of reading a variety of non-fiction books since January 1. This roster of favorites I’ll keep at six titles only:

Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edward P. Kohn
Mark Twain: Man in White--The Grand Adventure of His Final Years,
by Michael Shelden
Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910, by Jeffrey H. Jackson
The Promise: President Obama, Year One, by Jonathan Alter
Scoundrels in Law: The Trials of Howe & Hummel, Lawyers to the Gangsters, Cops, Starlets, and Rakes Who Made the Gilded Age,
by Cait Murphy
Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War, by James Mauro

So what do the rest of you think? If you’re willing to share with other Rap Sheet readers your own five to 10 favorite reads from the first half of 2010, please do so in the Comments section of this post.

We can all benefit from your recommendations.


Steve Oerkfitz said...

My favorite crime/mystery books so far this year:
The Glass Rainbow-James Lee Burke
If the Dead Rise Not-Philip Kerr
The Spies of the Balkans-Alan Furst
Wake Up Dead-Roger Smith
The Wolves of Fairmount Park-Dennis Tafoya
Truth-Peter Temple
The Last Fix-K.O. Dahl
The Snowman-Jo Nesbo
Long Time Coming-Robert Goddard
Nearest Exit-Olen Steinhauer

Unkletom said...

It's not technically a book from the first half of 2010 as it won't be published until next month but I stayed up late last night finishing "The Last Talk with Lola Faye" by Thomas H. Cook and it was great!

"The Last Talk with Lola Faye" is the fourth Thomas Cook novel I have read and he has become one of my favorite authors. The way he peels back the layers of the onion and reveals the story beneath is truly masterful. Cook's latest effort is told in the format of a hotel lounge conversation between two acquaintances from the past that, over the course of an evening, lays bare tragic events from years before that shaped the lives and identities of both. A native of Alabama, Cook spins this southern gothic tale with a skill that would make Faulkner proud. This is not the South of antebellum mansions, southern belles and mint juleps; rather it is a place of dark family secrets, angry passions, guilt and ruined lives...and it is very appealing. I highly recommend it.

Dan Fleming said...

1. Gun Monkeys - Victor Gischler
2. The Crime Writer - Gregg Hurwitz
3. Little Girl Lost - Richard Aleas
4. Heartsick - Chelsea Cain
5. King Suckerman - George Pelecanos
6. The Girl Who Played With Fire - Steig Larsson
7. Redbreast - Jo Nesbo
8. The Wheelman - Duane Swierczynski
9. The Man Who Smiled - Henning Mankell
10. Walking the Perfect Square - Reed Farrell Coleman

Kerrie said...

Thanks for the link to MiP.
I haven't read one of your list!
Just shows you how much good crime fiction there is around at the moment.