Can you believe that The Thrilling Detective Web Site has now been around for 14 years? To celebrate that achievement, editor Kevin Burton Smith asked his many astute readers to choose their 14 favorite private-eye novels of all time. Here are the biggest vote-getters:
• The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett (starring Sam Spade)
• The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe)
• Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe)
• Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley (Easy Rawlins)
• L.A. Requiem, by Robert Crais (Elvis Cole)
• When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, by Lawrence Block (Matt Scudder)
• The Last Good Kiss, by James Crumley (C.W. Sughrue)
• I, the Jury, by Mickey Spillane (Mike Hammer)
• Gone, Baby, Gone, by Dennis Lehane (Patrick Kenzie and
• The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe)
• The Drowning Pool, by Ross Macdonald (Lew Archer)
• Solomon’s Vineyard, by Jonathan Latimer (Karl Craven)
• The Promised Land, by Robert B. Parker (Spenser)
• The Taste of Ashes, by Howard Browne (Paul Pine)
I’m pleased to say that I have read all but one of these novels (Brown’s 1957 work, The Taste of Ashes), and agree they’re all deserving of accolades--though I would certainly have chosen The Chill to represent Macdonald, rather than The Drowning Pool.
And there are other books among Smith’s lists of also-rans that deserve at least as much attention as these 14, including Looking for Rachel Wallace, by Robert B. Parker (Spenser); True Detective, by Max Allan Collins (Nate Heller); The Eighth Circle, by Stanley Ellin (Murray Kirk); The Convertible Hearse, by William Campbell Gault (Brock Callahan); Interface, by Joe Gores (Neal Fargo); Castles Burning, by Arthur Lyons (Jacob Asch); Indemnity Only, by Sara Paretsky (V.I. Warshawski); Hell to Pay, by George Pelecanos (Derek Strange and Terry Quinn); Stone Quarry, by S.J. Rozan (Bill Smith and Lydia Chin); and ... well, this list could go on and on.
The wealth of excellent private-eye fiction is truly astounding. Consider The Thrilling Detective’s selections a good place to start in exploring the genre.
Smith’s full tally of top choices can be found here.