Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Reading Suggestions, Anyone?

As you might expect, I receive hundreds of online messages each day. They’re everything from complimentary missives about The Rap Sheet and publisher offers of forthcoming books, to questionable dating invitations sent by Russian or Asian women and ridiculous blackmail memos (one recent example threatened to tell my friends I was visiting porn sites, unless I forked over $500—I didn’t pay).

But last week, I opened this pleasantly challenging e-mail note from a Rap Sheet reader identifying himself as Ross Wallace:
As a longtime reader of your blog—albeit one whose actual exposure to private-eye fiction is mostly limited to the works of the great James Sallis—I recently stumbled upon a mystery I felt I couldn’t solve alone. Which is where (I hope) you come in.

I realize it might pain you to read this—not to mention puzzle you, given that I’ve outed myself as a fan of The Rap Sheet—but I’m not much into detective fiction, police procedurals, cozy mysteries, legal thrillers, whodunits, or just about any other crime-fiction subgenre you can think of.

What I am a fan of is pulpy, hard-boiled, non-detective-centric fiction. You know, the kind of stuff the Hard Case Crime imprint was created to highlight.

Now, to get to the “mystery” (at long last): Having plowed through just about every non-P.I.-focused crime book I could lay my hands on from Hard Case and by the likes of Jim Thompson, Richard Stark, George V. Higgins, Elmore Leonard, Edward Bunker, Lawrence Block, Max Allan Collins, Dave Zeltserman, Wallace Stroby, Charlie Stella, Scott Phillips, Garry Disher, and Jason Starr, along with selected works by, to name a few, Duane Swierczynski, Allan Guthrie, and Ray Banks … I suddenly find myself (after a period of many years—I don’t read THAT fast) in the awkward position of not knowing which way to turn next to satisfy my regularly recurring jones for “bad-guy crime novels,” as I call them.

As noted above, The Rap Sheet has long been a valuable resource, but as I’m sure you’d acknowledge (proudly), your blog casts a pretty wide net. This can make it a bit tough for someone like me, with a comparatively narrow focus, to sort through all the … bad metaphor alert! … many thousands of bottles in the supermarket spice aisle in order to find exactly the seasoning I want.

Yes, I’ve tried turning to the General Crime Fiction section and the Author Web Sites/Blogs link on The Rap Sheet homepage but, frankly, my eyes glaze over at the mere thought of sifting through all those sites (as worthy as they might be).

Any chance you could help me, well, cut to the chase (god knows, given the unwieldiness of this e-mail, I could use all the help I could get on that front) and recommend a site that specializes in exactly the type of crime fiction I’m describing?

Or maybe you’d consider inaugurating a series on your own site—in a similar vein to PaperBack—dedicated to spotlighting books with criminal anti-hero protagonists?

I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one of your blog’s readers who takes much greater (perverse?) pleasure in strolling around in the gum-soled shoes of hit men, heisters, safecrackers, second-story men, getaway drivers, and gangsters than in those of oh-so-upright beat cops, crusading journos, and private eyes. Err … can I?

You’re a patient and tolerant man if you’ve actually read all the way to here in this painfully long-winded e-mail.

Thanks ahead of time for any help you can offer. And, again, the blog is a winner. Keep on doing what you do.
Hmm. Our friend Wallace already lists most of the “bad-guy crime novels” I might have recommended, though he doesn’t mention Loren D. Estleman’s Peter Macklin series or Steve Hamilton’s Nick Mason novels. He might also enjoy Erle Stanley Gardner’s tales of Ed Jenkins, “The Phantom Crook,” who, to quote from The Thrilling Detective Web Site, works “both sides of the law, pitting cops against crooks, and all in the name of his personal gain.” There have been at least three collections of Gardner’s Jenkins yarns, including The Blonde in Lower Six, published by Carroll & Graf in 1990.

As to the matter of blogs or Web sites with a particular bent toward this breed of crime fiction, I would suggest that Wallace check on Paperback Warrior and the ingloriously named Glorious Trash. Neither is exactly what Wallace has in mind, but both should offer him some new options for his reading pile.

Can anybody else propose other books or online resources?


Wallace Stroby said...

Horace McCoy's KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE from 1948 is pretty remarkable. Told in first-person by a sociopath career criminal. Same for Dan J. Marlowe's THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH, from 1963.

Terrill Lee Lankford said...

James Ellroy seems like an obvious choice to add to this list, as does Kent Harrington who has a number of antihero protagonists in his books.

Unknown said...

Much appreciated.

I neglected to include the Demon Dog in my email to the blog but rest assured, I'm well acquainted with Mr Ellroy... in fact, I still fondly recall devouring L.A. Confidential, my introduction to his work, in one (lengthy) sitting many years ago.

I'll be sure to hunt down the others that you gentlemen mentioned and, as always, leave some room on my plate for future installments in the Crissa Stone series

Anonymous said...

Mr. Stroby is dead right, Marlowe's The Name of the Game is Death is simply essential reading for anyone with Mr. Wallace's tastes.

Also Ted Lewis' Get Carter and its prequel, Jack Carter's Law.
Victor Gischler's Gun Monkeys.
James Reasoner's (superb) Dust Devils.
Of more recent vintage, Patrick Maclean's highly enjoyable 'geriatric Parker' novel, The Soak.

I predict that Mr. Wallace, should he continue to follow this path, will shortly find himself collecting unreprinted Gold Medal Originals, many of which are fast, lean, hardboiled crime stories.

John Hocking

Kristopher said...

I would suggest the books of David Swinson. And would aim this reader towards DO SOME DAMAGE, which often highlights books/authors in the vein.

Randal S. BRANDT said...

Mr. Wallace might want to check out the offerings being published by All Due Respect Books, https://allduerespectbooks.com/ Many (all?) of their books seem to be right up his (dark, dark) alley.

Brian Busby said...

At the risk of being accused of self-promotion, Ross Wallace may wish to take a look at the Ricochet Books series published by Montreal's Vehicule Press. For the most part, it consists of neglected Canadian noir novels of the 'forties, 'fifties, and early 'sixties, reissued in new reset editions with intros by John Farrow, John McFetridge and others.

Some feature private investigators, but most do not. David Montrose's Gambling With Fire and Waste No Tears by Hugh Garner, should have particular appeal.

Full disclosure: I'm series editor.

May as well add that I frequently review neglected Canadian crime novels - most out of print - on my blog The Dusty Bookcase.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

I think David Nemeth's blog, Unlawful Acts, might be another good source of leads Mr. Wallace can use in finding future reads.



Ross Wallace said...

Thanks to all. Looks like I'm locked and loaded for bad guy fiction for the foreseeable future. Really appreciate the recommendations --R

Anonymous said...

I'd also recommend all of Charles Willeford (except the Hoke Moselys), Charles Williams, the non-travis mcgee John D. MacDonalds, David Goodis, James Cain, and Nightmare Alley.

Anonymous said...

"Black Wings Has my Angel", "They Don't Dance Much", and "You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up".

Todd Mason said...

Like JKP, I'm a confirmed fan of William P. McGivern...and another you shouldn't miss is ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW.