March 12, 2011
I’ve been reading crime now for the last few months. What attracts me to crime? Mostly its the momentum – pages turn themselves. Commercially, the genre is blue chip. There’s always a couple in the top ten. The content travels well into other media and territories. A top crime writer is a stallion/lead mare if you like to work in stable metaphors (or stables for that matter). A good crime premise needs no explanation to a jaded bookseller seeking to pay escalating rent – because it will sell.
I started with Larson (Millenium trilogy), moved to Chandler (The Big Sleep) , tried a couple of Peter Temples (The Broken Shore, Truth) then a couple of T. Jefferson Parkers (Silent Joe, Storm Runners).
Next was Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) I’m currently reading Quintin Jardine and Marele Day.
Of this lot, its really a question for me of who can be compared to Chandler without wilting like stir fried greens. Chandler writes like
his life depended on it, and from what I understand from his biography, it did. A broken oil man, damaged by corporate life and its associated anaesthetics, he turned to pulp fiction before throwing the pulp away and finding something better inside. As a result, he sets a narrative design like a rat trap that never fails to grab you – with language and mood that linger long after you’ve forgotten what happened. For a lesson in tough, character revealing dialogue, go no further. Want quotes? Go read it.
Under the pressure of this comparison, even though they were all good, especially Silent Joe
and The Broken Shore., and Larson (all for different reasons, try reading them for yourself) Tom Franklin came out as most satisfactory. The surprising thing about Franklin is his focus on innocence, how it matters, how it survives and redeems experience. The general pattern of the genre seems to run the other way, so that appealed to me, as did the very truly carved characters, characters with baggage that scrapes along behind them, leaks out in conversation, betrays them at every turn. In a way, this reminded me of Ray Carver and Rick Bass. Franklin has bled a little more for his story I think, like Chandler, like Carver has dug a little deeper, and the result is very satisfying.
Got a crime book recommendation? Let me know.