Monday, February 16, 2009


I have just finished a very emotional and extremely harrowing read, but enough about our gas bill.
Actually I was reading and writing a review for Euro Crime about Philippe Claudel's brilliant novel Brodeck's Report and it has left me a bit breathless and drained. 

I have decided to modify the numerous categories and sub genres listed here to hopefully make matters easier for a crime fiction virgin. You might feel that I have been too simplistic or the categories are too vague, but I think that if you go much beyond twelve you will frighten off both the newcomer and the potential serious reader.  The purpose is to have  a template for saying, I think these are good examples of this type of book.

1] The Origins: 

Detective fiction in the mid 19th century by well known authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, and Charles Dickens. The non fiction book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale is an excellent introduction to this period.

2] The Age of Sherlock Holmes :

The great detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle probably needs a complete category to himself, but the "Age" allows me to include, if I wanted, books by R. Austin Freeman, John Buchan, Erskine Childers, G.K.Chesterton and Conan Doyle's brother in law E.W.Hornung who wrote at around this time. 

3] The Golden Age:

That enormous volume of detective fiction published during the 1920s and 1930s on both sides of the Atlantic which feature a crime puzzle to be solved by a varied assortment of detectives. The British for example Agatha Christie, Freeman Wills Croft, Margery Allingham and Dorothy L Sayers, and the Americans Erle Stanley Gardner, Rex Stout, John Dickson Carr and Ellery Queen.

4] Hardboiled:

The mainly American development lead by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, a tradition that was carried on first by Ross Macdonald and later by many others.

5] The Police Procedural:

For example the 87th Precinct books by Ed McBain, the Martin Beck books by Sjowall and Wahloo and all the series that followed them featuring a team of detectives.

6] Detectives [police, forensic and private]:

A huge category ranging from police detectives that might be included in the police procedural category but are mavericks such as Ian Rankin's Rebus to forensic investigators like Kathy Reich's Temperance Brennan and Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta, and on to "private eyes" like Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor or Sara Paretsky's V.I.Warshawski. 

7] Psychological suspense:

The Barbara Vines written by Ruth Rendell and the novels of Patricia Highsmith are the most obvious examples of this type of novel.

8] Caper and comic crime fiction:

I have included these together because they do have certain common features. Examples are the books of Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiassen, Janet Evanovich and Declan Burke.

9] Historical crime fiction:

Anything from history such as books about the classical and medieval periods by Lindsey Davis, Ellis Peters, Bernard Knight and Ariana Franklin and ranging through the years  to Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series and John Lawton's commentary on Britain from the late 1930s to the 1960s.  

10] Thrillers:

You could include legal, techno, and spy fiction in this category with authors like John Le Carre, Eric Ambler, Ian Fleming, John Grisham, and Daniel Silva.

11] Crime fiction in translation:

That vast reservoir of books written in other languages than English can be dealt with here. That gives us the chance to pick some translated crime fiction in more than one category.

12] The Wild Card category:

A chance to double up and recommend more than one book from your favourite type of crime fiction, or to include something you don't think can be classified into another group. I am cheating here but the category is available if you want to recommend two English Country House or Locked Room or Pulp Noir or "femikrimi" books. 

"Well sir, here's to plain speaking and clear understanding' 
Gutman in The Maltese Falcon

[to be continued with my book selections next week]     


Blogger Philip Amos said...

This is much better, Norm. Well done you. I am pleased you liked my list in the previous post, for your opinion is a weighty one, and I have now only to add two titles. For 'Origins', Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone. For 'Age of Sherlock Holmes', A.E.W. Mason's At the Villa Rose. The first is a trifle obvious, the second, I think, quite forgotten, but a rather fine example of the period by another distinguished Old Alleynian.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Good work!
These genres should work :)

9:38 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks for your comments and Dorte, Maxine and Philip thanks for taking up the challenge. Your contributions are a useful aid to jog my old brain into action.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uriah, this is not an easy task, especially because crime fiction virgins might be avid readers or they might read only rarely.

To someone who read Pynchon I might recommend Peace' Tokyo Years Zero, but to someone who read lighter literature A. Christie might do a better job.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

It's also tricky because the twelve books I'd take to Dartmoor wouldn't necessarily be the twelve I'd recommend to a neophite crime fiction reader. And to raise another issue, in the circumstances should one only recommend the first book of a series? Book 7 (or 3, or 25) might be a favourite and the best read in a vacuum, but part of its charm might come from already knowing who is who...

I suspect I'm thinking about this too much!

3:15 PM  
Blogger Bernadette said...

Hmmmm...I might just have to have a go at this one although I'll probably flame out half way through like it did with the first lot. Still...a challenge.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Here‘s part of a dozen. I may fill out the rest later, and I may post my own version of your dozen – with modifications, a la Bernd.

2] The Age of Sherlock Holmes :
Arthur Morrison. I read two of his stories in a Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. Other than the occasional period detail, I’d not have known the stories were published in the 1880s, at least the first of them predating the first Holmes story. The prose style was that fresh.

3] The Golden Age:
Let’s say Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. for the sort of satire of advertising that I don’t think became widespread until the 1960s.

4] Hardboiled:
Easy choice though a possibly obscure book: Paul Cain, Fast One.

5] The Police Procedural:
Bill James’ Harpus & Iles novels. Ed McBain’s stunning and beautifully worked-out Nocturne. And I have to mention Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, John McFetridge

8] Caper and comic crime fiction:
Let’s say Declan Burke, The Big O; Donald Westlake, Easy Money; Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, Bust and The Max.

9] Historical crime fiction:
Carlo Lucarelli’s Deluca novels.

10] Thrillers:
I’m going to take the liberty of including adventure/crime, which lets me nominate Adrian McKinty’s Dead I Well May Be.

11] Crime fiction in translation:
Too many to think of now, so I’ll think of some later.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

1:48 AM  

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