Rob Kitchin, author of The Rule Book and who blogs at The View from the Blue House, has an unusual dilemma – he wants some recommendations for books to read. Not just any book, as he explains: "Imagine a reader new to crime fiction and wanting an education in the classics. Or consider a seasoned crime fiction reader who’s barely read a crime novel published prior to 1970. Well I’m that latter reader."
Rob is therefore issuing a challenge:set a ten book, pre-1970, crime fiction curriculum (ideally, of different subgenres and styles) and either post the list on your own blog and send Rob the link by email (email@example.com), or post the list in a comment to his "challenge" post, by 31 January. Rob will then compile a curriculum based on the most popular choices (and provide link-backs to posts).
My suggestions, made on the fly in about five minutes, are:
1. Dashiell Hammett (the master) – I like The Dain Curse best but most people like The Maltese Falcon.
2. Ross Macdonald – any really, eg The Drowning Pool
3. James Hadley Chase eg No Orchids for Miss Blandish
4. Hillary Waugh, Last Seen Wearing, usually said to be the first police procedural told from the point of view of the details of the investigation, and fantastic.
5. Ngaio Marsh – again, any, really – I'd pick one with Agatha Troy in it. (wife of the detective, Roderick Alleyn)
6.Patricia Highsmith – the Ripley books were the start of something really else in the genre, but other books are also good: Strangers on a Train is great, much darker than the movie.
7. James Cain, eg The Postman Always Rings Twice
8. Raymond Chandler, any. (Lady in the Lake, perhaps?)
9. Wilkie Collins, either The Woman in White or No Name or Armadale (The Moonstone, to my mind, has not stood the test of time so well because the police detective novel has been so regularly imitated, and dare I say it, developed in more interesting ways)
10. I've run out! So many more I could choose. Dorothy Sayers is a bit snobbish but she is a classic so one of hers , eg Nine Tailors or Have His Carcasse.
Breaking the rules, I continued a full Baker's dozen:
11. John Franklin Bardin, who wrote three extraordinary novels – one could buy them in a three-in-one Penguin edition years ago.
12. Julian Symons, a superb author. One of his earlier ones (pre-1970), eg The Man who killed himself or the Solomon Grundy one.
13 Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo's books were mainly written after 1970 but Roseanna, the first, just about scrapes in and of all these old books, is perhaps the freshest today in terms of its lean prose and lack of "style of the times". (I've only read one Ed McBain, who is often compared to S/W or vice versa, but I prefer S/W on that basis.)
What do you think? Can you compile your own list, post it on your blog, and provide Rob with the link? (There are already several lists in the comment field to Rob's challenge post and some further discussion at Friend Feed.) I'm eagerly anticipating the final breakdown on 1 Feb or thereabouts.