Ten Vintage Crime Fiction FavoritesPosted: April 15, 2014
This post was partly inspired by reader Elena, who asked me to do a post on my favorite vintage crime fiction favorites. Initially, I thought I couldn’t possibly put together a list of favorite vintage crime novels based on the thinking that I hadn’t read very many old school crime fiction stories but yes, I have, enough to do a list of ten and almost all of them have come highly recommended and have stood the test of time very well.
I hope and plan to make a concerted effort to increase my reads of female crime fiction writers this year and also to highlight them as well at the end of the year, a few of which are on this list, btw.
The list of books published range from 1929 to 1990. So, I’m using the word vintage loosely here obviously.
One author still eludes me. I still haven’t finished reading a Raymond Chandler novel yet but I promised myself that I’d read one of his books this year. I think I can manage it this time.
For the curious, the list is after the jump. Please feel free to share your favorites or comment on this list. I’ll be taking notes. Oh and this list isn’t in any meaningful order.
#1 I’ve read three Jim Thompson novels and my favorite is Pop. 1280 (1964).If you like pulp noir then he is a must-read. His protagonist are usually villains or social outcasts. Setting is some out of the way small town. Runner-up: The Killer Inside Me. And check out the Stanley Kubrick quote that reads:
Probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered.
#2 The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1970) by George V. Higgins. An excellent novel about an informant working for the FBI. I read this one in a day and a half. I remember the ending.
#3 Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965) by Chester Himes. I loved this book and was excitedly buying up the rest of his backlist and have went on to read three titles and Cotton Comes to Harlem stands out from the rest. Not to say that the rest are bad or anything but that if there is only one Chester Himes you want to read it’s this one.
#4 I’ve read and enjoyed bothRed Harvest (1927) and The Maltese Falcon (1929) by Dashiell Hammett and no contest, my favorite is Red Harvest. I loved Hammett’s writing style almost immediately. He had such great turns of phrase and I loved the wisecracks!
#5. James M. Cain. I’ve read three of his books so far and my favorite hands down is Mildred Pierce (1941). A novel set during Depression era California. This is a novel about a housewife who becomes a successful businesswoman. This is also a relationship novel, the center of which involves her relationship with her oldest daughter, Veda, which is best described as tumultuous.
#6 I so enjoyed Margaret Millar’s Beast in View (1955) which is best described as psychological suspense, that I went out and bought a bunch more of her books.
#7 In A Lonely Place (1947) by Dorothy B. Hughes. This one is about a serial killer set in California post WW2. Enjoyed it. I appreciated it more after a second reading. Purchased more of her books, too.
#8 Derek Raymond – well, all four of his novel in the Factory series (well there’s five but I haven’t read Deadman Upright yet) are set in Britain during the Thatcher years. These were excellent with my favorite being the first and last books in the series, He Died With His Eyes Open (1984)and I Was Dora Suarez (1990). Brilliant reads all.
#9 Ed McBain, Ed McBain, Ed McBain. His 87th Precinct novels are great reads and I’ve been hopping around in the series. So far, I’ve read seven of his books and my favorite is The Pusher (1956). Although, Money, Money, Money wasn’t bad either.
#10 Of course I had to add one by Robert. B. Parker. I’ve read only two of his Spencer stories and Mortal Stakes (1972)is my favorite. It’s a baseball novel if you like that sort of thing and it read well on its own. I know very little about the sport and don’t follow it but enjoyed this novel all the same.
Lastly, I recently purchased Sarah Weinman’s Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives anthology. Looking forward to reading this one.