Mystery/Noirish authors thread

My all time mystery/detective writer is, by a long shot, Raymond Chandler. I was in mourning when I finished the last Marlowe novel.

Over the years I’ve read various mystery writers, with a leaning to the more noirish style and series (I like the building of a world and characters with a history.) At one point I was liking Parker’s Spencer series, but it just started feeling a little like a parody of itself recently. And particularly after reading people like Michael Connoley (sp) and Dennis Lehane, who make Parker sound like a real lightweight.

So who would you recommend? Someone with a great series, a noir feel. I’m always looking for a new addiction. ;)

Robert Crais - he’s a good mate of Michael Connelley’s (their main characters have cameo’s in each others books).

I’ve only just started on Lehane (nearly done with the second book) and I’m loving it.

Alan Furst

Noir pre-ww2 spy fiction.

My absolute favorite noir creation is Dashiell Hammet’s Continental Op. He is the protagonist of several novels and short stories, including Red Harvest, the book that was the basis for Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars. The Op is nothing like Sam Spade - he’s brutish and ugly, but he’s got a brain and is constantly being underestimated by people who don’t see past the surface. I love all of Hammet’s work but the Continental Op stories are my favorite.

Also - it may be less actual noir than detective work, but I like James Lee Burke’s stories about Dave Robicheaux, who is a cop in New Iberia, Louisiana. I confess I’m a fan at least partly because I’m from Louisiana and have an aunt in New Iberia, but it’s pretty cool that he at least gets the atmosphere and color right, being a local himself.

James Ellroy’s LA Quartet- Starts with Black Dahlia, then The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential, and White Jazz.

Also, since you like Michael Connolly, I’ll throw in my standard recommendation of Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole novels. Very similar in style to Connelly and the two authors have even had their characters have cameos in each other’s novels.

After Ellroy, you gotta do the George Pelecanos.

DC homeboy, writes novels set in this city. If you want his indie-rock loving detective stuff, check his early work. If you want Pelecanos riffing on blaxpoitation, the series that starts with KING SUCKERMAN is the way to go. He just published THE NIGHT GARDENER, and it might be my favorite book by him. Pelecanos is an author who transcends the “mystery” genre and is taken seriously in literary circles as a major figure in American letters.

I like Chester Himes, based on the one book of his that I read. (“Real Cool Killers.”)

Also, I’m warming to Ian Rankin’s “Rebus” novels, set in Scotland and starring a mostly dysfunctional cop (still can’t place John Hannah as Rebus though).

On the lighter side, I’m a fan of Lawrence Block as well, particularly the Matt Scudder (alcholic ex-cop) and Bernie Rodenbarr (friendly neighourhood burglar) books - sure, they’re a little lightweight compared to some listed above, but they pretty darn entertaining.

(Kevin gets a free pass since he’s put me onto most of the authors in this thread - hee).

Jim Thompson, man. Poet laureate of the lurid. Check out that link for the Black Lizard catalog - I suggest starting with The Killer Inside Me. Or The Grifters. Or Pop. 1280. Or The Getaway. Or Savage Night. Hell, the guy wrote a lot of books.

Also I’ll mention Patricia Highsmith probably because nobody else will. Wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley series, which gets pretty odd, and Strangers On A Train.

Also, if you haven’t read them, the holy trinity of James M. Cain - The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred Pierce - should be required reading.

Charles Willeford’s Hoke Moseley books (Miami Blues, Sideswipe, New Hope for the Dead, and The Way We Die Now) are some of the best crime novels ever written.

Dirty White Boys, by Stephen Hunter, is about as unputdownable as any crime book I’ve read in the last decade.

After Chandler, who is of course the king, I’d say Ross MacDonald. There’s more than one author of that name, I mean this guy:

http://hem.passagen.se/caltex/

Not sure if his stuff is widely in print at the moment, but he must have sold millions of copies, so they should be easy to get from alibris or amazon if not.

And of course there’s also Dashiell Hammett, as Pogue mentioned. His stuff is IMO often either too consciously literary or too fantastic to be conventional noir, but of course he wrote before the term had been defined. Chandler seemed to resent Hammett from what I’ve read, but he didn’t sneer at him the way he sneered at the parlor-mystery writers in that famous essay. Anyhow, I must agree: I really like the Continental Op, who is the very model of the noir private eye.

I don’t think nearly as much of the recent and current mystery writers mentioned in this thread. Many of them write good entertaining books, but they’re just not in the class of these guys.

Well, pre- and during-WW2 spy fiction.

Without a doubt, one of the best current authors… very noirish, resemblant of Graham Greene and Eric Ambler.

— Alan

Peter Corris. Hard Boiled/Noir Detective stories set in Sydney.
Sometimes hard to find.

I see he has quite a few novels out. Any of the works a particularly good place to start?

My absolute favorite subject. I can talk about this for hours.

I really like Jonathan Valin’s Harry Stoner, pretty much out of print. It’s too bad so many of these authors have stopped writing.

Then there’s Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder. I guess I like my PI’s a little sad.

None of the books need to be read in order as none deal directly with the others, though there is usually a reference or brief appearance of one character or another, but that’s about it.

That being said, I think it wouldn’t be bad to read them in order of publication since Furst started writing in this “series” (he did write previous books in the 70s and early 80s that were more thriller-oriented I believe). Copied from Wikipedia:

* Night Soldiers (1988)
* Dark Star (1991)
* The Polish Officer (1995)
* The World at Night (1996)
* Red Gold (1999)
* Kingdom of Shadows (2000)
* Blood of Victory (2003)
* Dark Voyage (2004)
* The Foreign Correspondent (2006)

The publisher (Random House) increases the whole noir feel with a well-thought-out cover scheme, using very dark, two-tone colors and washing out the rest.

He even did a noir ad for Absolut which I have printed and hanging on my board at work (“Absolut Furst”).

— Alan

Seconds on Pelecanos, Ellroy, Crais and Block…though I don’t think of the Matt Scudder series as lightweight. It’s often pretty dark, and Scudder’s a minorly tortured soul. Not Lehane or Ellroy dark maybe… Bernie Rhodenbarr, yah, that’s light entertainment (but heavy on the entertainment).

BIG ups on the Rankin (Inspector Rebus) recommendation. The only mystery series I always buy in hardcover. Apparently the BBC made a miniseries some years ago, which I’m dying to see but haven’t lucked into yet.

My pick:

Jim Butcher

OK, it’s not pure mystery – it’s noirish fantasy mystery about a wisecracking private wizard working the streets of modern Chicago. But Butcher certainly takes a lot of cues from Hammett and Chandler.

Rebus? Oh yeah - it’s on BBC America every once in awhile.

— Alan

Elroy actually became darker after Lehane came on the scene.