Countdown to the MysteryPeople Top 100: Jesse Sublett’s Top 20 Mysteries

Scott Montgomery says: Jesse Sublett is one of the coolest cats in crime fiction. Writer, musician, historian, and Austin legend, he is my co-conspirator at Noir In The Bar. He had to be one of the contributors to our MysteryPeople Top 100 list. Here are his Top 20, if you’re tough enough to take them.

  1. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – Still hardboiled, fast-paced, and as cynical as any young punk writing today could aspire to be
  2.  “$106,000 Blood Money” by Dashiell Hammett – A novella originally published in Black Mask and one of Hammett’s Continental Op stores.
  3. Nobody Move by Denis Johnson – An acclaimed “literary” writer deep into noir and hardboiled; it seeps into all of his writing, even his poetry; here is one of his actual crime novels, as weird and dark and hardboiled as anything by a dedicated crime novelist.
  4. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (as deep and weird and lyrical as ever, even on the 13th time you’ve reread him, and he’ll always be the poet laureate of Los Angeles).
  5. The Hunter by Richard Stark – My list could alternatively be 20 Richard Stark novels.
  6. The Name Of The Game Is Death by Dan J. Marlowe – This is one of those classic pulp fiction novels that practically self-incinerates in your hands; you start to wonder if the badass misanthropic protagonist might have some redeeming features or other to make up for his crimes, then the momentum speeds up even more and you just don’t care.
  7. The Getaway by Jim Thompson – Because everyone else will list The Killer Inside Me. (Note from compiler: this is not quite true. Most of us put The Killer Inside Me, but some of us put Pop 1280.)
  8. The Girl From Hateville by Gil Brewer
  9. Shoot the Piano Player by David Goodis
  10. The Black Echo by Michael Connelly – The brilliant debut of a brilliant author, the best chronicler of modern Los Angeles’ mean streets.
  11. Frank Sinatra in a Blender by Michael McBride – Now and then a new author just burns it down the first time out.
  12. Judas Goat by Robert B. Parker Published in 1978, this is the fifth of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels and was the first one I read after finding out about him in 1983. Having read every Chandler and Hammett novel in quick succession, I felt stranded, anxious to find another hardboiled private eye hero, and here was the ex-boxer, superliterate wiseass Spenser, in this relatively high-flying adventure,with stops in London, Montreal, and Copenhagen, as Spenser and Hawk hunt down nine members of a right wing white supremacist terror gang for a bargain fee of $2,500 a head. Spoiler alert: the good guys win.
  13. Crossroad Blues by Ace Atkins – Ace’s debut showed that he had what it takes and his choice of the Robert Johnson legend showed that he’s a cool cat
  14. Cotton Comes to Harlem by Chester Himes – First time I read the first page of a Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones novel the hair on the back of my neck stood up; I needed a drink; I could see everything in the smoky scene that Himes had so poetically and painfully etched on the page
  15. Deliver Me from Dallas by Charles Willeford
  16. The Final Country by James Crumley – God I miss the Crum Dog!
  17. Fearless Jones by Walter Mosley – I love the Easy Rawlins novels but I miss Fearless Jones, who was anything but fearless.
  18. Night Dogs by Kent Anderson
  19. Circus Parade by Jim Tully – loosely fictionalized memoir.
  20. The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy

Jesse will be part of the Our Life In Crime Panel Discussion, starting at 3PM on November 7th, and leading into our MysteryPeople 5th Anniversary Party. Many of the volumes listed above can be found on our shelves or via bookpeople.com; however, some have been included that are no longer in print. All volumes of our final top 100 list will be available either on our shelves or via special order. 

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