Tomorrow, Saturday, August 31st at 2PM on BookPeople’s third floor, we will be holding our Tough Guys and Dangerous Dames: A Discussion of Hard-boiled Fiction panel to celebrate twenty years of Stark House publishing and the release of the book, The Best Of Manhunt. Leading up to it this week, we’ve had all the participants list three or five hard-boiled favorites. We’ve heard from Stark House Press’s Jeff Vorzimmer and Rick Ollerman and from Nacogdoches, Texas’ Tim Bryant and Joe R Lansdale. All that is left is modern hard-boiled master Josh Stallings, author of the Moses McGuire series that follows an ex-biker turned bouncer on a war against sex traffickers, and Young Americans, a coming of Age heist tale. Also chiming in with his opinion, crime fiction coordinator Scott Montgomery who will be serving as moderator on the panel.
Dancing Bear by James Crumley
This isn’t country noir, it’s Montanan hard-boiled. It combines flavors of Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson with a poetry that is Crumley’s own. It also has my favorite last line, “I have learned some things. Modern life is warfare without end: take no prisoners, leave no wounded, eat the dead–that’s environmentally sound.”
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Chandler writes like a drunken angel. I was 16 when this book started my lifelong love of hard-boiled fiction. Detective Philip Marlowe is a deeply flawed man fighting to do the best he can. Corruption, blackmail, dangerous dames, it is both of it’s time, and frighteningly timeless.
Already Dead by Charlie Huston
In the underbelly of New York lives a dark and dangerous world of blood suckers. Joe Pitt is a hard-boiled, vampire detective fighting to keep the world from falling into chaos. It is funny but never crosses into silliness. It is serious as dynamite, violent and brilliant. Huston creates characters worth giving a damn about.
The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett
Hammett may have not invented the hard-boiled story, but he made it into something worth pursuing for authors. Often considered his most personal book, the story follows the right hand man of a political boss, trying to solve a murder that could ruin his boss while falling for his boss’s woman. Hammett delivers a cynical tale featuring a tarnished hero with a code and a strong male friendship at it’s center. A huge influence on The Coen Brother’s Millers Crossing.
Blue City by Ross Macdonald
Before his sensitive PI Lew Archer, Macdonald wrote this tough as nails postwar tale (originally under his real name Kenneth Millar) about a soldier who returns home to find his father, the town fixer, murdered and few, including the sheriff and his step-mother, giving a damn. He hunts down those responsible with the help of a sex worker and leftist bookstore owner. You know it’s a hard-boiled novel when the hero’s name is Johnny Weather.
The Outfit by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)
I had to include a book about professional robber Parker and this heist novel with about a half dozen heists. To bring things to a head with the organized crime outfit he’s been at war with, Parker goes on a crime spree and tells his peers if they know of an outfit place to rob do it, it will be pinned on him. Westlake wrote the Parker books with a precision that created diamond hard books with no fat.
Unknown Man #89 by Elmore Leonard
One Leonard’s early and grittier Detroit-based novels about a process server with a reputation of tracking down anyone, is hired to locate a man for a sleazy guy who deals in stocks. Others are also on the hunt with deadly aim. Great examples of Leonard’s sense of character and dialogue in a darker story than he was later known for.
Two Bear Mambo by Joe R. Lansdale
Also had to have a Hap and Leonard. This one has the boys going into a racist town to find out what happened to Hap’s ex, a lawyer working on a case. Funny, with great action and a great male friendship at it’s center, this and the other books in the series show how an author takes his or her influences and makes them his own.
Don’t forget about our hard-boiled mystery fiction panel happening on BookPeople’s third floor this Saturday, August 31st at 2PM featuring a bevy of Crime fiction’s best.