Monday, November 05, 2012

Books to Die For

I am reluctantly finishing this book, which I have so enjoyed. I can't imagine any of you would not. More than 100 current writers choose a crime fiction book they admire and write an essay about it. Each one approaches it a bit differently. Some of the essays are scholarly. Some are personal. Some discuss the author more than the book. But nearly every one is worth reading. It is interesting to see how one writer has influenced another's work too. Some of them make perfect sense. With some the connection is less clear.

I had a hard time thinking of a book I would have included that wasn't here. In a review in the Washington Post, the reviewer asks where is Nicholas Blake and a few other golden age writers, but on the whole there are not too many great books not represented. Most of the books chosen do not come from the cozy sub-genre though.

I had read only half the books essayed here. Some I had never heard of. A few of the essayists were new to me too. But I sure went over to my TBR pile for three books I own but haven't read.

What book would you have chosen for your "book to die for?"

I would have chose THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. Although Highsmith is remembered for STRANGERS ON A TRAIN-a very clever novel, I think Tom Ripley is a more memorable and important character. Perhaps a book of characters to die for would be fun. 


25 comments:

Brian Lindenmuth said...

Craig Holden's Four Corners of the Heart

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

A toss-up between THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES by Conan Doyle and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE-DAME by Victor Hugo.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Love that book too, Brian. It was one of those big surprises when I read it as I was not familiar with him.
I haven't read THE HUNCHBACK since high school. I think certain books are disserviced by reading them at too young an age.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it Four Corners of Night?

Are we talking crime fiction or any fiction? Because I don't think I could ever narrow it down to one.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, it is.
I bet there is one book you would have a lot to say about.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm going to have to get ahold of this

George said...

Forever Rumpole: The Best of the Rumpole Stories by John Mortimer. I've read all the Rumpole stories. This is a great collection for those who don't know where to begin in the Rumpole series.

Jerry House said...

Today: a toss-up between THE GUARDS by Ken Bruen and MUCHO MOJO by Joe R. Lansdale.

Tomorrow: ?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I might have chosen THE BOTTOMS by Lansdale-my favorite of his. He chose FAREWELL, MY LOVELY to write about. I don't think there was any collection of stories, George, other than Sherlock Holmes. Although I may be forgetting one.

Anonymous said...

A PLACE OF EXECUTION by Val McDermid immediately comes to mind. There are many others of course.

I've read over 60 of the titles. In my opinion there are a number that do not belong in the discussion but that's what makes it interesting: we all have our own opinions.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Short stories:

Poe's Dupin Stories
Stephen King, Different Seasons
Walter Mosley, Always Outnumbered Always Outgunned

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks! Saved me the long flight downstairs to check.

Deb said...

I would probably choose Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying, because it has one of the great twists in mystery--and it occurs halfway through the book, so Levin has to continue to sustain the suspense after the big reveal. But, as Jeff points out, there are so many great books, it's hard to pick just one.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That is, for sure, my favorite Levin book. And for sure my favorite Robert Wagner film. And one of the best twists ever.

Naomi Johnson said...

Ken Bruen's CALIBRE, the first of his books I read, changed everything about the crime fiction genre for me.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have that one somewhere. Have only read the Jack Taylor's until now.

Anonymous said...

A KISS BEFORE DYING does indeed have one of the best twists ever, and the fact that it comes in the middle of the book - and that Levin was only 24 when he wrote it - is amazing.

Jeff M.

John said...

You read the entire book? I thought it to be more of a reference book. I don't think I could read it from start to end. I really wouldn't want to.

I wish Helen McCloy, Charlotte Armstrong and Elisabeth Sanxay Holding made the cut. There are only 25 women writers included, more than half of them were first published after 1970.

I agree with Jeff about some of those considered a "book to die for". Several aren't even crime novels or mystery novels -- they are novels with a crime in the story. Completely different. I keep shaking my head over this book. 1001 Midnights will always be far superior to me because it wasn't exclusively writers who made the choices. It was people who knew and really love the genre -- fans, collectors, reviewers and writers.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - It sounds like a terrific book! And the problem with answering that question for me is that there are too many I could never, never narrow it down...

pattinase (abbott) said...

I actually savored it, limiting myself to three-four a day.

I don't mind them including books that have a crime but not necessarily its solution. Why not be inclusive rather than exclusive as literary criticism often is.

DISGRACE has two crimes (at least) and although they are not solved they form the backbone of an amazing book.



Richard R. said...

I just finished it too, and also really enjoyed it. I'm afraid I ended up making a list... I can't think offhand of a book I would have included. Yes I have a few favorites, and I'd recommend them to nearly anyone, but I think the book succeeded in what was intended.

Ron Scheer said...

Has to be Cornell Wollrich's WALTZ INTO DARKNESS. Just read Ross Macdonald's FIND A VICTIM, which also deserves a mention.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Cornell Woolrich should have been in there. That was one of the writers the WP reviewer mentioned. But if no one chooses it....
I love that book, Phantom Lady and THE BRIDE WORE BLACK. There were two by Ross, THE CHILL and THE GOODBYE LOOK.
Yes, I think it was a real success. I rarely read a book like that straight through.

Rob Kitchin said...

I have this book on my xmas wishlist. As for the book I'd choose one of the following: Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman; LA confidential by James Ellroy; Neuromancer by William Gibson. Hard to split them. All mean a lot to me in different ways. I probably go with Divorcing Jack.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I expected to have Burke or Connolly chose Bateman.
Bateman chose EARLY AUTUMN by Robert Parker and credited the book for inspiring him, his writing, and a character.
Stuart Neville chose AMERICAN TABLOID.