From: Greg Swan ( greg@swans.org)
Date: 01 Jan 2000

1. Charles Willeford 2. Jim Thompson 3. Horace McCoy 4. Patricia Highsmith

To my mind, these four writers all share a common thread. Their fiction seems to include elements of surrealism and yet somehow the authors manage to suspend disbelief. I've read a few others along these lines. (For instance, Hallas' You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up comes to mind. It features a Hollywood producer with a poison collection and a political party whose leader dresses in white togas.) Not surprisingly, anything along these lines tends to resonate with me.

I don't mind the PI stuff, but when I read it I like it pulpy. That means Hammett and Chandler -- with their literary baggage -- take a back seat to this luminary:

5. Carter Brown

I read one of these and then tracked down most of Alan Yates' (the man behind Carter Brown and several other pseudonyms) other 200 books. During the early 1970s, I think he was turning out a novel a week in several genres, including gothic romance and hardboiled mystery. A writer's writer, this whacky Australian did his darndest to bring to life America's tarnished knights and decaying urban environs, initially without ever having visited the U.S. Thank goodness for the movies, I guess! The later books, written with 1970's standards for sexual explicitness, get a bit to laughable as the plots all begin to revolve around the sex scenes. However, the earlier novels are all page-turners in the best tradition of Carroll John Daly and the Mick.

If I hadn't been in such an honest mood, I'd have listed Derek Raymond as number 5.

- Greg Swan

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