From: Bob Toomey (
Date: 06 Jan 2000

Picks of the best from my top five list:

Hammett: RED HARVEST -- an extravagant ode to blood and bullets, and possibly the best flat out pure pulp kickass novel of all time. Paul Cain's FAST ONE is often cited for this honor, and it does have the speed, but not the heart.

Chandler: I've always been fond of THE LADY IN THE LAKE -- sharply written and, unusual for Chandler, sharply plotted. And it isn't infected with the self-pity that makes his later novels, especially the much loved THE LONG GOODBYE, so difficult for me to reread these days.

THOMPSON: POP 1280 is his masterpiece. Even more than THE KILLER INSIDE ME, this is a mean rattlesnake of a book that coils up in your lap, tickles you with its tail and, when you're laughing and off guard, buries its fangs in your throat.

Brackett: NO GOOD FROM A CORPSE -- forget John Evans and Ross McDonald and all the other Chandler wannabes. This is the real thing, with all of Chandler's most annoying aspects stripped away, and a poetic sensibility that belonged to Brackett alone.

Himes: BLIND MAN WITH A PISTOL -- all of Himes' novels were funhouse rides without the brakes, and in this one the car plunges straight into the abyss, which as it turns out had always been the real destination. Reading it today, this book seems even more true than when it was written thirty years ago.

A couple of bonus picks. I haven't seen either of these books mentioned since I subscribed to this list, but both are worthy of your attention:

DOG SOLDIERS by Robert Stone. Hard boiled crime fiction as literature, and as wicked a trip into the heart of contemporary darkness as anything I've read.

ON THE YARD by Malcolm Braley. The Great American Prison Novel by somebody who walked the walk and talked the talk.


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