From: Mark Sullivan ( DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net)
Date: 01 Dec 2001

As O-fficial thememaster for DC month, let me say a few words about the city's crime fiction and a few authors I know about.

Most people probably think of espionage or legal thrillers involving politicians when they think of "mysteries" involving DC. However, in the last 15 years, DC has given rise to a strain of hardboiled fiction that has little or nothing to do with the elected visitors to the city.

There were some precursors. Steve Bentley, created by Robert Dietrich
(AKA E Howard Hunt), was a Playboy CPA who often got involved with murder. Stephen Marlowe's Chester Drumm had offices in DC, but the few books I've read in the series took place in foreign locales. And Ross Thomas set several of his books in DC, working that blurry area of overlap between internatonal intrigue and homegrown hardboiled.

James Grady's "Six Days of the Condor" (and the movie, which cut the time in half) also fused a spy thriller with that hardboiled staple, a man on the run. Grady completed his jump to hardboiled with two books featuring DC PI John Rankin.

Following closely in his footsteps was Leo Haggerty, created by Benjamin M Schutz. Most of Haggerty's jobs begin in DC's upscale suburbs, but they sometimes take him into the city (once, he calls Grady's Rankin for a bit of info). This series is top-notch. The first, "Embrace the Wolf," was nominated for a Shamus, the third, "A Tax in Blood," won one. Kevin Burton Smith has said of the fifth: 'And, in my exceedingly humble opinion, "A Fistful of Empty" is possibly one of the best PI novels of all time. So, the question is, "What ever happened to this guy?"' Well, he is right here. Mr. Schutz has graciously agreed to drop in on our discusssion this month.

And then along came George Pelecanos. George's Nick Stephanos is not your usual PI. He probably has far more in common with Goodis's drunken heroes than with Phillip Marlowe, who could hold his liquor. After three books featuring Nick and "Shoedog," a one-off caper novel in the tradition of classic Gold Medals, George wrote the so-called (but not by him) DC Quartet, which explores DC's history of race and working class life, while continuing to satisfy crime fictions fans. His most recent work is back in contemporary times.

Although less than half of Kenji Jasper's "dark" is set in DC, it casts a shadow over the entire book. Only after running away after a violent act does Thai Williams start to realize how the Shaw neighborhood has imprisoned his mind, shackling his expectations and telling him he can never be anything more than a thug.

As Anthony has pointed out, "A Murder of Honor" is the first in a projected series by Robert Andrews, featuring DC cops Frank Kearney and Jose Phelps.

Douglas E. Winter's "Run" is a compelling gun-running thriller, much of which is set in Virginia's suburbs.

A secret history of the upscale Bethesda and Potomac, Maryland, suburbs is at the core of Derek Van Arman's "Just Killing Time." Although I'm no big fan of the serial killer genre, this book emphasizes the investigation of the psychopathology, not the mythology of killers.

And Kevin lists several more DC detectives I don't know on his website

I know there are quite a few listmembers who live, or have lived, in the DC metropolitan area, and some more got a glimpse of the city at Bouchercon, so what do all of you think of its fictional counterparts? Please chime in on any of the above or anyone I've forgotten or don't know about.


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