RARA-AVIS: Top Five '40s Novels

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 01 Jan 2003

Which, in my case, actually came to 10:

FAREWELL, MY LOVELY by Raymond Chandler Possibly the best Marlowe novel, certainly the basis for the best Marlowe movie (1945's MURDER, MY SWEET).

SOLOMON'S VINEYARD by Jonathan Latimer One of the best town-tamer PI novels outside of RED HARVEST.

V AS IN VICTIM by Lawrence Treat Often called (somewhat erroneously, but not without a bit of justification) the "first police procedural." One of the two heroes, a detective in the crime lab named Jub Freeman, is the ancestor of C.S.I.

THE DARK LIGHT by Bart Spicer The first Carney Wilde novel, a great, terribly underrated PI series notable for its Philadelphia locale. Wilde starts off as a faithful follower of the "Marlowe Paradigm" but starts to follow his own star pretty early in the series.

HALO FOR SATAN by Howard Browne (John Evans) One of the trio of Paul Pine novels written by Browne in the late '40s. Pine was simultaneously one of the most slavish, and one of the most satisfying, of the disciples of the "Marlowe Paradigm." This book contains the best "Macguffin" since Hammett put Spade on the trail of the Black Bird, a two thousand year old manuscript written in the hand of Jesus Christ.

GUILTY BYSTANDER by Wade Miller Alcoholic hotel cop Max Thursday dries up overnight to save his kidnapped son in this solid first entry into a very fine, and very underrated, PI series. Mickey Spillance would borrow this theme for one of his best novels, THE GIRL HUNTERS.

A TASTE FOR VIOLENCE by Brett Halliday Mike Shayne takes a turn at town-taming in his best novel.

SIGNAL THIRTY-TWO by MacKinlay Kantor What it's like to be a cop from the POV of three NYC beat cops. One of the first, and still one of the best, cop novels ever written. The writer had a PUlitzer waiting in his future for his Civil War novel, ANDERSONVILLE.

THE MOVING TARGET by Ross Macdonald The first Lew Archer novel, and still my favorite. It was the basis for HARPER, and has been published under that title despite the fact that no one of that name appears anywhere in the book.

NIGHTMARE IN MANHATTAN by Thomas Walsh One of my all-time favorite cop novels. Railroad Detective "Tough Willie" Calhoun, in charge of policing NYC's Grand Central Depot (referred to here by the pseudonym of "Manhattan Depot") pulls out all the stops to find the kidnapper of a small child and rescue his victim. The book was actually published in 1950, but it was serialized in the SATURDAY EVENING POST in 1949 prior to book publication, so I'm including it here.


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