I've got to stand up for Burnett, I think he is often dismissed because his style is very casual, and many of his novels are fairly soft-boiled, where the main characters are social gamblers or part-time grifters, with very little murder or action involved. Dark Hazard, one of his most enjoyable novels, is barely a crime novel at all, it's more a lighthearted ballad for a canine. But as previously stated, his characters are very strong - natural, sympathetic and geberally interesting, although his stock types become a bit stale over time. Every novel features a physically impaired character, like Gus in Asphalt Jungle. But almost every one of his novels is a true page-turner, moving along at a snappy pace with enough twists to keep the reader involved.
I also have to disagree that he got weaker over time. Underdog and The Cool Man, two of his later novels, are in my opinion two of his very best. Certainly his plotting in these is more focused, and the stories themselves more engaging.
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