Tuesday 16 September 2014


I don’t think I have assembled any book lists on my blog to date, but after a bit of encouragement from Moira over at Clothes in Books, I have put together a list of 10 crime novels that are important to me on a personal level.

Important insofar as each one went some way towards firmly entrenching my reading habits within the crime fiction genre, sometime late 80’s or very early 90’s. My reading then was typically Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, a bit of Frederick Forsyth. A King blurb on an Elmore Leonard Penguin paperback changed all that.  

I have read more by each and every author on this list. 

Three of the authors are sadly deceased; Willeford, Leonard and Izzi - the last in fairly bizarre-suspicious circumstances

Eugene Izzi
Two of them have had new books out in August and September, 2014 which I will be reading - Kakonis (already done) and Koenig

A couple of the authors, I have consciously decided to stop reading, even though they attract fairly universal acclaim - Burke and Ellroy
Charles Willeford

A couple of them I haven’t picked up a book by in years.

All of the authors are American.

None of them have been reviewed on the blog. 

8 of them are still lurking in the shelves somewhere, ready for a re-read. 

4 of them, kicked off the start of some enduring series characters with Dave Robicheaux - though I always preferred Clete Purcell myself, Burke, Thorn PI and Timothy Waverley.

From the dates of publication, I obviously love the 80's (apart from the music and the fashion)! 

Andrew Vachss
1987 was a particularly good year, though 1988 was better - I got married!

In no particular order, with links to the books on the Fantastic Fiction website where you can find out a bit more if you choose.

Carl Hiaasen – Tourist Season (1986)

Joseph Koenig – Floater (1986)

Charles Willeford – Kiss Your Ass Goodbye (1987)

Andrew Vacchs – Flood (1985)

James Ellroy – The Black Dahlia (1987)

Elmore Leonard – The Switch (1978)

James W. Hall – Under Cover of Daylight (1987)

Tom Kakonis – Michigan Roll (1988)

Eugene Izzi – The Take (1987)

James Lee Burke – The Neon Rain (1987)

Carl Hiaasen
James W. Hall


  1. Col, I have only ever read Elmore Leonard and out of the other honourable mentions I hope to read Joseph Koenig, Charles Willeford, and James Lee Burke someday. I have learned about a lot of new and not so old crime fiction writers on your blog, and I owe you a big thank you for that

    1. Prashant, you can start with those 3, then gradually introduce the other 6! Then you can thank me....haha!

  2. Great idea for a list, and I love all your extra stats - and the weird story of Mr Izzi. I don't think I've read any of these, except possibly the Leonard (I can never keep his books straight in my head), but have read other books by most of them. I love Andrew Vacchs with his piratical eyepatch! Koenig has been coming onto my radar lately. Have never head of James W Hall. I shall do some more investigating....

    1. Moira, thanks for the nudge - it was like a trip down memory lane!

      I'll be interested in what you come up with in regards to Koenig. FLOATERS was fantastic. He has disappeared from publishing for a couple of fairly long stretches - 10 years on at least one occasion. He had something out in 2012, and I had an e-mail out of the blue when I was on holiday offering me a copy of his latest - I snatched their hand off. (Though when they made the offer, I don't think they knew I was UK based!)

      Let me know how the investigations go - EMBARGOS ARE FOR WIMPS!

  3. Col - What an interesting list of authors, and an interesting way of going about looking at how you got into crime fiction. What I love about this idea is that there's so much variety out there in the genre that each of us could probably come up with a completely different list. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Margot cheers. You are right - I could probably do another list on a "second wave" of authors who cemented my roots in the genre.
      I'm guessing your particular journey to crime fiction and your first 10 books would be vastly different.

  4. Of your list the only one I've read is The Black Dahlia. Couldn't agree more with its inclusion; its an evocative thriller. And the most coherent of Ellroy's quartet of LA novels.

    1. Brilliant book in my opinion and I did like the rest of the LA Quartet, particularly the first 3. I'm done with him though. He has a new one out, but I won't be reading it.

  5. Nothing wrong with 80s music... ;-)
    I have been meaning to read The Black Dahlia for ages -- I shall chase it up.

    1. I'm sure there's a few exceptions, but as a general rule I think my point stands scrutiny! I'll have to trawl through my old CDs.

      Defintily well worth a read - THE BALCK DAHLIA, and THE BIG NOWHERE and LA CONFIDENTIAL. I think he peaked then, but I'm sure others might tell you differently.

    2. Definitely .....my spelling is usually ok. It's my typing that's rubbish.

  6. James Lee Burke is the only one I have read of these. I read two or three and decided to stop. Why did you decide to stop reading Burke and Ellroy?

    I am interested in trying the others, although who knows when. I had been planning to read one of my Elmore Leonard books this year, and haven't yet.

    1. With James Lee Burke it is fairly straight forward. I stopped believing in his main character – Dave Robicheaux. He has written 20 books with him in and I absolutely loved them up until about 14 or 15, then had misgivings around that time. I continued for another 3, but the last one I read - THE GLASS RAINBOW - I just didn’t find it credible. He has written a few books since with other characters and also a standalone, but I’m 95% certain I’m done with him. When I see his most recent books in stores and online, I do feel a tinge of regret and think maybe, just maybe one more and then decide.
      Ellroy is a different kettle of fish to Burke in as far as his books are more standalone – though a few have been categorised as series in the loose sense of the word – the LA QUARTET, UNDERWORLD USA, etc. His early books were unnoticed by me until THE BLACK DAHLIA. After reading LA CONFIDENTIAL and THE BIG NOWHERE I was hooked on him and went back and hovered up all his earlier stuff which was good not great. With WHITE JAZZ there seemed to be a noticeable change in the style of his writing. Short. Sharp. Staccato type prose. Almost like he was trying too hard to be hip, and cool and different. Subsequent books got longer and longer and longer each time and more convoluted and complex and whilst not indecipherable I really had to concentrate to follow what was happening. I still enjoyed them and the scale and scope of the tales he was presenting were pretty amazing. They were and still are challenging reads. I have looked at what I have missed since the last one of his I read – BLOOD’S A ROVER and I’m tempted to go back. There’s a novella I’ve missed and a non-fiction thing also – HILLIKER CURSE or something and of course his new 750-odd pages long blockbuster PERFIDIA. As an individual he seems a conflicted person. His mother was murdered I believe when he was a child and that may have affected him - obviously. (I’m not going to try and psycho-analyse him!) Some pronouncements of his have me thinking he’s a bit of an arrogant arsehole. Other times I think he’s genius. Maybe the CCL jury is still undecided on him…..one or two more can’t hurt can they?

    2. Thanks for the detailed answer. Very interesting. I am going to read (Glen's copies of) the LA QUARTET, but I expect them to be a challenge for me.

    3. Wow - soon I hope, I can't wait to hear what you think Tracy.

  7. I agree with you about the L.A. Quartet. The Black Dahlia is outstanding, LA Confidential is excellent, The Big Nowhere is pretty ok, White Jazz is - in its shorthand style - very difficult to get in to. Did you ever see the movie made from LA Confidential? It's very good.

    1. I loved the film - its one of my favourites. I do like the actor who plays Dudley Smith - just looked up his name as I never knew it - JAMES CROMWELL. Time for a rewatch!