Monday, September 15, 2008

Crime Thrillers Are Top Fiction

Crime thrillers or police procedurals have some of the best writers offering us a plethora of styles, contexts, characters and superb plotting that can keep us entertained and relaxed for hours on end.
And, we are not talking about potboilers either - there are writers who not only offer interesting characters and good plots (with all the twists and turns); but who are good writers of the language which adds immensely to the pleasure of reading.
There are some key American authors who excel at this - my top nominations include: Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, John Lescroart, Dennis Lehane, Lawrence Block and Ed McBain
And, still really good, but just a little bit down a wee level ..... and this is purely subjective:
Lee Childs, Jonathan Kellerman, Robert K Tanenbaum, John Grisham, David Balducci, Jeffrey Deaver, James Patterson, Harlan Corben, Robert Crais, John Connolly. Crime thrillers, to maintain your interest, do not have to keep you guessing 'whodunit' (a la Agatha Christie style with Miss Marple) though that's great if they do.
That's an added pleasure but, they do have to be plotted well and offer protagonists whom you care about and are interested in...... such as Harry Bosch (Connelly); Matt Scudder (Block); Dave Robicheaux (Burke); Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky (Lescroart); Kenzie and Gennaro (Lehane).
It's not just the 'good yarn' that brings you back to an author - it's his development of the lead characters that also grabs your interest and who become the thread woven throughout all of the series - perhaps best summed up John Lescroart
"When I was just starting to write it (his current work), I asked my wife, Lisa, what she hoped to see in my next book, and she said she'd like to just sit down and spend some time with all of her favorite characters-not just Diz and Abe, but Frannie and Treya, and Wes Farrell, and Wyatt Hunt and Gina Roake. And that's pretty much what I used as my template for this one (The Victims)."
With Connelly et al (above) I recommend you start from the beginning of their series to obtain maximum benefit - all of them have maintained a high standard of storytelling and writing excellence throughout their works.......
They don't just simply churn out novels to make a buck and then gradually decline into clich├ęs, formulaic writing, contrived plotting or the implausible as some writers have done after initially giving us really good books to read...... Clive Cussler being a main offender at this.
The best fiction novels are those which constantly maintain a standard of excellence and meet our expectations...... and in the crime genre ....... The above mentioned are among few who can claim to write top fiction books, consistently.
Though having said that, I must contradict myself - James Patterson is in danger of churning out books for the sake of it - his "The Quickie" co-authored with Michael Ledwidge, is a good example - it is basically dreadful; with the lead character having few redeeming qualities to hold you to the page. It is hard to credit that the book came from the man who gave us the rivetting Along Came A Spider and other consistently good Alex Cross yarns. It almost seems that he has so many ideas, that he has to use a co-author to flesh them out - and they don't have the same feel as his solo authored works.
Excellent crime novels can either be American or British - I can't decide which I like better. The cultural differences, locales, and perspectives are sufficiently different that it makes comparisons odious and it's much better to enjoy the two different styles as stand alones although they are of the same genre. While always wanting the latest from a Val McDermid or a Reg Hill, I can't imagine a reading list that doesn't include a James Lee Burke or John Lescroart either.
You are invited to my website for more - and to add your own comments too if you wish.
Peter Damien Ryan
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