Thursday, May 21, 2009

Top 100 Detective Novels?

(The image is of Denzel Washington in the film-based-on-the-novel, Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley.)

I'm double-dipping on this post, as I have posted on a related topic--on

At any rate, the following site has a list from David Lehman of the top 100 detective novels, based partly on the value of the novels themselves but also on their historical importance in the genre:

Like a lot of people who, one way or another, ended up making reading central to their lives, I started reading detective fiction early. There were always a lot of paperbacks in the genre around the house, for one thing, and I also got hooked on Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes early on.

I teach a class, now and then, on detective fiction, and I've published one detective novel, Three To Get Ready--very much a first try, if you get my drift. I was so inexperienced that I didn't know I'd written a book in the sub-genre known as "police procedural" until I read a review of the book, the "police" in which are represented by a rural sheriff and his deputy.

I've always thought the detective (or "crime" or "mystery") novel had a lot in common with the sonnet, insofar as there are some strict conventions set up, and some heavy expectations--but also the expectation that one will improvise, somehow, on what's come before. In both cases, working within the conventions but also testing them and in some cases disrupting them--all part of a satisfying process, from the writer's point of view at least.
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