It’s a Crime That I Waited This Long to Write About Crime Fiction

Why do many readers love mysteries, detective novels, and thrillers? The obvious answer is that those kinds of books are often escapist and exciting — and exercise our brains as we try to figure out “whodunnit” and/or how things will end.

Sometimes books from the three above genres are as much literary fiction as genre fiction — with examples including Donna Tartt’s compelling The Little Friend (which I’m currently reading), Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone (an early detective novel), Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (14th-century monk as sleuth), and even Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (more romance than mystery, yet there’s that central puzzle over who’s living in the attic). But if genre fiction is often not literary fiction, no big deal.  🙂

I have not read as many mysteries, etc., as some of the regular commenters here, but I’ve polished off more of those books during the past couple of years thanks in large part to recommendations from you. Some of my favorites, in no particular order: Sue Grafton’s A Is for Alibi, Lisa Scottoline’s The Vendetta Defense, Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress and A Red Death, Dorothy L. Sayers’ Strong Poison and Gaudy Night, John Grisham’s The Client and The Firm, P.D. James’ The Lighthouse, Anita Shreve’s The Weight of Water, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Harbor, Peter Hoeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Alistair MacLean’s Where Eagles Dare, Richard Matheson’s Hunted Past Reason, and Dean Koontz’s Seize the Night.

Then there are Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, of which I’ve read eighteen in less than two years. My addiction to that series illustrates how thrillers, detective novels, and mysteries with an intriguing, recurring protagonist can get readers VERY addicted. Of course, it helps when those series offer riveting plots and “bad guys” who raise one’s blood pressure.

Also riveting is Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. Lisbeth Salander is one of the most original thriller protagonists in modern literature, and her computer skills exemplify how digital technology has greatly influenced the ways crimes are solved in novels of the past twenty years or so.

Larsson’s books, like many of the other novels mentioned in this post, also mix in all kinds of social issues — which I think can be a good thing along with the escapism. Though of course it can be nice once in a while to read genre fiction that intends to do nothing more than entertain.

Great mystery, detective, and thriller novels I’ve read less recently include several Agatha Christie novels (the iconic And Then There Were None deserves its stupendous sales), Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels and stories, Edgar Allan Poe’s groundbreaking detective tales (such as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”) starring amateur sleuth C. Auguste Dupin, Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, and other authors and titles. Plus Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace — a murder saga of a more literary sort.

Though I’m reading more of what might also be called crime fiction, I still like to mix things up with lots of literary fiction and “general-interest” novels — classic and modern — that are detective-free. It’s nice to jump from P.D. James to Henry James, from a Sue Grafton mystery to Elsa Morante’s History, and from a suspicious car wreck to something by John Steinbeck. And then jump back again.

What are some of your favorite mystery, detective, and thriller novels? Any thoughts about those genres and the attractions they hold?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone.)

My new book Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia will be published soon.

But I’m still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as “Dear Abby” and Ann Landers, and other notables such as Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

113 thoughts on “It’s a Crime That I Waited This Long to Write About Crime Fiction

  1. This is such an interesting post. I’m a huge fan of crime fiction/mysteries myself and I think the appeal for me definitely lies in not only figuring out whodunnit, but why. I find what makes those villainous characters tick endlessly fascinating. Also, happy to find a fellow reader who enjoyed Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend – it’s one of my favourites, but I know it often leaves readers divided.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Anzel. Well said!

      You make a great point about how it’s interesting to not only figure out who the “culprit” is but to also understand why he or she committed the crime.

      Nice that you’re also a fan of “The Little Friend”! I suppose one reason readers have divided opinions about it is that we never find out who committed the murder. But Donna Tartt is such a good writer, and creates such interesting characters, that I just enjoyed the ride despite the lack of closure at the end. I also loved her more recent novel “The Goldfinch.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave, “The game is afoot!” Well, any self-respecting Sherlock Holmes fan knows that is not original to CAD (HA! such initials) but the theatrical machination of early Hollywood actors.

    If there’s ever a good “who done it” it will certainly be one of SH adventures. I really can’t pick just one but The Adventure of the Empty House is a favorite.

    Fiction is best when it crosses into the real world–ACD detective seems to have some influence in the forensics field. http://forensicoutreach.com/library/5-ways-sherlock-holmes-inspired-forensic-investigation/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps you might be interested to learn, if you don’t already know, that a 1916 film of William Gillette, the man who was Doyle’s favorite to play the part of Sherlock, has recently been unearthed, and is now available on DVD through Flicker Alley,(FA0042). The property is a composite sort of creation, constructed out of many Doyle stories by Gillette himself, and runs 116 silent minutes. By viewing it, one can see the vehicle, adapted from the stage, by which many were introduced to Sherlock Holmes. Gillette, according to the accompanying liner notes, played Holmes approximately 1300 times!

      Perhaps therein is the origin of ‘The game’s afoot!’ (I won’t know till I buy a DVD player– the DVD itself was a gift.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jack, your comment had me at “The game is afoot!” 🙂

      I haven’t read the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories in years, but loved them when I did.

      Actually, the Arthur Conan Doyle initials ACD are also kinda evocative — as in almost the metal band AC/DC?

      And that’s a VERY interesting link. Thanks! I believe Mark Twain’s “Pudd’nhead Wilson” also was influential in bringing fingerprinting into the public mind.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jhNY, wow — what a discovery that 1916 film is!

        And I guess William Gillette’s ultra-extensive experience playing Sherlock Holmes almost makes the great Basil Rathbone seem like an amateur.

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        • Gillette was also a tireless performer of the title role in a theatrical version of Dracula– so he wound up helping to define and popularize two of the most durable fictional characters ever created!

          He’s got a sorta castle he built for himself near Chester CT– it’s actually a stone version of a stage set for Macbeth, and looks it. On his estate there, he also built a small-gauge railroad, parts of which still operate for tourists, tracks for which– not the part that still operates– ran dizzily derelict out into mid-air, viewable from the Connecticut River, where, canoeing a dozen or so years ago, while paddling between swans, I looked up, and spotted them.

          Rathbone was a marvelous Holmes, saddled with less than marvelous scripts and a dumbed-down Watson, ably played by Nigel Bruce, but dumbed-down, and not, really, more likeable for it.

          Doubt there has been, or ever will be, a man with more Holmes performances under his belt than William Gillette.

          Liked by 1 person

        • LOL, Jack — that alligator IS huge. So hilarious to look at, with its funny expression and funny walk. Probably not hilarious to be near…

          “Pudd’nhead Wilson” is an uneven novel, but the good parts are terrific. And a real mix of drama and humor.

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  3. Dave I love mystery, detective, and thriller novels. But must say my all time favorite mystery writer is Agatha Christie. So many I have read long ago ” And then there was none, ” The mirror cracked” and so on. I had the books but gave them away. Now when I look at the library collection they look worn out so i might start buying again from second hand stores.
    We talked about Walter Mosley`s thrillers set so early that made them so intriguing to read. He has a knack with names of the subjects. Then the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy we discussed so many times starting from HP days, at least i still have the books so i could reread them again, beautifully translated.
    Then the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child you have read so many as i have read 8 of them.
    Now I am reading The Latest Thriller From John Grisham. ” The Whistler”, number one in NYT best seller and now 4 in eleven weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You named several great authors and series, bebe! Thanks for being the person, or among the people, who convinced me to read Walter Mosley, Stieg Larsson, Lee Child, and John Grisham. I’m VERY glad I did. (Looking back, I’ve respectively read 2, 3, 18, and 3 novels by those authors. That’s 26 total — higher than Trump’s IQ… 🙂 )

      I definitely need to read more of Agatha Christie. High praise that she’s your favorite mystery writer!

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      • Now on Politics, Sunday I go for my Tai Chi class when so many are going to religious gatherings. Our instructor is a shrink by profession his class is so good which will relax the mind and body. I believe he was against DT , but I missed his classes right after the election for my sickness and I understand it was psych 101.
        After that I was doing some elliptical machine with Face the Nation in front of me. There was the squinty eyed Pence. Dave, he was lying so much it was hard to take but like a slithering snake was praising the host and CBS as if they were different from the rest of the media.
        Dittoing every thing about Trump when asked DT was never accepted POTUS as legitimate President why now fight back John Lewis and not let it go ? That was never answered like a typical politician.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Trump “won.” Most other people in that position would let criticism slide off their backs. But not Trump. He can’t take ANY criticism. Wish he would get angry at the important stuff — like health insurance being yanked from 20 million people. But he’s FOR that sort of thing…

          Loved your colorful, well-deserved description of Pence!

          Exercise does help in these tense times of Trump.

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  4. I used to tell myself I didn’t like historical novels, before realizing there were some rather exceptional exceptions to my supposed intolerance of the things: The Red Badge of Courage, War and Peace and The Charterhouse of Parma come to mind.

    So I guess I do, when I do.

    In the area of crime fiction, I’d like to mention a few writers whose novels are set in a past too long before the birth of their novelists to be anything but.

    First, a Canadian whose profession was geology before he turned his hand to crime writing: J. Robert Janes, author of a series of detective/suspense novels set in wartime (WW2) France and featuring an unlikely team, French detective St-Cyr and German detective Kohler . I’ve read two in the series, Kaleidoscope and Gypsy, and can recommend them for their irreducible strangeness and arresting visual details, such as the way plaster dust, after an assassination attempt by explosive, can look like a dusting of snow, still falling, to those first on scene.

    Next, Rebecca Pawel, whose novel Death of a Nationalist takes place in late-’30’s Spain, immediately at the end of the civil war there. It’s a simple tale, well-told, its settings meticulously described, of a senseless, casual killing, the justified fears of the survivors, the devious machinations of the fascist police and the practical, if cynical resolution of the murder’s aftermath.

    Philip Kerr has written a number of historical crime novels set in Nazi-era Berlin and after, featuring detective Bernie Gunther. I’ve read his first three novels in the series titled Berlin Noire when it came out in one paperback volume a while back. I enjoyed these books, but felt they suffered from a bit too much rubbing of the shoulders among the great and powerful on the part of Gunther– a fault of historical novels I’ve noticed before. It’s one thing to work and live in Nazi Germany, but it’s another to run headlong into bete noires like Heydrich and Himmler and other such personages, sorta the way it would be a bit much for the fellow in Red Badge of Courage to converse at campsite with US Grant.

    Just now, I’m nearly finished with a novel titled The Blood Dimmed Tide (Yeats ref), set in early 1930’s England, by Rennie Airth, the last on my list of historical crime fiction writers. It’s part of a series featuring former Scotland Yard detective John Madden. I haven’t read any others in the series, but can report that Airth is an able and engaging writer, who keeps things controlled and believable most of all by not reaching for the improbable or exotic when something more likely and direct might do. I like Airth well enough to read any other Madden mystery I happen to happen on in my tours of books on blankets in NYC.

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    • Thank you, jhNY! As always, you’re a fount of knowledge about interesting novels that are not that well known — and you describe each of them extremely well!

      Walter Mosley also sets his crime fiction in the past. He was born in 1952, and his first two Easy Rawlins novels take place in 1948 (“Devil in a Blue Dress”) and 1953 (“A Red Death”).

      I like historical novels, whether crime-related or not.

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      • Yes– I might have mentioned Mosley, and should have, as I’ve read two Easy Rawlins novels and another featuring Leonid Magill, a black private detective whose father was an active Communist– I guess I fixated on historical crime novels set in foreign climes.

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      • “I like historical novels, whether crime-related or not.”

        I believe you, and I no longer believe what “I used to tell myself”, especially upon realizing, this very morning, that Grail Nights (by Amanda Moores, love of my life), set around 1980, published in 2015, is such a one.

        Liked by 1 person

        • And a terrific book “Grail Nights” is!

          Even a novel set just 35 years in the past has a whole different feel. Heck, the 2015/1980 divide is a huge one — digital age/pre-digital age.

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  5. Good afternoon Dave,
    I didn’t think I was much of a crime or mystery reader, so I’m surprised at how many authors you’ve mentioned that I’m familiar with. I read Wilkie Collins’ “The Woman in White” last year and couldn’t put it down. I also read Grisham’s “The Firm” which I found entertaining, though perhaps a little dated now. I’ve also enjoyed “The Big Sleep”. I think the fact that I didn’t love “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is proof that the crime genre just isn’t for me. I enjoyed it enough to put the other books on my list, but not enough to devour all three of them there and then. Though if I ever do decide that I need to add to my list of crime or mystery novels, Kat Lib will absolutely by my go-to on where to start!

    When talking mystery stories, most people probably wouldn’t think of Oscar Wilde, however his short story “Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime” is completely enthralling. Not so much a Whodunnit as a Who’s He Dunnit To?

    I love how much you love the Reacher novels. 18 novels in two years is definitely an addiction! But isn’t that what reading is all about? Getting swept up in page turning, unputdownable stories? And I love that feeling of knowing that there’s a new book out that you just HAVE to read. There are definitely worse things to be addicted to.

    By the way, I’ve been meaning to congratulate you on the upcoming publication of your new book, so – congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sue! I had the same feeling before writing this post — not thinking of myself as much of a crime and mystery novel reader, yet realizing I had read a fair amount of books in those genres.

      I agree — “The Woman in White” is absolutely riveting. So well plotted, with memorable villains and memorable nicer people. I also agree — Kat Lib is a crime and mystery novel ultra-expert! And I agree once again — reading, even if it’s “escapist” literature at times, is the best kind of addiction. Well said!

      Just found “Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime” here: http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/LorArt.shtml Will try to read it during the next few days.

      Last but not least, thank you very much for the congratulations about my new book! I’m working with a great self-publishing person/company, and am currently going over the copy-edited manuscript. Cover design next. Hoping the book will be out within two months!

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        • Yikes — my book is interesting, but I can’t compete with Lee Child for excitement. 🙂 He writes page-turners, and I wrote a book in which the pages can be turned. (There’ll be a Kindle edition, too.)

          But thanks, Sue!

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          • Dave, I too am looking forward to the publication of your new book and hope you will keep us informed as to how to get a copy. Even though I could get it on Kindle, I’d much prefer to get a copy for my in-home library!

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            • Thanks so much, Kat Lib!

              The self-publishing company and I are concentrating on the content of the book at the moment, so I’ve yet to learn all the distribution and marketing details. But I believe it will be available in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon and other places. Possibly, I’ll also get some paperback copies I can sell directly.

              Will definitely keep you and others here informed! I’m thinking that when the book is out I’ll ask for people’s patience here and do at least one blog post about it — complete with excerpts. 🙂

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    • Hi Sue, I’d be more than happy to give suggestions if you ever decide to delve more deeply into crime fiction. The first book in Larrson’s Trilogy was difficult to read, even for me, due to the very graphic violence. However, the next two books are much more interesting and still fast-paced.

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      • Thanks Kat Lib,

        The violence etc in “Dragon Tattoo” didn’t really bother me as I thought it worked for the story, and Larsson handled it well. I just didn’t really care what happened. And I’m reluctant to say this here, but I didn’t much like Lisbeth Salander. I’ve read worse characters and I certainly didn’t hate her, but she just didn’t grab me as she has everybody else. I will get to the other books though.

        I’m so sorry to hear that you’re not sleeping, and that your emotions are a bit on edge. I’ve absolutely been in denial since November 8 and haven’t even wanted to contemplate the new POTUS. But it’s happening. It’s really, really happening. And while he and his wife already look so bad, every time they’re pictured side by side with the current POTUS and his wife, it reminds me of just how bad it is. I know the Obamas aren’t perfect (well Barack isn’t, I’m not so sure about Michelle) but the comparison between them and the Trumps would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. And that’s without looking at policies (which I’ll admit I know very little about). The amount of compassion and grace that’s about to leave The Whitehouse will be such a loss for the USA.

        Dave, when your book is published, I’d also prefer a ‘page turning’ copy that I can put in my library as it will be worth so much more money when you’re ridiculously famous – not that I’d ever sell and original Astor! I also look forward to your post about your new book, no patience required 🙂

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        • You summed things up more perfectly than a lot of Americans would, Susan. I have mixed feelings about President Obama’s views and actions (I could list those I like and those I don’t like; perhaps I’ll skip that 🙂 ), but those views and actions are clearly light years better than Trump’s. And, on a personal level, Barack and Michelle Obama are gracious, witty, tolerant, scandal-free, etc. They’re on another planet compared to the crude, shallow, narrow-minded Trumps.

          As for the book, a paperback copy you shall have! If it’s $15 (I don’t know the price yet), it’s sure to be worth 15 cents in time — which may be a good thing given that pennies are made of metal and dollars are made of paper. But, seriously, thank you for your kind words about the book and your interest in it!

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          • Dave, it’s OK that you didn’t like all of Obama’s policies. I’m sure that most. or all us, would agree with that.assessment; however, as you also note he and his family have been such role models for so many of us. He’s been doing his best in the last weeks of his term to do what he can with off-shore drilling and naming certain Native American lands and civil rights landmarks as national monuments. I also think that other presidents, Lincoln and FDR, considered as the best ever, were not without their faults or bad policies.

            If bebe, Sue and PatD are still checking comments, three of my oldest girlfriends are definitely going to be at the Women’s March next Saturday. One that I spoke to the other day is driving from Philly, another is flying in from Texas and joining up with a third who lives in the D.C. area. I definitely am with them in spirit!

            Dave and PatD, I can’t believe it, but I spent hours one evening gathering up all my Agatha Christie books, of which numbered around 52 mass market paperbacks and alphabetizing them — wouldn’t you know that “Crooked House” is among the missing. Ugh! Oh well… 🙂

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            • Very true, Kat Lib. No president is/was perfect — including Lincoln (who had surprisingly mixed racial views) and FDR (who incarcerated innocent Japanese-Americans). The Obamas are indeed role models. I guess the Trumps are also role models — for how NOT to act. 🙂

              I’m glad Obama has been trying to do some positive things (such as his environmental moves) before Trump and his ilk start trashing all that is good. I kind of wish Obama had also made Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a recess appointment before the new Congress reconvened, but that kind of “confrontational” move is not Obama’s style. Still, the vicious Republicans flat-out stole that seat.

              The wonderful Jan. 21 march is going to be VERY well-attended. I know at least a dozen people going. Unfortunately, I’m getting a bit old for that sort of thing, after attending dozens of demonstrations when younger. I wish there had been frequent rider bus miles to DC!

              You have 52 Agatha Christie books? Impressive! But sorry “Crooked House” is missing. 😦 My local library didn’t have “Crooked House” last week, but I’ll look again in February. (Thanks, Pat, for recommending it!)

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            • Yes Kat Lib just read your post.
              Dave, Susan, Pat D this is what i think of President Obama

              Barack Obama will be remembered to be the most articulate, thoughtful President America ever had.
              Not to forget when he inherited the Presidency the stock market was dipping every single day seven to eight hundred points.When people lost all of their life savings and some panicked and sold their dwindling shares.
              Now it has bounced back to more than double. So many did not have health care, Country was at war with Iraq and so much more.
              Obama raised people`s confidence in his eight years and all those years Donald Trump denied his Presidency with his ongoing birther movements.

              And look at President Obama now, he treated the President elect with utmost respect in return and never said any ill words against Trump after the election.

              Barack Obama our 44th President is a class act in every possible way !.

              Liked by 1 person

              • VERY eloquently said, bebe. Thank you.

                There seems to be a pattern where the economy is wrecked when Republicans are president, and then the economy is at least somewhat fixed when Democrats are president. Trump is bringing the wrecking ball — and only the ultra-rich will be spared.

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  6. Not crime fiction but apropos more of the annals of true crime, where the good guys get run out of town and a syndicate takes over, what I was watching: Obama’s Farewell Address.

    Evidently, the cable teevee guide thingy was not updated for the speech, so that when I switched channels I was treated to these under-titles while Obama was speaking– I’m calling them jarring juxtapositions:

    Chan2: Big Bang Theory
    Chan5: Bones
    Chan7: Fresh Off the Boat
    Chan11: No Tomorrow

    Coinkidink? Yep.
    Still….

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’m thinking it’s a two-parter: Part One is retrospective, from the Big Bang To Fresh off the Boat. Part Two is No Tomorrow then Bones. The under-titles just got the order wrong.

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      • I was listening to trump`s speech while doing some chores.
        a royal pandemonium Dave, Trump was just like he talks to his massive audience.
        ” I will be a very, very good President”
        ” This person I chose is just brilliant.”
        Also DT was screaming over a reporter perhaps CNN ” Not you, fake news”.
        Did not stop insulting Senator Lindsey Graham who is one of a very few Republicans to hold Trump accountable , saying ” Oh one day he will crack that one percent”.

        It will be a very, very long four years…….

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        • Thank you for that vivid report, bebe! I couldn’t bear to listen to or watch the press conference, but I’ll read about it later tonight or tomorrow morning. No surprise that Trump was as nasty, vindictive, disgusting, and untruthful as ever. Nine days until he’s Jerk-in-Chief… 😦

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          • Dave I understand what PatD, Susan, Kat Lib are going through. This is such an awful time less than a week left and this thin skinned bully will become the 45th President. Trump is corrupt but Pence perhaps waiting for the day to take the place.
            This is such a great topic I meant to write but was totally distracted. I will write tomorrow.
            Also I would like to purchase your book once it is realeased.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Yes, a VERY disturbing time for many people. “Thin-skinned bully” — that’s Trump.

              On a more positive note, thanks so much for your interest in the book, bebe! I just received some cover possibilities today that look great.

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        • I want him to be good at his job more than I’ve ever wanted anybody to be good at their job in my life, bebe. I’ll be eager to give him credit if he proves to be a good leader … but, good grief! … so far, he’s just horrible. Just godawful. I’ve lived through a lot of administrations, and Donald Trump scares the s**t out of me unlike any other.

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          • Same with me PatD, he is simply horrible and insults everybody who says anything against him, could be someone in the street to an elected official.
            Scary thing is Trump is President elect is getting away with so much misdeeds it is mind boggling. The man will be sworn in in less than a week and still has not released his taxes.
            Even some of his nominees are contradicting him.
            What is the solution ? None, if the corrupt man is impeached we get Pence who is dangerous to the core. A hard core yet disciplined Republican whose children grew up home schooling clueless of the outside World.
            Pence is against advancement of Science, denies climate change having Jesus as his savior.

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            • You described the current state of things perfectly, bebe. Pence scares me even more than Trump for the very reason that he’s more disciplined about his intolerant views and actions. And Trump’s constant stream of insulting tweets is insufferable — the latest trashing civil rights hero John Lewis, who has about a million times more courage and integrity than Trump. And it seems Trump will never release his taxes, and never suffer consequences for that or any other wrong thing he does (or doesn’t do). 😦

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  7. Great list. I’d like to add John LeCarre. He wrote several books in that genre: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Russia House are just two. Tom Clancey hit it big with Hunt for Red October and some other good ones until he changed direction. I have in mind another who was really big in the 80s but can’t think of his name. Ken Follett wrote some good spy stories in his earlier years.

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    • Thank you, energywriter! Somehow I’ve never read John le Carré — I think your comment is a wake-up call for me to finally try one of his novels. 🙂 And thanks for the mentions of Tom Clancy and Ken Follett. You named three prominent authors who belong in this discussion!

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  8. Howdy, Dave!

    — What are some of your favorite mystery, detective, and thriller novels? —

    All of the above-referenced Dashiell Hammett’s novels — “Red Harvest,” “The Dain Curse,” “The Glass Key,” “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Thin Man” — rank high among my favorites in the detective category; Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” does likewise in the mystery classification; and Michael Crichton’s “The Andromeda Strain” does similarly in the thriller division.

    Because of you and other card-carrying members of the DAOLiterati, I anticipate assimilating sometime this year my landsman (once removed) Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.

    However, I will precede this project by paying homage to The Late, Great Nat Hentoff (10 June 1925-7 January 2017) by getting to at least one of his novels in this area, with “Blues for Charlie Darwin” sounding like the prime candidate at this moment.

    (Synchronistically, I learned of our droogie’s passing literally minutes after completing the rereading of “The Nat Hentoff Reader” Sunday morning: I can pretty well guess what he would have made of this cosmic connection!)

    J.J.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for naming several novels related to this topic, J.J.! I should eventually read more of Dashiell Hammett, and “The Andromeda Strain” is now on my list as well.

      Once one gets into Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, it’s VERY hard to put down. As page-turning as anything I’ve read during the past few years, and the books don’t hesitate to take on very controversial stuff and the biggest of crooks (corporate execs, government officials, etc.).

      Sad to hear about Nat Hentoff’s death — and that IS a coincidence about you rereading him just before learning of his passing. I had mixed feelings about some of his views, but always greatly respected the quality and diversity of his writing and interests. I’ve never read his fiction, though.

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      • — I should eventually read more of Dashiell Hammett —

        Dashing through the prose in a most economical way, Hammett has the virtue of being one of those exceptional novelists who had a great idea, started writing about it and didn’t forget what it was. Five times!

        — Once one gets into Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, it’s VERY hard to put down. —

        I was greatly impressed by David Fincher’s film version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” so I suspect the novel will be even better.

        — Sad to hear about Nat Hentoff’s death —

        Well, Nat did make it to 91 — about 30 percent longer than the biblical threescore years and ten — and made excellent use of most of his time. I would be happy to say as much when arriving at The Great Library in the Sky. (Not today, though. Or this week. Or this month. Or this year. You know, you’re right: I’m sad to hear about his death, too.)

        — I had mixed feelings about some of his views —

        Actually, I have mixed feelings about some of my own views. And some of yours. And some of everybody else’s.

        — but always greatly respected the quality and diversity of his writing and interests. —

        Ditto!

        — I’ve never read his fiction, though. —

        Um. If the choice is between Nat’s nonfiction and his fiction, then I would go with the former over the latter. Every time. Given that the previously read “In the Country of Ourselves” was published in 1971 and the currently unread “Blues for Charlie Darwin” was published in 1982, I am however looking forward to witnessing the evolution of his fictionalizing over that period.

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        • “Dashing through the prose” — LOVE that phrase, J.J.!

          I never saw “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” film, but the novel is so vivid I practically watched the book while reading it. 🙂

          Yes, when one makes it to and past 90, that’s about all a person can hope for. As you said, Nat Hentoff used that time well.

          Thanks for the comment — which, as is usually the case with what you say, made me think and laugh at the same time.

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        • I’ve read all those novels above, The Continental Op and The Big Knock-Off.

          Okay, I’ll bite.

          “Hammett has the virtue of being one of those exceptional novelists who had a great idea, started writing about it and didn’t forget what it was. Five times!”

          What was Hammett’s “great idea”?

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          • Howdy, jhNY!

            — I’ve read all those novels above, The Continental Op and The Big Knock-Off. —

            Although I have read all of Dashiell Hammett’s novels, I have read just a few of his short stories in collections like “The Big Knockover” and “The Continental Op”: The good M42 bus willing, however, I may be vertical long enough to get to many of those other suckers eventually.

            — What was Hammett’s “great idea”? —

            Some are born writerly, some achieve writerliness, and some have writerliness thrust upon them. As one of the former, I felt I had only one choice to make in my salad days with respect to vocation, with the decision centering on the form of the awesome literary wonders I was sure to spend the coin of my life subsequently hacking out: Essays? Magazine features? Newspaper news stories? Novels? Poems? Short stories?

            Contemporaneously, I was bewitched by the hypnotic spell of the single effect woven in “The Philosophy of Composition” by Edgar Allan Poe, American letters’ own Svengali. It is therefore unsurprising I found many of the novels I read in those days of yore to be meandering to such an extent that I fairly shouted at their authors, “Get to the point!”

            Bearing these considerations in mind back then, I happily splashed around in the stream of consciousness, engaging in an intracranial Socratic dialogue as I weighed the pros and the cons of each of the above-referenced literary types, beginning with a definition of terms, with the most relevant exchange in the current context running along this line:

            “Q. What is a novelist?”

            “A. A novelist is somebody who first had a great idea, started writing about it and then forgot what it was.”

            In the case of Hammett, I would argue he remembered his great idea while writing each of his five novels. Employing as an example “The Maltese Falcon,” I like to visualize a “Body and Soul”-era John Garfield portraying a Literature 101 professor who describes Hammett’s great idea in this work by saying, “Everybody lies.”

            J.J.

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            • Reading Hammett’s comments above, I don’t think he was saying that he himself had only one ‘great idea’ he worked over repeatedly, but rather, that for a novel a writer has to have one– maybe one per– and then write to see what happens.

              As I mentioned in the comments section in a past week, I took a course in college taught by a man who opined that the great theme throughout the plays of Shakespeare was the difference between appearance and reality. And yet, one wants more.

              One also feels that the difference between appearance and reality might as easily be described as Hammett’s great theme, though I’m not sure it reveals any more, or any less about him than it does about the Bard.

              In Red Harvest, the reader gets a big picture of the dirty secret dealings of mining town capitalism and how it ordinarily hides its hired violence behind institutions and facades of respectability, and sets warring parties against each other to misdirect the public from its power over all.

              The Dain Curse is my least favorite of Hammett’s novels, as it is less bound up in the hard-boiled school, and incorporates, clumsily, traces of drawing room mysteries and horror tales, but again appearance vs. reality might be said to be its theme. The Dain Curse isn’t what it’s put up to be, and neither are very many of the characters or events or even some of the settings in the novel.

              The Glass Key is most of all a tale of a relationship between a big city political boss and his most trusted fixer, who operate together behind a curtain of a stage populated by candidates and parties and papers and pols, until murder, love, competing loyalties and ambition drives them temporarily apart, before Ned Beaumont, the fixer, heads off to fresh pastures and new places.

              Appearance versus reality likewise threads throughout The Thin Man, from the cover, featuring Hammett himself, impossibly dapper, and long of limb– as if he was himself Wynant– to the contents, in which the presumed murderer eventually proves to be the murderer’s first and most significant victim and his loving family, daughter excepted, is gaggle of misfits and schemers. NIck Charles, a convivial sort of a private detective has recently married Nora, a rich party gal, and given up his profession to devote himself full-time to drinking and his better half. Persuaded to return to his old work, Nick is most comfortable among the criminal class, as it seems to be what it appears to be, while the better portion of society, whenever he happens to rub shoulders there, is rife with grasping hypocrisy. It is but the ultimate irony that the lawyer who represents Wynant’s interests, and is his client’s lone point of contact with the world, is his killer. And not merely once. Appearance versus reality.

              And yet, one wants more. Summings-up necessarily lop off subtleties and nuance and detail.

              ‘Everybody lies’, to me, seems less comprehensive, as in Hammett’s novels, humans lie, as do human institutions. So, everybody and everything lies, nearly without exception, and those exceptions tend to be found wherever they are least likely to be.

              And yet, one wants more.

              Maybe all I’m saying here is: there is more to any piece or collection of good writing than a simple sentence or a phrase can cover, or, some simple sentences or phrases might be universally applied, with roughly equal success to disparate examples.

              Then again, I also hear there are only seven basic plots.

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              • — Reading Hammett’s comments above —

                Please note the above comments — including the three passages appearing within quotation marks (i.e., “Get to the point!,” “Q. What is a novelist?” and “A. A novelist is somebody who first had a great idea, started writing about it and then forgot what it was.”) are not D.H.’s but my own. Sorry for the confusion.

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                • “engaging in an intracranial Socratic dialogue “– Now, a wee bit latish, I see what you did there.

                  When you splash around in your own stream of consciousness, while engaging in intercranial Socratic dialogue, you must be also walking while talking, as Socrates’ is the peripatetic method. As walking on stream-beds tends to muddy the waters, confusion, for those like myself who would observe your wanderings, was just about inevitable.

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    • J.J., I was intrigued by your comment about you being a “landsman, once removed” to Stieg Larsson. For many years I thought I was 100% Swedish, what with both sets of grandparents emigrating to America back in the early 1900s, including my very young father. I learned as an adult that my mother’s parents straddled the border of northern Sweden and Finland; however, no one quite seems exactly sure where Finland belongs in relationship to Scandinavia and the Nordic countries. But the most shocking thing was that my father learned when he was in his 50s that he was adopted, and we have no idea who his father was, although there was speculation he was a sailor which could mean from many different countries. Not that it really matters any, but still is an intriguing possibility. At any rate, the Millennium Trilogy is well worth the read as Dave said.

      Dave, sorry for seemingly making way too many comments on your blog, but I’m having a hard time with reconciling myself to the fact that Trump will be President in 11 days. So it’s much more pleasant to be here with fellow literature/book lovers than on news/opinion websites that make me crazy!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting/enigmatic family history, Kat Lib.

        You’re welcome to make all the comments you want — 🙂 — and I totally understand wanting/needing a place where one doesn’t think as much about Trump (though we all occasionally vent about him here).

        It IS hard to believe that such an ignorant/vicious man will be President in just 11 days. And his priorities are so warped — he spends more energy on nasty tweets about Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, etc., than preparing for the White House.

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      • Howdy, Kat Lib!

        — J.J., I was intrigued by your comment about you being a “landsman, once removed” to Stieg Larsson. For many years I thought I was 100% Swedish, what with both sets of grandparents emigrating to America back in the early 1900s, including my very young father. I learned as an adult that my mother’s parents straddled the border of northern Sweden and Finland; however, no one quite seems exactly sure where Finland belongs in relationship to Scandinavia and the Nordic countries. —

        Half-Irish, half-Swede-Finn and all-American, I share this confusion about the geopolitical history of Fennoscandia and its effects on my own family’s movements because I lost my best chance at an easy explanation as my Vaasa, Finland-born grandparents died when I was a wee lad (although about 60 years ago I did learn enough Swedish to say grace before dinner — and at least one word unfit to repeat in polite company). Due to Sweden’s comparatively large population and comparatively small amount of arable land, its people appear to have been basically colonizing Finland since the Viking Age, and I suspect my forebears were among these colonists at some point in the distant past, but I personally do not know when they first made the move.

        — But the most shocking thing was that my father learned when he was in his 50s that he was adopted, and we have no idea who his father was, although there was speculation he was a sailor which could mean from many different countries. —

        To simplify my own thinking about such matters, I consider myself an African-American, with current DNA evidence indicating all us human types on this planet came out of Africa, as suggested by the National Geographic Society’s “Map of Human Migration” (http://bit.ly/2jda6fC). But, of course, I can see why your family would be curious about its genetic heritage during the intervening 70,000 years or so.

        — At any rate, the Millennium Trilogy is well worth the read as Dave said. —

        I am looking forward to it!

        J.J.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, J.J. for the term Finnoscandia, which no one seemed to know even when we lived in Minnesota many years ago. There was a well-known and loved broadcaster in Philly (and nationally) back in the 1950’s and 1960’s who was of Finnish heritage, and my mom always thought they were related. His name was Gunnar Back, and my mom’s maiden name was Buck, which could have been changed at some point. Anyway, my dad taught me the words to a Swedish drinking song — Min Skol, Din Skol, Alla Vackra Flickors Skol — loosely translated as I Skol, You Skol, All the Pretty Girls Skol, which shows you the priorities in my home (at least on my dad’s side). Cheers!

          Liked by 1 person

          • — Thanks, J.J. for the term Finnoscandia —

            I also like the Finns getting the top billing in Fennoscandia, especially given the way the Danes, Norwegians and Swedes have hogged the spotlight in so many ways during the past millennium: Nobody writes “Hamlet, Prince of Finland”! Nobody talks about the Finnish god Odin! Nobody speaks of cheap Finnish furniture in their standup comedy routines! (Of course, the Sami have gotten even fewer props over the same period.)

            — There was a well-known and loved broadcaster in Philly (and nationally) back in the 1950’s and 1960’s who was of Finnish heritage, and my mom always thought they were related. His name was Gunnar Back, and my mom’s maiden name was Buck, which could have been changed at some point. —

            Before the advent of community access television (also known as cable TV) in the New Jersey Pinelands, my family lived in a so-called fringe area, where we could point our antenna toward Philadelphia and get lousy reception of WFIL or point it toward New York and get lousy reception of WABC. We took Manhattan, so we missed our shot at seeing Gunnar. Based on the absolutely large similarity between Back and Buck and the relatively small population of Finns around the world (currently estimated at around 7 million), your Mom may have had a point.

            — Anyway, my dad taught me the words to a Swedish drinking song — Min Skol, Din Skol, Alla Vackra Flickors Skol — loosely translated as I Skol, You Skol, All the Pretty Girls Skol, which shows you the priorities in my home (at least on my dad’s side). Cheers! —

            And slainte!

            Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Dave … Thank you for this topic! I’m sure I’ll refer back to this one frequently when I’m looking for my next mystery/thriller “fix”.:-) I also enjoyed “The Girl on the Train”; I chose not to see the movie because I had heard there was much disappointment among those who had first read the book and then seen the movie. I don’t always listen to the critics, but in this case I decided to pass. I recommend the book. One of my favorite Agatha Christie novels is “Crooked House”. I would think the ending would have been pretty shocking at the time it was published (1949), and it’s still a good read. I am currently reading “Night Film” by Marisha Pessi – so far,so good. I also recently read “The Kind Worth Killing” by Peter Swanson, which was definitely a page-turner. As I’ve mentioned before, my addiction started at a young age with Nancy Drew, and what a wonderful addiction it is! 🙂 .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Pat, for your wide-ranging comment — including your mention of the “Nancy Drew” novels! Mystery/amateur-detective fiction aimed at younger readers is a very important sub-genre of this topic. Heck, adults enjoy rereading many of those books, too. 🙂

      After seeing your comment, I added a couple of books to my list — including “Crooked House.” I’ve only read a small number of Agatha Christie novels.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I remember us talking before about our mutual addiction and how it all started with Nancy Drew! I couldn’t remember “Crooked House,” so I had to refer to the Wiki page. It states that this and “Ordeal by Innocence” were Christie’s two favorites. I have a much better recall of her Poirot and Miss Marple books, mainly because I have them all on DVD, and some others that were made into films (such as “Endless Night”). I don’t know if I could easily come up with a “Top Ten” list, let alone a favorite, but I’ll definitely pull out “Crooked House” and reread it. Thanks, Pat!

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      • You’re welcome Kat Lib! I’m not familiar with “Ordeal by Innocence”, but I was aware – from Goodreads, I think – that “Crooked House” was Agatha Christie’s favorite. Speaking of favorites, one might think the general public’s favorite Christie novel would be “And Then There Were None” – right? – but, in an international poll not that long ago, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” was voted the best of all her novels. I will probably read that one for the first time after I’m done with the book I’m reading now.

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        • Just a small word of warning to you, Pat. “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” was, I think it fair to say, either loved or hated by critics and perhaps the public. I of course was one who loved the book, but then Dame Agatha can do no wrong where I’m concerned. She’s nowhere near as erudite or literary (if those are the proper terms) as Sayers, P.D. James or other British authors, but she sure knew how to plot a mystery that almost always takes us by surprise.

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          • It seems the things I like, or dislike, often fall into the “love ’em or hate ’em” category, lol! Thanks for the heads up, Kat Lib. I have a feeling I’ll love it, too 🙂 You nailed the reason I am a fan of Agatha Christie, and a fan of mysteries/suspense — I like being taken by surprise (in books anyway).

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  10. Well, Dave, you can only imagine my “thrill” over today’s blog. While I’ve tried through the years to balance my love for mysteries/detective stories/thrillers with other literature, and with probably more non-fiction and memoirs, I still come back to crime novels as my go-to books in whatever mood I’m in. While I’d read most of Agatha Christie’s mysteries when I was younger, I lost most of them in a flooded basement in the early 80’s. Perhaps 15 years ago, one of my favorite things to do was go to B&N once a week and buy one paperback Christie novel and one Classical music CD, both of which together wouldn’t exceed $10. As you know, I was entranced with the Golden Age of mysteries from my college days, reading not just Christie, but Dorothy L. Sayers, Josephine Tey, Georgette Heyer, G.K. Chesterton, Edmund Crispin, Cyril Hare, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, George Simenon, John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen, then of course, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Julian Symons wrote a history of the early mysteries, “Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel.” Of course I also read Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, and especially all of the “Collected Works of Sherlock Holmes.”

    I know I’ve talked before about the authors who came after these wonderful authors, such as Americans Ross MacDonald, John D. MacDonald, Robert Parker, and British writers like Dick Francis. Then the many great women writers such as Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Linda Barnes, Marcia Muller and others who were perhaps the first “feminist” private investigators. I owe them all many thanks for being role models for me and many other women. Not to forget P.D. James, one of the best ever. And Ruth Rendell, as well as Deborah Crombie.

    Today, there are the many great women mystery writers such as Louise Penny, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Jacqueline Winspear, and Sophie Hannah. I can’t even begin to name all of the women who write thrillers, e.g. Lisa Scottoline, Lisa Gardner, Lisa Jackson and Linda Fairstein.

    Of course, there are the many Scandinavian mystery writers. You mentioned Stieg Larsson, but there are many others, e.g., Camilla Lackberg, Jo Nesbo, Sara Blaedel, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Henning Mankell, Asa Larrson, Lene Kaaberbøl, and others that I forget right now.

    Btw, I must mention that I’ve still not read any Reacher novels, though I’ve accumulated quite a few from Bill. I’ve been reading mostly memoirs lately that I’d like to mention sometime on this blog, but now isn’t the time.

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    • I figured you would like this column, Kat Lib. 🙂 I’m guessing you’ve read about a hundred times more mysteries, etc., than I have — and your comment (naming a huge number of writers) proves it. VERY impressive. And I’m fascinated by how many Scandinavian mystery writers there are.

      Funny use of the word “thrill” to open your comment!

      On a more sober note, I hear you about flooded basements harming our collections. When Hurricane Irene flooded my basement in 2001, a lot of stuff got ruined. Sorry that happened with your Agatha Christie novels.

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      • Dave, I woke up very early this morning and couldn’t stop thinking about other writers that I left out. Some of my very favorites, too, such as: Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe series); Alexander McCall Smith (Mma Precious Ramotswe, Isabel Dalhousie series); Nicholas Blake (pseudonym of Cecil Day-Lewis, Nigel Strangeways series); Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (Martin Beck series); Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce series); and Laura Lippman (Tess Monaghan series and standalones); OK, I’ve got to stop now before everyone’s eyes start to glaze over, including my own.

        By the way, I found another thriller writer I enjoy, Lisa Unger. If you look over those I listed above, three were also named “Lisa” – do you think there’s some kind of rule that all suspense novels written by women must be named “Lisa”? Or Linda, which is very close? Oh, and here’s an interesting piece of trivia for you. McCall Smith lives in Edinburgh, and three of his neighbors are J.K. Rowling, Ian Rankin and Kate Atkinson. I wonder if they all get together and talk about crime fiction; it would be fascinating to listen in on such a conversation!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Glad you named additional writers, Kat Lib! If readers here want to read more mysteries, etc., looking at your two comments will give them PLENTY of valuable information.

          Ha! So weird about all those suspense novels written by Lisa’s! Reminds me a bit of how a number of prominent Canadian writers of the past and present have first or last names that begin with “M”: Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, L.M. Montgomery, Mordecai Richler, Yann Martel, Michael Ondaatje…

          That’s quite a group of writers who live near each other in Scotland. Shades of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe being next-door neighbors in Hartford, Conn.!

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          • Just a couple of corrections, from the above:
            1) I mistakenly used the name of fictional detective V.I. Warshawski, instead of the author’s, Sara Paretsky
            2) It’s Louise Penny, not Penney
            3) The penultimate sentence of 1st comment should read “though” and not “thought”
            4) The last sentence of 2nd comment should read “it would BE fascinating…”

            There are probably more (especially punctuation errors), but those are the ones that stuck out on rereading my comments. While I’m also here, I want to add a few more “L” names of crime fiction writers that I’ve enjoyed: Lisa Lutz and Linda Castillo. Just for the heck of it, I randomly googled the most popular girl names from 1965. Sure enough, number 1 was “Lisa,” with “Linda” coming in at number 8. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • Four fixes made! And thanks for naming those additional “L” writers and for offering an explanation for the many authorial Lisa’s and Linda’s (the latter of which happens to be my sister’s name).

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      • “I’m fascinated by how many Scandinavian mystery writers there are.”

        Me too, and there are more than she listed! But the funniest part is, much as can be said about Great Britain, there easily more murder mystery writers than murders in Scandinavia.

        Liked by 1 person

          • There’s one Norwegian crime writer I can’t even bring myself to read anymore, though he’s mostly good, if not great, at his job. it’s just that the crimes themselves are so unlikely, given setting, that all the police process, however believably rendered, does not compensate for the unreality of the crime or the criminal.

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              • I’ve also noticed immigrants, as a source of at least initial suspicions on the part of police, are a Scandinavian crime fiction staple. The Nordic social problems, inferred, are sometimes, if not largely, imported. No need to leave home after all.

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                • jhNY, Uff Da! I don’t normally disagree with you, but I feel I must stand up for my Scandinavian forebears and today’s writers. The first Swedish mystery/detective novels I ever read (back in the 60’s and 70’s) were part of the 10-book series by Sjöwall and Wahlöö, whose main detective was Martin Beck and are called “The Story of a Crime.” I’m not sure that the many novels I’ve read by Nordic writers are any more improbable than those I’ve loved by British mystery writers of the Golden Age or even modern authors of any nationality. Just how many members of the British aristocracy that were murdered, or murderers themselves, were there really? Part of what I love about mysteries is that most aren’t “True Crime” books that I’ve no interest in at all. Unfortunately, there are many murders that happen anywhere in the world that are incomprehensible, such as one that just came to light here in Philly the other day — a couple who did unspeakable things to her/their young teenage daughter, killed her and then dismembered her, no need to go on with that…

                  On a lighter note, I think I mentioned here once before about a non-fiction book I’ve got on my shelves entitled “Scandinavian Humor & Other Myths.” It was more aimed at Scandinavian-Americans, especially those of us who’ve lived in Minnesota. It actually was very funny, because it did mention many things that we’re known for: fishing (especially ice-fishing), blond furniture, bland food, love of sweaters and lutefisk, lack of humor, what the author calls “Bergmania: Depression as Intellectual Chic,” etc.

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              • ” But the funniest part is, much as can be said about Great Britain, there easily more murder mystery writers than murders in Scandinavia.” You can see here, in my earlier comment, that I wasn’t singling out Scandinavians for their lack of murders and profusion of murder writers. I was making the observation that in each locale, GB and Scandinavia, the imagination of their murder mystery writers is more productive of murder than the actual murderers who reside there. I was really, in my comment on the unreality of some of the plots in an earlier comment, referring to one particular crime novelist, Ake Edwardson– and even there, I got his nationality wrong. He’s Swedish, not Norwegian.

                You wrote ” Just how many members of the British aristocracy that were murdered, or murderers themselves, were there really?” Certainly the British upper classes would be entirely expunged from humankind were they to die at the rate they do in mystery novels writ by Brits.

                I enjoyed the Martin Beck book (The Laughing Policeman) I read, and will read more as I happen on them, and I enjoy many of the Scandinavian crime writers you listed, and a few you didn’t list, such as Anne Holt, Camilla Läckberg, Hakan Nesser, Jo Nesbo and Arnaldur Indriðason (not in his international intrigue/thriller mode as in Operation Napoleon, but in his detective mystery mode as in Voices).

                I had no intention of disparaging Scandinavian crime writers, or British crime writers, and I do agree, the actual settings and the fictional doings in Scandinavian and British crime writing are equally realistic, or not.

                Scandinavian Humor and Other Myths is a great title!

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        • I’m inserting my reply to your latest comment to me here, jhNY, because the thread was getting so thin. First of all, I hope you know that the expression “uff da” is one I learned while living in Minnesota, which is usually meant as an expression of surprise or bafflement, although when I reread my comment to you, it sounds somewhat like a disparaging word. I’ve heard this from my parents and many others (trust me, my mom only uttered two swear words her entire life), and I still use it occasionally, especially when I’m feeling tired or stressed.

          Secondly, one minor correction is that I did mention both Camilla Lackberg and Jo Nesbo in my original post and are two of my favorites. I’ve read one of Hakan Nesser’s books, and I too tried Ake Edwardson; one book I did like, but the next one I tried I had to put down and gave up on.

          Thirdly, and most importantly, my comment may have come across as me being offended or defensive, for which I give you my sincere apologies. I will admit that I have a short trigger these days, especially the past few where we’re saying goodbye to a President who I greatly admire, and his dear family (especially Michelle, who has been the best FLOTUS of my lifetime), and then having to listen to Trump at his presser yesterday that was totally infuriating and embarrassing. My sister, an elementary school teacher for over 30 years, was with a fellow teacher yesterday, who remarked that Trump apparently wasn’t there for the class they gave to their 2nd grade students about the difference between antonyms and synonyms, and not to keep using the same word over and over again, e.g., very, very, very…

          Anyway, hope we’re still friends, as I respect you very, very, very much! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • My goodness, I took no offense, and was, however clumsily, attempting to assuage you if I had caused you any!

            I must have mistaken your additions, when I was referring to what you wrote, for your original list, and so, missed Lackberg and Nesbo. Sorry for the literal oversight.

            Respect is a two-way street on which we both travel, happily, in respect to each other. I hope we always remain friends, and friendly correspondents here. The last thing I intend, or intended: to offend you. And it never crossed my mind you might wish to offend me.

            ‘Uff da’ is a phrase, in the next four years, we will all have more occasion to employ than we might like, although I suppose I will always prefer to bafflement to disgust, which I anticipate we will also endure in great quantities.

            “Trump apparently wasn’t there for the class they gave to their 2nd grade students about the difference between antonyms and synonyms, and not to keep using the same word over and over again, e.g., very, very, very…”

            I have come to appreciate, ruefully, the great power of repetition in the arsenal of our president-elect. It’s a weapon he uses, not so much with precision, but over and over– because it works!

            The process: Trump, from his podium says something like ‘That lying Hillary– she’s so dishonest. Dishonest, lying Hillary. It’s disgusting, what’s on those servers. She should be in jail for treason. And lying ! She’s lying, folks. Lying Hillary!!’ At this point, he’s got in 2 ‘dishonest’s and 5 ‘lying’s in his little speech.

            But then, and here’s the best part: the media plays the thing repeatedly, and even if the newsreader opines to the contrary, each repeat shows Trump calling Hillary dishonest twice and declaring she’s lying 5 times. A number of viewers concluded, as Trump hoped, that he wouldn’t repeat something so often if it weren’t true. And now the Orange Cheato is president!

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            • Thanks, I’m so glad we’re both in sync. I’d love to say I slept better last night than the night before, and from the standpoint of our respective comments, I should have; however, in the context of the events swirling around us all, it’s been extremely emotional for me. I keep getting teary-eyed over everything I’ve seen and have read about the last days of President Obama’s time in office, juxtaposed with the dismay and anger over everything I’ve heard from our next “leader.” Nothing has crystallized to me just how petty and vindictive the latter can be as firing via e-mail the announcer, 89-year old Charlie Broughtman, for the last 60 years of inaugural parades. So glad to hear today that he’s getting a gig with the local NBC outlet in D.C. as an inaugural parade commentator!

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              • More mornings than not since Election Day, I have waked up with a start and a ball of fear in the pit of my stomach, after which all my attempts to return to sleep are in vain. Two words are all it took, take now, and will take: President Trump.

                We will all count ourselves very lucky indeed if Trump does not go beyond ‘petty and vindictive’. I’m pretty sure he has much bigger dreams, nightmarish though they will be for so many of us here and around the world.

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                • I’ve also been depressed every day since Nov. 8. And, yes, “petty and vindictive” are the best we can hope for from Trump. It will indeed most likely be much worse, aided and abetted by other breathtakingly cruel Republicans.

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  11. I don’t read many thrillers,but Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones” was a page turner from its inception. I looked on Amazon for “A Girl On The Train” which I was thinking to read to expand this genre, and the book has over 55k reviews,most 4 star plus,so I plan to reserve from library. Good idea to curl up in winter with a thriller to keep one warm.😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • “The Lovely Bones” is a GREAT addition, Michele! Thanks! I’ve read that sad/riveting book, but long enough ago to somehow temporarily not think about it when writing this week’s column. 😦

      “The Girl on the Train” is definitely a popular novel!

      And, yes, thrillers can raise one’s temperature when the winter weather gets bitter. 🙂

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      • I enjoyed those two books, while not exactly favorites, but worthwhile reading. Dave, I’m sure you are suffering from the same snow and frigid temps that I’m here in Philly experiencing. My birds went through a whole tube feeder in one day, and while I’ve another feeder in my backyard, I managed to get out and refill it this morning in spite of the bone-chilling weather.

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        • Kat Lib, so you are also a bird watcher/feeder!! I have four feeders in the backyard, plus a large pan on the ground for the squirrels and rabbits ad the occasional possum and raccoon, or even a deer coming from what’s left of the wooded patch. Love them all, and it’s like a good TV show for Kitty. Not as many critters this year, though, some nasty people cut down a large patch of the woods to build more cookie-cutter homes. Only one red cardinal and one blue jay showed up this year, plus the usual crowd of cute small birds. 😦

          Liked by 1 person

          • Clairdelune, yes, I finally have a home where I can feed the birds and am loving it. So far I’ve identified cardinals, a blue jay, mourning dove, red-headed woodpecker, and many small birds, such as house finches, black-capped chickadees and tufted titmice. My bestfriend was telling me that when her younger sister was four years old, she came running into their house, excitedly announcing, “Mommy, I just saw a tuft mousetitty!” 🙂
            Sorry about losing part of your woods. Dave, I agree with you about greedy developers. I’m so thankful that the woods at the backend of my property are owned by the local school district and is a no-build zone (I think). During the winter I can see the back of an administration building, but it’s way down a hill and when the leaves come back, you’d never know it was there. I just committed to an official survey/as-built/and topo, which is quite costly, but we need to know before we do any more fencing, gardening and other improvements before spring (which can’t come soon enough!).

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            • Kat Lib, even though my part-city-like suburban town is already overcrowded, developers are still running rampant constructing all kinds of too-big residential/office/retail complexes. 😦

              Very glad that the woods in the back of your house are (probably) untouchable!

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