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September 21, 2006


Sandra Ruttan

It is one of the problems with 'best of' lists - who can possibly have read everything? But I notice your list is dominated by Americans - is that because you review primarily American authors?

I was asked to do a top ten list recently, and it's proving to be a headache. It's also proving to be mostly British. I've given up on making it literally the best ten books, but am trying to pick one representative work by the authors who top my list.

Thank goodness the word 'detective' wasn't thrown in - just makes it that much trickier. I never realized it would be so hard.

Victor Gischler

Have to respectfully disagree about the ending of LAST GOOD KISS, David. Although you didn't like the ending of SUICIDE SQUEEZE either, so we probably just have some basic differences on what a good ending is in general. (Ha.)

But I'm not one to quibble. As long as Crumley makes the list, I'm happy. (That's the point of the list, right? To make me happy?)



I think SOUL CIRCUS definately deserves a spot. It's just so damn good and powerful and Derek Strange and Terry Quinn are definately private detectives.

David J. Montgomery

"But I notice your list is dominated by Americans - is that because you review primarily American authors?"

I do primarily read and review American crime fiction. I have found that those are the books I'm most drawn to. That's not to say that there aren't plenty of terrific British (or European) detective novels -- I just haven't thought of any that I prefer to those on the list.

Who's on your list?

Duane Swierczynski

I cannot endorse any "10 Greatest Detective Novels" list that fails to include Emerson LaSalle's SHAMUS VIXEN.

patti abbott

I'd like to see Ross MacDonald on the list. But other than that....

 Elaine Flinn

Oh, for shame, you guys! How could any of you forget Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer? Or Dennis Lynds (Michael Collins)-Dan Fortune?


Not sure if they would qualify as top 10 of all-time, but I'd like to throw a vote in for Steve Hamilton's A Cold Day in Paradise and Dennis Lehane's A Drink Before the War.

Harry Hunsicker

Let me cast one more vote for Lehane. You really need to read A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR before you finalize the list.


I really think if Lehane gets on the list it should be for Gone, Baby, Gone

Victor Gischler

Mickey Spillane is tricky, Elaine. If the list were most influencial private eye *writers* then Ithink you would have to incude Spillane. But when narrowing it down to a single novel ... well, not so cut and dried.




Interesting to see Michael Collins' Dan Fortune mentioned. All I've read of his is the short story "A Reason to Die." It's a terrific story, with as wrenching a crime as you'll see anywhere and real compassion. But there is a touch or two of sentimentality, places where Collins/Lydds tugs just a little too hard at the heart strings. This list is about novels, but perhaps a similar sentimentality creeps into his novels and keeps them from from qualifying for the pantheon.

OK, here's my dark horse:

The Fabulous Clipjoint, Fredric Brown -- A Chicago novel, if you feel like throwing a bone to your home town.

 Elaine Flinn

Victor & Peter:
Points well taken. Thank you.

I guess then - I'll go with The Maltese Falcon - The Black Echo as second choice.

David Thayer

I'd like to mention Ross Thomas for "The Fools in Town Are on Our Side" if only for the title's perfect summation of current events.

Lana Lang

I know you don't care for Sue Grafton, but I think an objective list would have to include one of her first five Kinsey novels.

David Montgomery

While I do think it's possible to discern some objective quality to books, I don't think there's enough that you could compile an objective list of (for example) the 10 Greatest Detective Novels.

That being said, I read a couple of the early Grafton novels. I thought they were pretty good. But not of the level that I'm looking for with this list.

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David J. Montgomery is a writer and critic specializing in books and publishing. He is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has also written for USA Today, the Washington Post, and other fine publications. A former professor of History, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.

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