Saturday, January 3, 2009

My Best Reading of 2008

Let me preface this by saying that some of these books came in 2006-07, but I didn't get to them until this year. If there is one thing that did not dish out a heaping bowl of suck in 2008, that was the literature that came out. Now your results obviously, might vary, but that's probably because you don't read crime fiction.

Nevertheless, if you don't? I suggest-

If Chelsea can't make you laugh, you are brain-dead, and yes, it is as simple as that. She will offend you, guaranteed, but she will also make you laugh. The laughs will outweigh your outrage.

The same goes with David Sedaris. You might even cry with this book and it did bring a genuine tear to me eye. This is the most introspective of his books that I've read so far, but that doesn't mean that when the you laugh, you won't laugh hard. Neither of these books should be read in waiting rooms or in other social situations where your laughing out loud will embarrass you.

Now on to my favorite genre-

"It's Chinatown, Jake." Well this is not Chinatown, that is, it is not Jake Gittes's Chinatown, we're talking New York's Chinatown in 1976. While there is plenty of noir and a mystery to boot, those things are all secondary to the portrait of a Chinatown that none of us (outside of those that lived outside of there), has ever known. Ed Lin writes a good mystery, but he takes the long way getting there, and does such a job of showing you what every day life was in this hidden enclave, that you won't mind the distraction.

In "Say It With Bullets," our hero gets double-crossed and left for dead in post World War II China. The guy tries to live and let live when he comes back home to Philadelphia, and is promptly shot at by one of the guys that double-crossed him the first time.
"Say It With Bullets" has the protagonist searching for the antagonist across the Heartland of America, and the mystery is just which of his former friends is the one with itchy trigger-finger. Of course one of them is trying to bump him off before he discovers the truth. There is a great ending that is reminiscent of a certain Hitchcock film and for me to say more, would ruin it.

Many a writer can write romance and even more of them can write sex or p*rn, but only one author can truly write "steam." I'm talking about you pulling at your collar like Rodney Dangerfield, even when it is five below zero. I'm talking about the kind of book that will make a big 350 lbs. defensive tackle swoon, fan himself, and complain that he's got "the vapors" like some a tiny Southern belle, because that's what Meg Abbott writes-
She also wrote a great crime novel, but day-um, skip the Viagra, 'cause this would kick start a get the the picture.

All of the great authors of old in one great tome. If you love pulp or wanted to know about it, this is the book for you.

P*rn isn't pretty (I asterisked this like anything else around here, because I get tired of morons searching for all kinds of things that aren't on my blog and while I love my pron, some of these searches would make Larry Flynt just vomit). If you write this book off because it deals with an ugly subject, then you are only depriving yourself.
Upton Sinclair didn't write about subjects that would've been considered "wholesome" in his day, but where would we be if nobody paid attention? You will also be missing out on one of the best and rawest neo-noir books that you've ever read.

"The Brass Verdict" is classic Connelly, which means to all of you Connelly-neophytes? Excellence. Part of the ending is little too convenient, but, hey.

The end of Easy Rawlins? Read it, and then, tell me.

For those who don't want to deal with violence or gore (uh, Baroness, uh Quin)? I give you "Snakeskin Shamisen." A great mystery in which the protagonist, Mas Arai, is a septuagenarian Japanese gardener that probably weighs all of 110 lbs, max.
Like Walter Mosley's Paris Minton, Mas probably couldn't beat anyone in his weight class in a fair fight, but don't doubt his mind or his heart. Unlike Mosley's Minton, he doesn't have Fearless Jones to defend him.
By virtue of his size and race, Mas is the fly on the wall that is underestimated or ignored all together and Miss Hirahara just gives you enough of the basics of the mystery to go on. The reader is as much in the dark as the protagonist is and it's a real treat to find everything out just as he does.

If you were to take the premise of "The Crime Writer" at face value, you might find it a tad soap opera-ish. I'm not going to give it to you here, you'll have to seek it out. I will tell you that Hurwitz out-Crais-ed Robert Crais this year and this book is in my top three reads of this year.

In my opinion, this is best effort of Max Allan Collins in the last three years. Don't be fooled by the cover or the premise of hitman with a heart, Collins manages to pull it off.


Jake Hinkson said...

Great reading list. I need to check out Queenpin. I've been on a David Goodis kick for the last three months. I love that depressing bastard. By the way, let me know when you get around to watching Christmas Holiday. Weird flick. Not Siodmak at his best, but it's worth seeing.

Cormac Brown said...


Welcome and while I can only use "Night Squad" and "Dark Passage" as Goodis references, I believe that "Queenpin" will be right up your alley.

Unfortunately I don't have Turner Classic Movies on my cable, so I don't believe I'll be able to check it out until they finally get around to releasing it on DVD or it shows at our Noir Fest.

Bubs said...

Ok, you've just given me my reading list for the first part of 2009. Wicked cool stuff I'll bet.

Cormac Brown said...


Not a dog in the bunch and best of all? No clowns.

Keith Rawson said...

Queenpin rules all over the place. Also, in case you haven't checked it out already, the first Quarry slaps the last Quarry around hard and fast.
Also, probably one of the most under rated HCC title this year was Baby Moll by John Farris. Great list all the way around though.

David Cranmer said...

Good suggestions all around. For me, the Christa Faust book was tops. Queenpin was great and I also enjoyed Abbott's A Hell Of A Woman anthology... I dig that cover for the David Sedaris book.

Cormac Brown said...


I think you've been here before, but just in case, welcome. "Queenpin" definitely rules and while I loved "The First Quarry," the middle-aged man in me relates to "The Last Quarry" just a tad more. I couldn't let anyone double-up on this list.

I'll check out "Baby Moll" on your recommendation and because Hard Case has yet to put out a lemon. It could be awhile though, because I stocked up on books from a generous Christmas gift certificate.


I have to start writing things down, because I couldn't remember if I read "A Hell Of A Woman" this year or last. You should really check out the Sedaris, I forgot how pervasive smoking was in our culture.

Yesterday, I did remind my son of the candy cigarettes that we had back in the 70's when I was just a little younger than he is now...ah, odd times.

P.S. If you dug "A Hell Of A Woman?" Check out Eddie Muller's "The Distance." He wrote that story "The Grand Inquisitor."

quin browne said...

hey, i can do gore.

i think.

i'm still loving the title of the bullets book... and david? i've read him on the streets of west hollywood, and had people look at me, i was laughing so hard.

Gifted Typist said...

That first one looks hilarious. I'm thinking it's the one for me.

Cormac Brown said...


"hey, i can do gore. i think."

No you can't and there's nothing wrong with that. Yeah, there's no two ways about it, David will get you embarrassed.


I know from your Chronicle Herald columns that it is for you.

Beth said...

Read (and loved) the first two; need to check out the rest.

Cormac Brown said...



paul d brazill said...

Fab list Mr B. Money Shot was the one that blew my skirt up the most and,from your list, it's the only one I've read. I'd put Ray Banks No More Heroes in there, of course, and not just for the title.

Cormac Brown said...

Paulie Decibels,

I haven't heard of Ray Banks...yet. It amazes me how many crime writers there are out there, I'm literally discovering two a week.

Keith Rawson said...

Banks is awesome. Ranks right up there with Bruen or Guthire. I picked up No more Heroes at my local crime and mystery shop, the poisoned pen, with a generous christmas gift certificate. The first two books in the series are fantastic, so I'm looking forward to starting No more heros

Dr. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cormac Brown said...

Spammers f*ll*te t*rtl*s and I'd fill in the asterisks, except the k*yw*rds would attract more spammers.