Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Princes of Crime

I have written things such as "Lehane is my Boston guy" or "Burke is my New Orleans guy" without really explaining the context, so, without further ado - my princes of crime writing.
Dennis Lehane (Boston) - As I have explained multiple times (he made my Mount Rushmore of Fiction Writers) Lehane is an absolute master of the literate thriller. His books are profound, thought-provoking and meaningful. Boston is a fabulous city to write noir about, with a rich crime tradition as one of America's most important city. Lehane owns this town.
George Pelecanos (DC) - Pelecanos owns DC like Lehane owns Boston - with a shotgun pressed right into the face of his reader. His books are character driven, urban noir, semi-western and all awesome. He has written the definitive DC Quartet about the disintegration of the city into one of the crime capitals and continues to write novels that defy the usual conventions.
David Peace (Yorkshire) - Peace is in the unique position of potentially owning two cities as he has also written books about Tokyo after the war. His works about the real life Yorkshire Ripper are so startling and powerfully drawn that one wishes to look away but cannot. A warning, however, The Red Riding Quartet must be read completely before reflecting upon as his themes cross years and books.
Philip Kerr (Berlin / South America) - Kerr actually owns two places, mostly because his character travels quite a bit. However, I would ultimately call him the best novelist about the Nazi era, as his noir detective (Bernie Gunther) transverses their deeds and misdeeds before and beyond World War II.
Ken Bruen (Ireland) - Bruen's "detective" (in the loosest possible terms) "solves" (in the loosest possible terms) crimes in Galway, Ireland. He is a boorish, brutal drunk who has messed up his entire life. The books detail this and more in a prose that feels like poetry.
James Lee Burke (New Orleans) - Burke has been working for many, many years to write about New Orleans and in some cases, Montana and to find the seedy undercurrent that crisscrosses the hazy Southern states. His works are infused with the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of Louisana. You do not read a Burke book - rather, you feel every single page. Haunting, poignant and beautiful.

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