A real toughie this, but if you had to name only one writer (of crime fiction) that you think was the best--who would you name?

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Elmore Leonard.
Concise. Thanks
Hammett
thank you. I agree actually.
Agreed!
Never having read Leonard or Hammett (a grievous oversight, I know), I'm going to argue for Ed McBain/Evan Hunter.
I have to admit to not having read Leonard, so you're in good company. And McBain was one of the greats. Funny, how it can't really be narrowed to one, isn't it?!
James Ellroy
I think he influence me the most. his writing is so powerful. knock in the head kind of power. very emotional. it gets to me.
Off hand, I have to admit that I can't think of any mystery writer as a stylist. The ones that sell well are often former journalists. Their style much resembles the stripped-down, simple newspaper style. It tends to be effective for crime "reporting" and makes it easy for readers to follow the story.
Occasionally, you see a little experimentation, as in Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor series. His poem-like lists of nouns, for example, are usually effective and appropriate to the Irish mood and character. Experimentation is good.

For myself, I have discovered that readers pause with pleasure over the pretty stuff, so perhaps there is room in mysteries for some fancy language.
Thank you. that's really making me think. I do pause over some things. But then I do it over stuff that's just so pared down and minimalist but shocking. Like some of James ellroy. thanks so much.
Best? I don't know. If you'd asked whose writing had influenced me the most, it would be a tie between Elizabeth Peters and Dick Francis.

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