Thank goodness, someone has at last widened their horizons beyond the US of A. Now, how about looking towards Europe (Karen Fossum, Henning Mankel, Donna Leon for starters) and then perhaps waking up to what's happening Down Under where there is a wealth of top-class crime writers, one of whom (Peter Temple) won this year's Golden Dagger Award
I agree with L.J. Parker's point on former journalists. Those who can pull it together and make you forget you're reading words and are right there, moving with the story, and feeling that triumph personally at the conclusion -- that is unconditionally the best. And each of these - McBain, Chandler, Hammett, Leonard -- are the absolute when you're in the midst of their stories... and you just want more!
thank you for all your replies. most i read and I agree with, others i will read. i have so much reading to do! but i want so to read all the hardboiled i can. i think the end result is we have to agree there isn't just one great! but a number of greats in that tradition.