What are the crime, mystery, and thriller novels that every fan of this genre should be sure to read before he or she dies? That's the question Britain's Daily Telegraph asked a couple of weeks back, but its answers were ... well, let's be generous and call them unspectacular.

Hoping to do a better job, The Rap Sheet is putting together its own list of must-reads -- but we need your help. Which books and authors do you think should be included? We won’t limit our list falsely to 50 books and authors, as the Telegraph did, but will instead feature as many names as seems appropriate. And we'll publish the results sometime in the near future.

The floor is now open to suggestions, folks.

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My SO says there's one point to these lists: To get people talking about books. And if the list does that, then it's a success.

And on that score, the list from the Telegraph was a huge success.

But I really am left to ponder a number of things... which are filtering into a blog post I've started drafting.

Jude, I know what you're saying about SOLT vs DaVinci Code, and while I might even personally agree with you (if I'd read either of them to know) it still is a matter of taste, isn't it? This is why no book is universally praised in reviews (although some are universally loathed). I've had people talk about amazing writing to me, only to pick up the book and wonder wtf I'm missing. I used to wonder what was wrong with me when I read a very popular book, critically acclaimed, and thought it was lacking.

Now, I realize it really is a taste issue. Should Alexander McCall Smith's Precious Ramotswe books be on such a list? I would lean in the camp of yes because he really did bring us something fresh and memorable. Are the books for me? No. I have read some of the series, but it doesn't resonate with me on the same level as Rankin or Lippman or Bruen or many others. That doesn't make it bad, forgettable or any less significant to the genre - it's just about my reading tastes.

And so, there'll be a new list, and people will argue over it too, and if that's the point, great. But I still think the only people these lists really should apply to are authors/industry people.
Good point. I would also hope these sort of lists would re-introduce people to some excellent writers who are being passed over. With that in mind, I'd like to mention a writer who is dear to my heart, in the hopes that people will talk about her...Patricia Carlon.
She's an australian writer who has gotten excellent reviews in the past, but very little attention. Her novel, An Unquiet Night, made an enormous impression on me as a writer. I highly recommend it. She does not use a lot of gratuitous violence, but the tension builds until you are flipping through the pages, desparate to see how it ends. He books, while written in the sixties, do not read as dated, and many of her titles are still available from Soho Press.
What are the crime, mystery, and thriller novels that every fan of this genre should be sure to read before he or she dies?

Of course everything is a matter of taste. That's understood in any reasonable discussion about a matter as subjective as literature; but, my opinion of Thomas Harris's writing does not change the fact that SOTL was a landmark novel that took the genre in new directions. To me, it was a no-brainer to add it to a list like this. I never dreamt I would have to defend it as a choice, LOL.
Nah, it isn't that you have to defend it. But I think when different people start presenting views you easily realize how impossible such lists are. They're so subjective. If the list was divided into classics and notable contemporary works, and then into subgenres with the benchmarks for them, it would be easier for people to look at it and say, "Okay, that's something I might want to read." My mother would die if I gave her SOTL, and so I never would.

When I was working in the library I found this to be really hard. People come in with tastes that are so different from my own. A list of notables in terms of classics and contemporaries and by subgenres could have actually been useful, because it would have given me a starting point for areas I don't read as much. As it was, for some of the subgenres I was at a bit of a loss for recommendations.
If the list was divided into classics and notable contemporary works, and then into subgenres with the benchmarks for them, it would be easier for people to look at it and say, "Okay, that's something I might want to read."

I think that's a great idea, Sandra.
A list like this should not have the obvious choices on it. Dashiell Hammett. Duh. Everyone knows about him. People are going to read those kinds of classics without a list. But what about all that crime fiction you've never even heard about, from authors you didn't even know existed?

Such as Kenzo Kitakata, who in Japan is considered a master of hardboiled crime fiction. He has three novels translated in English, with a fourth due out this month. How many of you on here have even heard of him?

Or ON PAROLE by Akira Yoshimura, about a man adjusting to life after being paroled after 16 years in jail. A great book, but again, how many of you have even heard of him?

These are just two examples that I'm aware of. There have got to be thousands more. I would also add Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games.
Very interesting! Something to keep in mind.
The two books that I have read again are Day of the Jackal and To Kill A Mockingbird. It is harder with crime fiction as many are unashamedly commercial and therefore not as memorable (that is not a criticism, as I don't read in order to have my life changed, but to enjoy whiling away the hours).
Jeff: A suggestion--if you posted your question on the hardboiled/noir discussion group, RARA AVIS, you'd probably get dozens of responses instead of a debate over whether the question should be asked.

BTW. After looking over my bookshelves, I have a few additions I'd like to ass to my list: By Walter Mosley, who is by far my favorite modern hardboiled writer, I'd pick his earlier Easy Rawlins books: Devil in a Blue Dress, Black Betty, A Yellow Dog, A Red Death, White Butterfly, by James Sallis, Moth, Cypress Grove, Reasonable Doubts by Gianrico Carofiglio, Robbie's Wife by Russell Hill, and Lawrence Block's body of work.
I am a great fan of Walter Mosely. I recently purchased an autographed copy of his latest (last?) Rawlins book. Mosley's books are too sexually graphic for many, but he is a masterful writer of many genres, and he has put his money where his mouth is by giving back to the community.I hope he lives long enough so that Easy comes back to live another day.
Hmm. A few that matter to me (mostly leaving alone the lengthy list of classics)...
Just about anything by James Lee Burke
Just about anything by Ken Bruen (though I'd say THE GUARDS if pressed to pick just one)

Each of these writers made (or is continuing to make) a contribution to the genre that is significant. Nobody (IMO) does criminal insanity quite like Thompson. I can't even go into Burke without writing a tome, so I won't. Bruen consistently shakes up form, mixing pop culture references, poetry and fantastic writing in a way that is totally unique. And while I'm not a fan of serial killer novels, SOTL broke open a whole new sub-genre. Yes, there were books written previously about serial killers, but none in quite this way. Oh yeah, and all these books/writers tell damn fine stories.
Which Ken Bruen novel would you say is the most representative of his work as a whole?


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