When I started to get seriously interested in mysteries, I wanted to read everything. I knew that wasn't possible, of course, but I made a run at it. I'd already read Poe and Doyle, so I started in on Queen and Christie and Carr. I read one Nero Wolfe novel after another. I searched out obscure hardboiled writers. I read paperback originals by the dozens. At the same time, I tried not to neglect the up-and-coming writers. In those days that meant people like Westlake and Block and Ross Thomas. John D. MacDonald was getting the Travis McGee series started.

I get the impression now that a lot of mystery readers don't care about anything that wasn't written within the last five years or so. If it's older than that, they just don't have the time for it. I can see why. There are a lot of new writers, and it seems as if there are ten or fifteen new books coming a long every week. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it all.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe people just getting interested in the field still go back and read a lot of the good old stuff. Or maybe I'm right and they just don't care about all that.

What do you think?

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It's hard to miss with Hamilton and Williams. Some people aren't fond of the later, longer Hamiltions, but I like 'em.
I started out the way you did and went back to read authors from an earlier time. A number of people I knew were devoted to mysteries and I read a lot of kid's mysteries early but had gotten into more "serious literature" and read widely, but not mysteries until I came upon an academic study of a public library somewhere in California. The study observed that education was related to science fiction and at that time I knew several physicists who had very little time for recreational reading and devoted all of that time to SF.

The study also observed that mysteries were related to a level of sophistication (not their words) that did not result in a Ph.D. I asked one of my friends for a suggested list and was off and running with Donald Hamilton and several authors who I read one book and said enough. I then went into more serious study and read the histories by Haycroft (is that the right name?) and others. I became totally hooked on both Ross MacDonald's Archer series and John D MacDonald's Travis McGee series.

I read earlier works and current works and anything I could find by famous names and one-book authors and people who no one else ever heard of. I choose by title, by cover, and because I could afoard a garage sale dog-eared copy. I thought I was moderately abreast of the field until I got on the internet and found an entire new set of people I had not heard of previously.

I read by mood and enjoy a variety of types and subjects so I really do not have a favorite sub-category. Because I am living very quietly due to chronic illness, I read more than most people have the time.

I am very sorry to hear about your chronic illness. I hope that the excellent authors (especially Ross MacDonald!) with whom you have chosen to spend your time are a joy for you. Speaking of MacDonalds, have you read anything by Philip MacDonald? THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER and WARRANT FOR X (which Alfred Hitchcock made into a movie starring Van Johnson as a blind American in London who overhears plotting for a murder. Forget the title now), both featuring Anthony Gethren, are terrific.
Luckily for me, it's my mother-in-law who's ill. Not so lucky for her.

I've read a couple of MacDonald's books, including ADRIAN MESSENGER, which I bought after seeing the movie long years ago.
I read the List of Adrian Messenger a long time ago but not the second book you mention. For no reason that I can connect, except that both are British, I am reminded that I also read all of Josephine Tey's books. Eric Ambler and the earliest works of John LeCarre come to mind as well. Thanks for the reply.
I feel overwhelmed by so much new stuff that I can't read everything by favorite authors and I regret that. I also regret not having time to go back and re-read some of the greats that really captured my attention when I was young--Earl Stanley Gardner, Rex Stout, John D. MacDonald, and many more.

On the other hand, I'm always finding new exciting writers and sometimes I find old writers that are new to me. I just finished my first Charles Williams, The Hot Spot (it had a different name originally, which escapes me right now), and it blew my hat off.

Finding the older stuff is hard because the used bookstores in my area don't seem to carry anything older than a couple of years, and I'm not one for garage sales. I find most of my classics in the dealer's room of conferences.
You can still find the old stuff on eBay, but Williams is getting pricey. Not too bad, though, and well worth it.
Too bad Williams' only book in print is A TOUCH OF DEATH, which I didn't care for. I really enjoyed THE SAILCLOTH SHROUD and SCORPION REEF. Real people doing things people can really do.
There is a surprising amount of old stuff available on-line. Not just Doyle and Poe but Freeman Wills Croft, S S van Dine, Melville Davisson Post, E F Benson, AEW Mason, G K Chesterton etc. Try Project Gutenburg or the Australian Gutenburg site although technically you might be violating copyright law if you are located in the USA. I have even found some Dashiell Hammett and stories from Black Mask etc.


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