So, I'm teaching a "Mystery As Lit" course next semester. What books should I use?

I'm going with Mosley's "Devil In A Blue Dress" for sure. Also something by Chandler, but which one? They're all so great, but is one particularly iconic or complex? I'd like to teach one of van de Wetering's books, and probably an Agatha Christie. So I still need three or four more. Any suggestions/thoughts would be most helpful. Diversity/variety is a big plus.

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THE TWISTED THING was the first mystery I read beyond Sherlock Holmes. (I found it in the basement one day helping my dad clean up.) I was probably about 13 or 14. Probably explains a lot about me. That ending really creeped out this early teenaged boy. Ran right out and bought MY GUN IS QUICK and I THE JURY. Mom could have lived without that.
"The Twisted Thing" is a classic example of the way a twist should be done. You were staring at it the whole time and never even saw it. I've watched one or two movies where the killer was essentially flown into the story at the last minute, and those never really work.

I thought about Sherlock Holmes too (and it is not possible to talk about mysteries without thinking about Holmes), but I have only read the short stories, not the longer pieces like "The Hound of the Baskervilles." If the author would consider short stories, I recommend the Holmes adventure, "The Dancing Men." I think this one demonstrated most effectively the deductive acuity we all associate with his name.
This is all very helpful--thanks, you-all. Yes--"mystery" broadly defined, no it doesn't have to be a survey-type class that covers all the major schools or periods, though variety is definitely a good thing.
You know another interesting piece of writing would be Elmore Leonard's Comfort to the Enemy which ran as a serial in the New York Times Magazine a few years ago. It's a good example of what yo can do with the 'crime' genre.' It was published just after the torture scandals at Abu Graib started to break and the whole issue of the US holding prisoners of war with no trials, etc., and so Elmore Leonard wrote a story set at a POW camp in Oklahoma during World War Two.

There's the writing style to study, of course, Hemingway the next generation, so to speak, but also the way social issues can be worked into genre fiction. Leonard's Pagan Babies does that pretty well, too,opening with the aftermath of the slaughter in Rawanda.
For Chandler I'd choose THE LONG GOODBYE because it is the epitome of his style, the good and the not so good. Helpful for discussion. Also the most beautifully written.

I actually prefer DOUBLE INDEMNITY to POSTMAN. The ending in the book is nothing like the movie. When I read it I just let the book hang from my hands and thought, "Wow. No way that could have been in a 1940 movie."

James Lee Burke, definitely; a true artist. Leonard and Higgins to show how the genre turned into the late Twentieth Century. I'm surprised no one has mentiond Ross Macdonald. I'm not a huge fan--which I am willing to accept as a failing on my part--but he's undoubtedly a critical figure in the development of the form.
I may go with both The Long Goodbye and Double Indemnity--both terrific examples of their kind/period--although I'd very much like to use something by Highsmith as well (either Strangers On a Train or the first Ripley) and they're perhaps a bit too similar in the sense that both Cain and Highsmith put us in the heads of criminals. And really, Ripley's a wonderfully compelling psychopath. Hmm. Closer, but not quite there yet. Elmore Leonard's a good call, too--but which one?
For the Elmore Leonard Swag may be the one, though it's also a book that puts you in the head of criminals.

Glitz is the only Elmore Leonard with an actual psychotic bad guy - not a professional criminal.

If you assign Get Shorty or Out of Sight they'll just watch the movies and get them all wrong.

Freaky Deaky would be fun - actual 60's radicals not cartoon versions of them.

Or maybe, better yet, short stories. In the collection When the Women Come Out To Dance there's a story called "Hanging Out at the Buena Vista" that if you didn't know better, you'd swear was Raymond Carver.
I defer to John's knowledge of Leonard, just chiming in here to agree about that short story collection. The trouble with anthologies is there's always a couple of stories that just aren't as god as the others. Not When the Women Come Out to Dance. That's as consistently excellent a collection of stories by the same writer as you're likely to find.
For alternative culture views Points & Lines by Seicho Matsumoto is a fascinating insight into how Japanese culture works, as is The Final Bet by Abdelilah Hamdouchi (first Arabic mystery translated into English).

It might also be worth having a look at El Dorado by the much mourned Dorothy Porter - crime fiction novel in absolutely magnificent verse.

The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel is another beautiful, taut and extremely literate book.
I don't know the demographics of the class, but it might be good to throw in some newer stuff if they're younger. Maybe The Black Dahlia. Maybe even The Silence of the Lambs as well. I'm not saying both. I'd do one or the other and then also show maybe a tidbit of each one's movie and discuss.

I'll also throw in 8 Million Ways to Die by Lawrence Block. Think there's something that can be said about the advancement of the genre through a detective that seeks treatment for alcohol abuse.
I'd use The Big Sleep because it was Chandler's first, but I'd go with the Falcon for Hammett. I'd do a Ross Macdonald, too.


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