I’ve done Scandinavian Crime Fiction, so now I thought I’d take a shot at America. The home of the blockbuster movie and the setting for some of the deadliest genres in literature, including Westerns and pulp fiction, America boasts some truly spectacular Crime Fiction.
There is something for everyone in this list, from pulp fiction through to Westerns and everything in between. I really like the diversity of American fiction, which comes from the vastness of the country and the incredible changes that you see from one region to another. It’s great to be able to explore the various writers and their work from across America, although there are plenty that didn’t make it on to this list! Do let me know your thoughts on the best crime fiction from across the pond.
- The Maltese Falcon: Similar to the Philip Marlowe novels, Dashiell Hammett’s riveting novel centres around Sam Spade, a hard hitting private detective with an impressive streak of loyalty. Focused on the hunt for a gold, bejewelled falcon statue, the novel is fast paced and exhilarating as Spade finds both himself and his clients in ever increasing danger.
- True Grit: This fascinating Western turned crime novel has been adapted into two, equally excellent films; despite this I would wholeheartedly recommend reading the novel for the quality of the writing and the superb plotting. An unconventional tale of a young woman setting out to find the criminals that killed her father, with the help of a Marshall and a Texas Ranger, both of whom have fairly dubious reputations. Despite this the three enter into a thrilling chase across tough terrain to catch a killer.
- Kisscut: Karin Slaugher’s excellent second novel features a grizzly but exhilarating case fraught with deception and raw human emotion. A real thriller, this is not a gore fest as you might expect given the author’s name (someone once told me that was her real name but I refuse to believe them). The characters are interesting and plausible and, unlike many novels, there is not one central detective. Instead a team works to uncover the truth, which feels more realistic, as well as ensuring that the weight of the novel does not fall onto one character.
- Sharp Objects: Gillian Flynn is best known for her bestseller Gone Girl, but personally I prefer some of her other novels, and her debut Sharp Objects is one of the best. Set in a small town in Missouri, the novel follows a damaged young journalist who heads back home from Chicago to cover the story of a recent murder that takes on a very personal edge as more details emerge. The novel showcases what Flynn does best: exploring the relationships between damaged people and the cause of the trauma. It is as much about the protagonist, journalist Camille, as it is about the crimes themselves, and as such it takes on a fascinating edge akin to people watching.
- The Big Sleep: Among Raymond Chandler’s finest novels (check out my top five best Raymond Chandler books HERE), The Big Sleep formerly introduces protagonist Philip Marlowe for the first time. This tough talking, hard drinking maverick private detective forms the basis for a series of thrilling novels, and this first outing is no exception. Marlowe is slick, witty and quick thinking as he takes on a case of blackmail that quickly spirals out of control. Los Angeles is as much a character in the novel as Marlowe himself, and the city is depicted as both murky and mysterious, with the same intriguing beauty, endearing charm and enticing persuasion as Vivian Regan and Carmen Sternwood, the two sisters who each play a strong role in the novel’s plot and whose charms contribute to their respective downfalls.