Wednesday, December 3, 2008

November Reading

A pretty slow month for several reasons, not the least of which was a family visit over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Some oldies but goodies got read, though, starting with

Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett
I'd read it before and thought it was okay, thought I'd read it again in light of my (hopefully) more discerning taste. Yep, it's all they said it was. Tightly written, and it moves along with the staccato rhythm of gunfire, of which there is plenty. Maybe the most filmed book of the genre, though never under its own name, Red Harvest is, indeed, a seminal piece of American crime fiction everyone interested in the form should be familiar with.

Hardly Knew Her, by Laura Lippman
My review for New Mystery Reader is here, but. more informally, this is an excellent, if a little schizophrenic, book. An anthology of stories written over an eight year period, some specifically for this book, it reads as if written by two people. The Tess Monaghan stories are good, but stylistically more bland; several others, notably "The Crack Cocaine Diet," sizzle with wit and unique writing. Personally, I think the style used for the Monaghan stories is weaker, their immense popularity notwithstanding, but that's probably just em being contrary again.

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, by David Simon
This is another re-read, as research into next year's writing project. I savored it even more than the first time, when I loved it. Part of that is due to my increased knowledge and appreciation of what the cops are doing, and part is how artfully Simon weaves a year of unrelated events into a narrative that explains the Ten Rules of a Homicide Cop, as well as humanizing both cops and crooks. Having seen The Wire made this even more fun, as the parallels are so easy to see. My face lit up with recognition at the first mention of the tale of Snot Boogie. For anyone who hasn't read this and has an interest in learning about police procedure beyond investigative technique and into how the cops think about things, this is still the book to read.

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