Sunday, January 5, 2014

My Best Reads of 2013

I don’t like writing Top Ten lists. It’s too hard to draw the line, but 2013 was such a good reading year for me, this post would be too long if I wrote a blurb for each worthy book. So, here are the Top Ten, plus some honorable mentions. (Books listed in the order in which they were read.)

The Cold, Cold Ground, Adrian McKinty. If there’s ever been a better historical mystery written, let me know. McKinty weaves Sean Duffy’s story into The Troubles in a way that would make James Ellroy jealous, if James Ellroy still read fiction, and were prone to jealousy.

Cheapskates, Charlie Stella. His best riffs on greed, duplicity, and amoral conduct in general. Funny in an Elmore Leonard “these guys are serious” way. Great fun.

I Hear the Sirens in the Street, Adrian McKinty. The second in the Duffy trilogy, and as good as Cold, Cold Ground, though the impact may have been lessened because the setting wasn’t such a shock to me. This time he works John DeLorean into the story and pulls it off. I’ll be all over In the Morning I’ll Be Gone when it’s available here in the States.

American Tabloid, James Ellroy. I read the Underworld USA Trilogy out of sequence, which is fine, as I like him better with each book I read (The Cold Six Thousand, Blood’s a Rover, American Tabloid) .Moving onto the LA Quartet this year.

Masters of Atlantis, Charles Portis. Hard to think of two more different books written by the same guy than True Grit and Masters of Atlantis. Not only has Portis done it, one’s as good as the other, and they’re both very good. If you’re looking for something to read that’s just flat-out fun for a change, you can’t go wrong here.

Prohibition, Terrence McCauley. 2013 was the Year of Historical Crime for me. McCauley writes of New York in the Twenties in the style of the old pulps, including enough modern touches to keep the writing from sounding dated. Highly recommended, along with its successor, Slow Burn. I put Prohibition in the Top Ten because it’s the first of the two, and sets the stage.

The Walkaway, Scott Phillips. All the great stuff you’d expect from Phillips. And then I found tears rolling down my cheeks in a restaurant while reading the ending. Brilliant.

The Onion Field, Joseph Wambaugh. Two young cops are kidnapped in 1963. One is killed; the other escapes. The best non-fiction crime book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read In Cold Blood twice.

Black Rock, John McFetridge. Montreal in the 70s. Constable Eddie Dougherty assists on a possible serial killer investigation while Francophones threaten to blow up the city. Things in Montreal weren’t as bad as Belfast, but McFetridge puts you right there. Hopefully only the first of a series.

Ratlines, Stuart Neville. John Kennedy is coming to Ireland and someone is killing Nazis hidden by the Irish government. Albert Ryan is tasked with stopping the killings and keeping the whole thing quiet so the Kennedy trip isn’t called off. Otto Skorzeny plays a key role in a book reminiscent of Day of the Jackal.

Honorable Mention

The Hard Bounce, Todd Robinson. About time this guy got a novel published. Hopefully the first of many.

Slow Burn, Terrence McCauley. Follow-up to Prohobition, and as good, yet different.

The Devil Doesn’t Want Me, Eric Beetner. A good action movie waiting to be made.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson.

Dirty Words, Todd Robinson. Todd’s stories alone are as good as any of the Thuglit anthologies, and more consistent.

Road Kill, Zoe Sharp. Charlie Fox and bikers. What could possibly go wrong?

Vespers, Ed McBain.

Crooked Numbers, Tim O’ Mara. Get in on this series now so you can be one of the cool kids later, who gets to say, “Tim O’Mara? Know all about him,” and the latecomers will be jealous.

Saturday’s Child, Ray Banks. I’m jealous of everyone who figured out Banks was the good before I did.

Devil in a Blue Dress, Walter Mosley

I’d Know You Anywhere, Laura Lippman

Best Re-Reads

Deadwood, Pete Dexter

Get Shorty, Elmore Leonard. The bad news is, just about everything I’ll read by Leonard from now on will be a re-read. The good news is, I can read Get Shorty twice a year and not get tired of it.

The Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler. Marlowe gets out of LA for some fresh air.

American Civil War Trilogy, Bruce Catton. History may not repeat, but it rhymes.

Special Notice

Vivid and Continuous, John McNally. As fine a book on writing as I’ve read. Practical, unpretentious, and entertaining all at once.

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