Friday, December 28, 2007

Unsung international crime-fiction heroes

Some blog posts are so good that I just have to steal them (and adapt them for my own purposes, of course). Murderati asks readers to choose their unsung crime-fiction heroes, authors who “never get the accolades they deserve,” who “consistently write great books, have enough of a following to keep doing it, but are unknown or forgotten to most of us — including those of us who read quite a bit.”

The post and its comments offer some intriguing names that I’ll add to my list. But first I want to begin a new list here. Who are your favorite unsung crime-fiction authors? (Extra credit for authors from countries other than the U.S.) I’ll start things off by nominating, as I always do, that “that undersung British master of irony,” my man Bill James.

Since I’m focusing on “international” authors, here’s a thought: Since so relatively few crime writers are translated into English, can any remain unsung, or are they devoured upon publication by those of us starved for crime from foreign climes?

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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10 Comments:

Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I have never read Bill James and never even seen any of his books in bookstores so he definitely is unsung.

I would say that both Carlo Lucarelli and Masssimo Carlotto have not yet got the recognition they deserve in the UK and USA.

I will now go to the Murderati link and find out if K.C Constantine, Max Allan Collins and Jonathan Valin are on their list of unsung US authors.

December 29, 2007  
Blogger Barbara said...

I think David Corbett and Sam Reaves are both terrific and not as well known as they should be. Both are US writers (though Corbett's latest book is set in El Salvador).

For extra credit, how about Giles Blunt? a fabulous Canadian writer.

Matt Beynon Rees is fairly new to the scene and may become a big name, but his series about Palestine deserves a wide audience. (Rees is Welsh and lives in Jerusalem.)

December 29, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

You'll find a list of Bill James' book here. I recommend numbers seven through sixteen in the Harpur and Iles series especially.

It's hard for me to judge whether Carlo Lucarelli and Massimo Carlotto are unsung. At least I've seen their books on the shelves of the big chain stores occasionally. Since those stores at the same time squeeze out independent stores and ignore mid-list authors in favor of best-sellers, that's an accomplishment. Of course, such a state of affairs makes it easier for an author to be unsung. If the readers can't find an author's work, they can't sing his or her praises.

I'd have to agree Jonathan Valin is unsung because I'd never heard of him. K.C. Constantine probably makes a good unsung hero. He's not a mass success, but he is worshipped critically for his dialogue. Max Allan Collins may be underrated, but I'm not sure he's unsung. He's ubiquitous as a novelist, author of graphic novels and, I think, anthologist as well.

December 29, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Barbara, my comment about Jonathan Valin applies to your first two names. I'm embarrassed to admit I don't recognize them, so that makes them unsung. The El Salvador setting of Corbett's latest might even qualify you for extra credit.

I have a copy of Giles Blunt's Black Fly Season lying around. The title interests me because I grew up in Canada; black flies are those things that filled the country air at the end of summer. I grew up thinking black fly and mosquito were synonymous. Maybe he qualifies as unsung because readers and commentators like his work, but he has not achieved success to the point where he can pay other people to write his books for him, the way James Patterson does.

I hope Matt Benyon Rees becomes a big name. My copy of The Collaborator of Bethlehem is on the way, ordered through ABE Books. My bitterness toward the chains' domination of the book trade is fueled by cases like this. I checked my nearest Borders repeatedly for the book but never found it, which I can't understand. The book is published in the U.S. by Soho, an established house. A smaller store might have an excuse for not stocking midlist books. A big store such as a Borders has none.

(I sent you e-mail with two questions about the Carnival. Did you get it?)

December 29, 2007  
OpenID krimileser said...

Peter, it seems that Arne Dahl, a Swedish Autor has not been translated into English. So this should be an unsung name. I'm not into Scandinavian authors but Dahl writes really fine police procedurals; very modern, with an democratic attitude towards the personal. Pelecanos "The Night Gardener" has a similar approach and I thought that perhaps Pelecanos had read Dahl, but it seems that I was wrong.

December 30, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for the comment. It says here that English translations of Dahl's work are to be published in 2008, to join current translations into German, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, Finnish, Slovenian, Spanish and French. The books will be worth reading, based on the descriptions on that site: "unusual crime novels, hardcore thrillers with a literary touch and a mastery of style, with a good sense of humour, an unprecedented depth of character and an urge to plunge deep into the social problems of contemporary Europe."

December 30, 2007  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Jonathan Valin won a Shamus a few years ago, and I do have a copy [unread I have to admit] of the winning novel Extenuating Circumstances.

The blurbs read:

"that puts him in the very small class of people who transcend the noble ghosts of Chandler and Hammett."

"a legitimate heir to the Raymond Chandler-Ross Macdonald mantle."

"in the same league with Elmore Leonard, John D. MacDonald and James Crumley."

So perhaps it is not a question of being unsung but being unknown by the readers of crime fiction!

December 30, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Uriah R.: An interesting sidelight to those blurbs is that at least one comment on the original Murderati post called James Crumley an unsung hero. This surprised me. I don't know how well his books have sold, but critics and readers sing his praises to the skies.

I'd like to see how Jonathan Valin can transcend Chandler's ghost and at the same time be a Chandler heir. I'll look for his work at the library, which I have started using more both because it's important to support public services in this era of greed and privatization, and because I have too many books in my house.

December 31, 2007  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

"I have too many books in my house"

Heresy!

I actually have a couple of t-shirts which have a ubiquitous phrase on them, to wit: "So many books, so little time"

One is in Latin, the other has an Edward Gorey illustration.

December 31, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

If they keep piling up in the kitchen, they will create a fire hazard.

December 31, 2007  

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