Books to Die For, Part I
In each case but one, the essay is by a crime writer whose work I've read and the subject is another crime writer (or writers) whose work I've also read. In that exceptional case, the setting of the novel under discussion is my home town, so I feel that I can bring multiple perspectives to all six essays.
Each of the six probably says at least as much about its author as about its subject, with the possible exception of Nicol's on The Steam Pig, first of James McClure's six Kramer and Zondi novels set in apartheid-era South Africa. I can think of no author whose work looms larger over his country's crime fiction than McClure's does over South Africa's. Perhaps it's no wonder, then, that Nicol's fine summation of the great McClure seems to me more self-effacing than the other essays I read.
McFetridge on Trevanian's novel The Main offers the same keen eye for social history that I know from McFetridge's own books. And Scott Phillips' observation that Charles Willeford's heroes "cheat, brawl, lie, and seduce their way, unencumbered by notions of fair play, through a postwar American landscape Norman Rockwell never painted" reminded me of nothing so much as the unsentimental but very funny world of Phillips' own novels.
And now, as Bob Dylan said, the hour is getting late. So I'll leave you with the thought that I see no reason Books to Die For and its editors, Declan Burke and John Connolly, ought not to be considered for next year's Edgar, Dagger, and other crime fiction awards in the critical/non-fiction categories.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012