One city, one crime novel — but which novel?
Julie M. Rivett, Hammett's granddaughter and recent editor, told me last week: "I talk to kids about Hammett. The Maltese Falcon has helped reach some reluctant readers." Teenagers, she said, responded especially to the novel's celebrated "Flitcraft Parable," a story of sudden, cataclysmic, arbitrary change.
If Philadelphia wants to stay local, why not David Goodis' Black Friday? Sympathy for the downtrodden. Survival against daunting odds. Finding one's own destiny. Black Friday is full of big themes, the sort of thing to generate big discussion and draw in even readers who have not read the novel. Or how about Hammett's Red Harvest? That book would lend itself easily and deliciously to discussion of Philadelphia's history of rotten politics.
What crime novel or story collection would you have your city, county, province, state, or country read? And why? It's not enough that the book be good or great. It must have the potential to appeal to readers young and old, to crime fans as well as to those who normally don't touch the stuff, and to those who might need a nudge to pick up a book in the first place. How does your choice meet these criteria? How will it grab readers the way "The Flitcraft Parable" snared Julie Rivett's teenage existentialists?
© Peter Rozovsky 2013