The best books about small towns and big city crime

Who am I?

My family moved frequently and, as a result, I was raised in a number of different small towns in Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, and Massachusetts. I now live in a large city but the experience has never left me. There was always a certain amount of crime and corruption in the towns I grew up in, but I only had a child’s eye view of it. However, a child’s eye view is usually the most vivid. This experience and the books that I have listed above all had a direct influence on Blue Hotel.


I wrote...

Blue Hotel

By J.T. Conroe,

Book cover of Blue Hotel

What is my book about?

It’s the bitter winter of 1947. The young driver for a Chicago gangster flees his boss’s retribution carrying a valise full of stolen mob money. Suffering from an infected bullet wound received during his escape, he leaves his California-bound train and takes refuge in a dying Nebraska railroad town where he encounters a corrupt sheriff and a crippled war veteran who has been traumatized both by his combat experience and a tragic event back home that took place while he was fighting in Europe. This is a novel imagined as a sequel to Stephen Crane’s 1899 short story called “The Blue Hotel”.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Blue Hotel

J.T. Conroe Why did I love this book?

This is the story that inspired my novel. It takes place in a small Nebraska railroad town in the bitterly cold winter of 1898. My novel takes place in the bitterly cold winter of 1947, shortly after WW2, mostly in the same blue hotel in the same snowbound town as in Crane’s story.

Crane’s story “is one of the most well-known of the short stories in the collection The Monsters and Other Stories. Although it appears to be a reasonably simple tale about a man who encounters trouble following a stay at the Palace Hotel, several complex themes underpin the story and define many of the overarching themes in novels like Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and more generally, Crane’s corpus. Stylistically, the story breaks free from the norms of the period, often entering the realms of Expressionism, an unusual style to encounter in American literature.”

By Stephen Crane,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Blue Hotel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This carefully crafted ebook: “The Blue Hotel” is formatted for your eReader with a functional and detailed table of contents.

"The Blue Hotel" is a short story by American author Stephen Crane. The story first appeared in the 1899 collection entitled The Monster and Other Stories.
It is a story about a man who gets in trouble after a stay at the Palace Hotel.

Stephen Crane (1871-1900) was an American novelist, short-story writer, and poet who is often called the first modern American writer. The Blue Hotel (1899) is considered one of Crane ́s finest short stories.


Book cover of Road to Perdition

J.T. Conroe Why did I love this book?

Road to Perdition takes place during the Great Depression. Like my book, it concerns a man who betrays his Chicago Irish-American mob boss and is forced to flee for his life (accompanied by his young son in this case), pursued by a relentless killer sent by his former boss. Superficially, what appealed to me was the Depression-era atmosphere that the author of Road to Perdition created. On a deeper level, it appealed to me as a story of a man in a battle for the soul of his son. The man, an enforcer for his gangland boss, considers his own soul to be irredeemably lost because of the crimes he has committed, not only survive but to thrive.

By Max Allan Collins,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Road to Perdition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First there was Max Allan Collins' legendary graphic novel...then came the Academy Award winning movie and his bestselling screenplay novelization. Now Collins presents an epic new novel, combining and expanding upon all that came before, to create the ultimate version of his unforgettable story.;

Depression-era Chicago is awash in liquor and blood, ruled by guns, graft, and gangsters like John Looney. His most feared enforcer is Michael O'Sullivan, known as the "Angel of Death." But when O'Sullivan's twelve-year-old son witnesses a gangland murder committed by Looney's brutal son, O'Sullivan's entire family is marked for execution to cover up the crime.…


Book cover of No Country for Old Men

J.T. Conroe Why did I love this book?

This too is a novel about a young man being pursued by a remorseless killer. I enjoyed this novel because of its unrelenting suspense and because it represents a struggle, not only for the soul of a young man but for that of the nation. In it, McCarthy gives us a stunning portrait of evil and he shows us what’s at stake. The language is stripped bare, making the story resemble an actual direct experience as opposed to something I was merely reading about in the comfort of home.

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked No Country for Old Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Llewelyn Moss, hunting antelope near the Rio Grande, instead finds men shot dead, a load of heroin, and more than $2 million in cash. Packing the money out, he knows, will change everything. But only after two more men are murdered does a victim's burning car lead Sheriff Bell to the carnage out in the desert, and he soon realizes that Moss and his young wife are in desperate need of protection. One party in the failed transaction hires an ex-Special Forces officer to defend his interests against a mesmerizing freelancer, while on either side are men accustomed to spectacular…


Book cover of Nebraska: Stories

J.T. Conroe Why did I love this book?

This is a portrait of Nebraska (and Nebraskans) where most of my own book takes place. It’s also the state where I went to high school. I like Hansen’s spare and precise writing style because it perfectly fits the time and place, as well as the characters themselves who are presented stripped of the conceits and pretensions. For me, it’s a style, though different from McCarthy’s, that creates the illusion of actual direct experience as opposed to something I happen to be reading about. His story “Wickedness” creates a powerful image of winter on the Great Plains and its effect on people.

By Ron Hansen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nebraska as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stories of the heartland by the National Book Award finalist and author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

“Nebraska captures a rowdy, changing America. Written with wit and brawny lyricism, in voices ranging from hip to tender, the stories gathered here are as diverse and expansive as the country they celebrate…References to America’s heartland abound throughout the book and serve as a central metaphor for what’s close to American hearts, what connects us: dreams, myths and possibilities as vast as the Great Plains. Wise and smart-alecky, creaking with legend and crackling with modernisms, these tales…


Book cover of Montana 1948

J.T. Conroe Why did I love this book?

I grew up in a small Montana town, so Watson’s novel has a special meaning for me. It is a vivid portrayal of small-town life on the Great Plains and takes place during the same time period as my own book. It tells of the corruption of a trusted official and its effect on his family, his victims, and the town itself. Watson’s novel allowed me to feel and understand the deep emotions, the pain, the anxiety, the love, and the disappointment that his characters were feeling.

By Larry Watson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Montana 1948 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"From the summer of my twelfth year I carry a series of images more vivid and lasting than any others of my boyhood and indelible beyond all attempts the years make to erase or fade them " So begins David Hayden's story of what happened in Montana in 1948. The events of that cataclysmic summer permanently alter twelve-year-old David's understanding of his family: his father, a small-town sheriff; his remarkably strong mother; David's uncle Frank, a war hero and respected doctor; and the Haydens' Sioux housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier, whose revelations turn the family's life upside down as she relates…


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Lethal Legacy

By H R Kemp,

Book cover of Lethal Legacy

H R Kemp

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Buried Secrets. A web of deceit, betrayal, and danger. Can she survive her fight for justice and truth? Laura thought she knew everything about her late husband before he died. Now, her life and the lives of those she loves are in danger. As Laura delves into his previous role in Iraq, she unravels a web of lies and deceit that goes far beyond anything she could have imagined. What was he researching? And why are people willing to kill for it?

Laura turns amateur sleuth. At fifty-nine, she must summon every ounce of strength to expose the truth and navigate a treacherous landscape where the lines between trust and betrayal blur. Every step she takes brings her closer to the truth, but also deeper into the dangerous realm of those who wish to silence her forever.

Can she triumph over the shadows of corruption and finally bring justice to light? Or will she succumb to the deadly grip of those who will stop at nothing to protect their dark legacies?

Lethal Legacy

By H R Kemp,

What is this book about?

Buried Secrets. A web of deceit, betrayal, and danger. Can she survive her fight for justice and truth?

Laura thought she knew everything about her late husband before he died. Now, her life and the lives of those she loves are in danger.

As Laura delves into his previous role in Iraq, she begins to unravel a web of lies and deceit that goes far beyond anything she could have imagined. What was he researching? And why are people willing to kill for it?

Laura turns amateur sleuth. At fifty-nine, she must summon every ounce of strength and relentless determination…


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Interested in Nebraska, Montana, and murder?

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