100 books like Pop. 1280

By Jim Thompson,

Here are 100 books that Pop. 1280 fans have personally recommended if you like Pop. 1280. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Passing

Faith Knight Author Of As Grey As Black and White

From my list on exploring biracial identity in the 20th century.

Who am I?

I am the product of biracial parents, and the idea of passing or not has always fascinated me as well as disgusted me. The reasons one would want to pass in this era are much different than the survival aspect my ancestors who passed had to consider in the 19th century. In writing my YA historical novels, being biracial always enters in, no matter the topic, because it is who I am and, in the end, always rears its head for consideration.

Faith's book list on exploring biracial identity in the 20th century

Faith Knight Why did Faith love this book?

I’ve read this book several times and saw the 2021 film. This is the quintessential novel on how skin color can affect one's choices in life as well as the life one is relegated to.

It made me really contemplate how someone can move from one world to another with either no concern (as in the case of Clare) or major angst, as in the case of Irene.

I loved this book because the struggles were real, and the end was unexpected.

By Nella Larsen,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Passing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A classic, brilliant and layered novel that has been at the heart of racial identity discourse in America for almost a century.

Clare Kendry leads a dangerous life. Fair, elegant, and ambitious, she is married to a white man unaware of her African American heritage and has severed all ties to her past. Clare's childhood friend, Irene Redfield, just as light-skinned, has chosen to remain within the African American community, but refuses to acknowledge the racism that continues to constrict her family's happiness. A chance encounter forces both women to confront the lies they have told others - and the…


Book cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Annette Joseph Author Of The Killer Menu: A Delicious Tale of Food, Family and Murder

From my list on mystery books with a beautiful aesthetic.

Who am I?

I am Annette Joseph, a writer and food stylist. I spend most of the year at our twelfth-century fortress in northern Tuscany. I have written six books, three cookbooks, and two memoirs about life in Italy. We run private retreats on the grounds. My book My Italian Guestbook is based on these retreats. Writing about everything around me in Italy gives me great pleasure.

Annette's book list on mystery books with a beautiful aesthetic

Annette Joseph Why did Annette love this book?

A Classic. I have read it three times. I would read it a fourth time. It's a beautifully crafted book. The writing is masterful. As a writer, I can’t get enough.

Set in the most beautiful places in Italy. This book transports you to another time. It’s a delicious read. If you have not read it, you must. If you have read it,  you must reread it; like a fine wine, it only becomes better. 

By Patricia Highsmith,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The Talented Mr. Ripley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's here, in the first volume of Patricia Highsmith's five-book Ripley series, that we are introduced to the suave Tom Ripley, a young striver seeking to leave behind his past as an orphan bullied for being a "sissy." Newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy. Soon Ripley's fascination with Dickie's debonair lifestyle turns obsessive as he finds himself enraged by Dickie's ambivalent affections for Marge, a charming American dilettante, and Ripley begins a deadly game. "Sinister and strangely alluring"…


Book cover of Black Wings Has My Angel

Andrew Diamond Author Of To Hell with Johnny Manic

From my list on the golden age of American crime and noir.

Who am I?

In college, I studied Literature with a capital L: those timeless classics the professors worship and revere. Then a woman in a used book store in Seattle handed me a copy of Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280 and said, "Read this." I was hooked. The pulp fiction of the 1950s is visceral and raw. Like Greek tragedy, it examines the darker drives of human nature--greed, lust, loneliness, anger--and their consequences. Pulp writers were paid by the word to crank out lurid thrills. But like Shakespeare writing for the groundlings, some of them just couldn't help going above and beyond. Their work remains in print because it hits on universal truths that still resonate today.

Andrew's book list on the golden age of American crime and noir

Andrew Diamond Why did Andrew love this book?

In a tough prostitute named Virginia, escaped convict Timothy Sunblade finds the perfect partner to help execute the perfect crime. The extraordinary relationship between these two makes the book memorable. Sunblade is clear-eyed, thoughtful, disillusioned, sensitive, brutish, self-assured at times, and wavering at others. Virginia is wise, world-weary, sure of herself and what she wants, sometimes crazed like a caged animal, but always strong.

Chaze's atmospheric detail adds depth and presence to the story. The characters' arc is one of darkening fate and inevitable tragedy. Watching their slow descent is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The characters continue to deepen throughout the story, all the way to the final page, and they stay with you long after you've put the book down.

By Elliott Chaze,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Black Wings Has My Angel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Flawless ... beyond perfection." — New York Magazine
"An astonishingly well-written literary novel that just happened to be about (or roundabout) a crime." — Barry Gifford
"Black Wings Has My Angel is an indisputable noir classic … Elliott Chaze was a fine prose stylist, witty, insightful, nostalgic, and irreverent, and a first-class storyteller." — Bill Pronzini
An escaped convict encounters an enterprising prostitute at the start of this hard-boiled masterpiece. When Timothy Sunblade opens the door of his blue Packard to Virginia, their fates are forever intertwined. "Maybe if you saw her you'd understand," he reminisces. "Face by Michelangelo, clothes…


Book cover of All the King's Men

James Sulzer Author Of The Voice at the Door

From my list on poets and politics.

Who am I?

As a teenager, I “discovered” the poetry of Emily Dickinson and put her verse to music. Later, at Yale University I delved deeper into the power of rhythms, the beauty of images, the clarity of insights—how they combine to create a genuine poetic voice that reveals an interior world. Politics, of course, define our interactions in the exterior world, and great novels meld these two elements—poetry and politics—into a seamless union. I’ve been inspired to write novels about two poets—Emily Dickinson and John Keats—to bring the reader into the intense, poetic world of their blazing interiors and their unique outward politics.

James' book list on poets and politics

James Sulzer Why did James love this book?

Harsh politics and tender poetic feelings: All the King’s Men is a classic novel about the rise and fall of a would-be dictator named Willie Stark. But it’s also about the personal lives of the people behind the power struggles—especially the bemused, poetic narrator, Jack Burden, who loses the love of his life, Anne Stanton, to the increasingly tyrannical Stark. As a teenager I fell in love with the love story. This novel convinced me of the power of combining the personal and the public, which I am working on in my new novel about the Black Panther rally in New Haven in 1970.

By Robert Penn Warren,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked All the King's Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 16.

What is this book about?

Willie Stark's obsession with political power leads to the ultimate corruption of his gubernatorial administration.


Book cover of Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

Baron Birtcher Author Of South California Purples

From my list on discovering a great new thriller series.

Who am I?

I’ve been a traditionally published author of thrillers and mysteries for nearly 20 years. I grew up in rural southern California (yes, it was rural then) surrounded by open spaces, riding horseback through the rolling cattle pastures of San Juan Capistrano. My recollections of those experiences, and the culture shift that inevitably arises out of every generation is a deep and fascinating well from which to draw stories and the characters who flesh them out. My thrillers have won a number of literary awards, and have been bestsellers—for which I am profoundly grateful. I hope you’ll join to relive the ethos, the passion, and the challenges faced when the Old West meets the New.

Baron's book list on discovering a great new thriller series

Baron Birtcher Why did Baron love this book?

While more manageable in size, this novel hits on every cylinder.

Spectacular insights into the Old West and the New are told with language that somehow manages to be both elegant and gritty at the same time. 

Sometimes the scene descriptions are rendered sparely, other times with a nearly poetic hand, but at all times create a durable and memorable backdrop for the drama.

If you are a writer, this is a book you’ll want to read more than once or twice, just as you will likely find yourself re-reading entire paragraphs just to experience the language for a second time.

This book was a significant catalyst in my career, and proved foundational in my pursuing the crafting of a new contemporary western thriller series of my own. 

There is a reason Cormac McCarthy is considered a modern treasure, and this book is one of his most (in my opinion)…

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Blood Meridian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.


Book cover of In a Lonely Place

Ward Howarth Author Of River City Blues

From my list on WWII era reads no crime fiction fan should miss.

Who am I?

I’m an author, reader, and cinephile with a real appetite for all things crime. If it’s a mystery, if it’s a detective story, if there are questionable morals at play in a story with no easy answers and no clear way out, then count me in. I’m also fascinated by the WWII era and was spellbound by the stories my maternal grandfather told me about his time as an infantry soldier in Italy during the war. These passions moved me to write my own novels and continue to inspire me in my embrace of art. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I do!

Ward's book list on WWII era reads no crime fiction fan should miss

Ward Howarth Why did Ward love this book?

Dorothy B. Hughes’ In A Lonely Place is arguably the best crime novel ever written.

Published in 1947, the story centers on Dix Steele, an ex-airman in postwar Los Angeles who, when he’s not passing himself off as a writer, is stalking and strangling women around the city.

Full of self-hatred and misogyny, the suggestively named Dix is perhaps the most unlikeable protagonist you’ll ever come across, but the novel is so hard-boiled, and such a masterclass in plot and character, you won’t be able to put it down.

Side note: while the 1950 film made from Hughes’ novel differs from the source material in several ways, it’s a hallmark of both studio and noir filmmaking and should not be missed.

By Dorothy B. Hughes,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In a Lonely Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Puts Chandler to shame ... Hughes is the master we keep turning to'Sara Paretsky

After the war, cynical veteran Dix Steele has moved to L.A., a city terrified by a strangler preying on young women. Bumping into an old friend, now a detective working on the case, Dix is thrilled by closely following the progress of the police. And meeting his new neighbour, sultry and beautiful actress Laurel Gray, brings even more excitement into his life. But the strangler is still prowling the streets - and Laurel may be in more danger than she realises...

In a Lonely Place was…


Book cover of The Big Clock

Andrew Diamond Author Of To Hell with Johnny Manic

From my list on the golden age of American crime and noir.

Who am I?

In college, I studied Literature with a capital L: those timeless classics the professors worship and revere. Then a woman in a used book store in Seattle handed me a copy of Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280 and said, "Read this." I was hooked. The pulp fiction of the 1950s is visceral and raw. Like Greek tragedy, it examines the darker drives of human nature--greed, lust, loneliness, anger--and their consequences. Pulp writers were paid by the word to crank out lurid thrills. But like Shakespeare writing for the groundlings, some of them just couldn't help going above and beyond. Their work remains in print because it hits on universal truths that still resonate today.

Andrew's book list on the golden age of American crime and noir

Andrew Diamond Why did Andrew love this book?

When news editor Earl Janoth murders his mistress, there's only one witness who can tie him to the crime scene. Janoth doesn't know who the witness is, but he knows everywhere the man went in the 24 hours before the murder, because the murder victim told him before he killed her.

Janoth is determined to find and silence him. He assigns reporter George Stroud to track the man down, not knowing that Stroud himself is the man he's looking for. Stroud is forced to assemble a team to hunt himself, knowing that when he's found, he'll be killed.

This is the best-plotted book I've ever read, both in concept and execution. Little details sprinkled through early chapters of the book keep coming back to have major significance as the noose tightens around Stroud.

By Kenneth Fearing,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

George Stroud, executive editor at Crimeways magazine, is involved with the wrong woman - his boss's. When Janoth, the boss, kills her in an argument, he tries to pin the crime on a man seen outside her home just before the murder. He assigns his best investigative reporter - Stroud - to find the man. Trouble is, the man was Stroud himself ...An audacious and ironic novel of terror and high tension.


Book cover of The Hot Spot

Timothy J. Lockhart Author Of Evil Intentions Come

From my list on American noir fiction taking you to the end of a one-way street.

Who am I?

I have loved crime fiction since encountering it in college. After seeing the Bogart-Bacall version of The Big Sleep, I read the underlying Raymond Chandler novel and was hooked. I devoured Chandler’s other works and moved on to James M. Cain, Jim Thompson, John D. MacDonald, and others. Later I discovered the crime novels of Charles Williams, Day Keene, Gil Brewer, and other “pulp masters.” Loving those novels led me to try my hand at writing crime fiction, and Stark House Press has now published five of my novels with another on the way. My crime-writing career is an unusual path for someone whose M.A. thesis is on Jane Austen!

Timothy's book list on American noir fiction taking you to the end of a one-way street

Timothy J. Lockhart Why did Timothy love this book?

I think The Hot Spot is perhaps the best of several noir novels by Charles Williams, a writer who deserves to be better known. 

Originally published as Hell Hath No Fury, The Hot Spot, well filmed under that title in 1990, chillingly illustrates the claimed truth of the proverb about a woman scorned. As readers, we cannot help but like Harry Madox, a clever but semi-sleazy used-car salesman who robs a bank in a small Texas town and sleeps with his boss’s boozy wife before falling in love with a younger, more innocent woman.

Then Harry learns to his dismay that the boss’s wife is determined to keep him from having the things he now realizes he really wants. Re-reading this novel, I always root for Harry to escape from the deep pit he has dug for himself, and I keep turning the pages, hoping he will.

By Charles Williams,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Hot Spot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A dark, brooding masterpiece of guilt, greed, and lust in a town ripe for felony.

Madox wasn't all bad.  He was just half-bad.  But trap a man like Madox in a dead-end job in a stultifying small town, introduce him to a femme fatale like the Harshaw woman, and give him a shot at a fast fifteen thousand dollars--in a bank just begging to be knocked over--and his better nature doesn't stand a chance.

Merciless in its suspense, flawless in its grasp of the ways in which ordinary people hurtle over the edge, The Hot Spot is a superb example…


Book cover of Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go

Neal W. Fandek Author Of Peter Pike and the Revenge of the Romanovs

From my list on psycho killers.

Who am I?

I’m the author of the Peter Pike private eye series. Pike regularly tangles with psychos; you can’t have crime novels without them. Why? People love psychos. Psychos horrify and fascinate us. Do we wish we could be them? Maybe. The best psychos are outwardly lovable and charming and get whatever they want, making you laugh and shudder at the same time. Wish fulfillment? Fantasy? Subconscious longings? Again, maybe. I know such fiction lets you dive deeply into what’s now called transgressive territory without consequences. Does fiction get any better than that?

Neal's book list on psycho killers

Neal W. Fandek Why did Neal love this book?

Pelecanos is the worst. Pelecanos is a bum. I hate George Pelecanos. Every time I read one of his novels I get depressed because I will never be as good as him. More modern existential hardcore PI fiction, the third novel in a triology set in DC, this one too blew me away with its vision of DC, which I had just quit for Philadelphia. But it’s not the DC you and I know of marble and monuments, posturing politicians and bright ties, bright young people, and great eateries. Shoegum Nick Stefanos prowls some very mean DC streets and alleys and slimy creeks while battling his own nature. He’s a barkeep, a drunk, a f**up. This novel showed me that thoroughly entertaining nihilistic crime fiction is alive and well. Have I mentioned I hate Pelecanos?

By George Pelecanos,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'You already been a punk. Least you can do is go out like a man.' Then a dull popping sound and a quiet splash. That's how Nick Stefanos gets drawn into the murder of Calvin Jeter. An investigation that takes him through the roughest part of the nation's capital and the blackest parts of the human soul. Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go is the third volume in the Nick Stefanos series - which establishes George P. Pelecanos as the rightful heir to the noir tradition of James Cain, David Goodis and Jim Thompson.


Book cover of In Broad Daylight: A murder in Skidmore, Missouri

Neal W. Fandek Author Of Peter Pike and the Revenge of the Romanovs

From my list on psycho killers.

Who am I?

I’m the author of the Peter Pike private eye series. Pike regularly tangles with psychos; you can’t have crime novels without them. Why? People love psychos. Psychos horrify and fascinate us. Do we wish we could be them? Maybe. The best psychos are outwardly lovable and charming and get whatever they want, making you laugh and shudder at the same time. Wish fulfillment? Fantasy? Subconscious longings? Again, maybe. I know such fiction lets you dive deeply into what’s now called transgressive territory without consequences. Does fiction get any better than that?

Neal's book list on psycho killers

Neal W. Fandek Why did Neal love this book?

This isn't a novel but a true crime narrative, a depiction of a man named Ken McElroy gunned down on the main street of a small Missouri town in, well, broad daylight. No witnesses. No suspects. Well, the whole town, the whole county, are suspects. This guy raped very young girls then got them to marry him, shot people, stole cattle and equipment, burned down houses. This book was a jolt to me because my wife is from that area, an area I, a man who's spent most of my life in urban areas, had always thought bucolic, filled with amiable, honest, peaceful people. I started looking at the natives in a different light after this. And, not to freak anybody out here, chances are pretty good there’s been a terrible crime, if you’re lucky an unsolved one, committed not very far at all from where you are right now.

By Harry N. MacLean,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ken Rex McElroy was an illiterate hog farmer who lived on the outskirts of a small town in Northwest Missouri. For over twenty years he raped, robbed and burned almost at will. Cops were scared to arrest him, prosecutors were scared to prosecute him, judges were scared to judge him, and juries were scared to convict him. Over the years, Skidmore and many other small communities became convinced that the law was incapable of protecting them from McElroy. They watched in awe as he walked away from one crime after another. Ken McElroy was shot to death on the main…


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