10 books like Pop. 1280

By Jim Thompson,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Pop. 1280. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Passing

By Nella Larsen,

Book cover of Passing

Although Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield are only old childhood friends, their relationship has intense sister vibes. Each woman’s mix of jealousy and curiosity about the other’s life, the latent homoerotic desire that serves as an undercurrent for so much of the rising action, a suspected affair, and the explosive ending to Clare’s ruse all illustrate the kind of sibling rivalry I love to explore in my critical as well as my creative work. Not to mention, one of my favorite literary flexes of all time occurs near the end when Irene’s plucky friend Felise has to check a white man who has the audacity to yell the word “nigger” at a house party filled with Black people. It is a moment, as is the entire book. 

Passing

By Nella Larsen,

Why should I read it?

4 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…


The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith,

Book cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

This suspense novel is a leader in the field of deceptive protagonists. Ripley adapts another’s persona alongside his own, but even as he plays both roles he knows that it will all have to end at some point. He is aware of what he’s doing, yet this is coupled with great self-deception: ‘I’m a good person really.’ His vulnerability is shown in his fear of being judged. At heart he is a lonely man, driven by obsession and jealousy. Ripley is a complex, well-drawn character - I’d love to see his personality profile!

The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith,

Why should I read it?

12 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"…


Black Wings Has My Angel

By Elliott Chaze,

Book cover of Black Wings Has My Angel

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.

Black Wings Has My Angel

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…


All the King's Men

By Robert Penn Warren,

Book cover of All the King's Men

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.

All the King's Men

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.

What is this book about?

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


Blood Meridian

By Cormac McCarthy,

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

In my opinion, the best novel written in the last fifty years. The violence would be too much in the hands of a lesser writer and there is no greater living writer in English than McCarthy. McCarthy perfectly captures the nihilism of war, and how that nihilism later comes back to haunt war’s survivors.

Blood Meridian

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

9 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.


In a Lonely Place

By Dorothy B. Hughes,

Book cover of In a Lonely Place

Unlike contemporary thrillers that portray killers as inhuman two-dimensional monsters, Hughes portrays Dix Steele as a human being gone horribly wrong. We see how his actions arise from feelings that most people experience as difficult and uncomfortable but that he experiences as intolerable, torturing, and unresolvable.

The novels of Jim Thompson and Patricia Highsmith are obvious descendants of this one. All three writers have insight and descriptive power that allow you to see, feel and inhabit some disturbing forms of human psychopathology. Hughes' female characters are strong, clear-eyed, and wise. They're the drivers of the story, not the victims. All her characters are fully drawn, and the tension builds consistently throughout. It's a hard book to put down, and you continue to feel it even after you've finished it.

In a Lonely Place

By Dorothy B. Hughes,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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…


The Big Clock

By Kenneth Fearing,

Book cover of The Big Clock

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.

The Big Clock

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.


The Hot Spot

By Charles Williams,

Book cover of The Hot Spot

Harry Madox drifts into a small Texas town with a plan to rob the local bank. He soon finds himself with two girlfriends. The young, sweet Gloria Harper brings out the best in him, while his boss’ jaded wife, Dolores Harshaw, brings out the worst. This a classic noir (and one of the best) in which a man's internal struggles spill out in the form of self-destructive loves and crimes.

Williams' characters ring true, and he provides good insight into their motivations and weaknesses. Dolores Harshaw may be the best femme fatale in all of crime fiction: seductive, conniving, compelling, manipulative, jealous, ruthless, intelligent, and unhinged. "The smart thing," Madox reflects after their first tryst, "was to get out of here and let her happen to somebody else." But you know he just can't resist.

The Hot Spot

By Charles Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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…


Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go

By George P. Pelecanos,

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

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?

Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go

By George P. 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.


In Broad Daylight

By Harry N. MacLean,

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

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.

In Broad Daylight

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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