68 books like The Underground Man

By Ross Macdonald,

Here are 68 books that The Underground Man fans have personally recommended if you like The Underground Man. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of In Cold Blood

Patti McCracken Author Of The Angel Makers: Arsenic, a Midwife, and Modern History's Most Astonishing Murder Ring

From my list on true crime books that are literary keepers.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a practicing journalist, I preferred getting my stories from the back road—“off the beaten path,” as is said. What I’m drawn to is the way a story is told, and since my game is journalism, I like the true ones. My father was a pretty good storyteller. My brother-in-law is wicked good. I hang with my jaw open, waiting on his next word. It’s like being able to tell a good joke. Few can do it. When it comes to True Crime, forget the blood and body count. Anyone can lay out the facts. It takes master storytelling to deliver us to the army of small truths that brought forth the crime—and the humanity that dissolved along the way.

Patti's book list on true crime books that are literary keepers

Patti McCracken Why did Patti love this book?

I’ve read In Cold Blood at least twice, but I think three times is the actual count. The first time, I was in my early twenties, not yet a writer, and I remember being gobsmacked—love that word—by a single sentence.

I remember reading the sentence again. And again. It was a marvel to me how alive it was, and how it told me all I needed to know about a place to understand that place. Nothing happens here; move on, it said—“Like waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama in the shape of exceptional happenings had never stopped there.”

By Truman Capote,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked In Cold Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The chilling true crime 'non-fiction novel' that made Truman Capote's name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative published in Penguin Modern Classics.

Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote's comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly…


Book cover of My Dark Places: An L.A. Crime Memoir

Stephen Holgate Author Of To Live and Die in the Floating World

From my list on neglected mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

From Poe to Conan Doyle and Christie to the hard-boiled school of Hammett and Chandler and modern practitioners such as Louise Penny and Walter Mosely, I can gobble up mysteries like candy. Their appeal lies not only in compelling storylines but in their promise to restore order to our chaotic world, assure us that justice will triumph and evil geniuses will lose to intrepid paladins. As with wines, art, and sex, tastes vary. While reading various lists of great mysteries to jog my memory to make this list, I realized that few of my favorites were even listed, much less among the top ranks. Like a good detective, I’m determined that justice prevails.

Stephen's book list on neglected mysteries

Stephen Holgate Why did Stephen love this book?

Memoirs don’t often feature mysteries, but Elroy, known for tough, cynical crime novels such as L.A. Confidential, centers his around his obsession with the unsolved murder of his mother in 1958 when Elroy was ten. With allusions to the famous Blue Dahlia case, Elroy writes with brutal frankness about his own pathologies and his weirdly loving relationship with his neglectful, alcoholic father. If nothing else, this absorbing book—hard to read and equally hard to put down—solves the mystery of why Elroy and his novels come off as so creepy.

By James Ellroy,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked My Dark Places as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On 22 June 1958, Geneva "Jean" Hilliker Ellroy was found strangled. Her murderer was never found, but her death had a lasting effect on her ten-year-old son who wasted his early adulthood as a wino, petty burglar and derelict. In this book he tells of his determination to solve his mother's murder.


Book cover of The Daughter of Time

James Irving Author Of Friends Like These

From my list on quest for justice in an unjust world.

Why am I passionate about this?

James V. Irving was born and raised in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, majoring in English. He holds a law degree from the College of William and Mary. After completing his undergraduate studies at UVA, Mr. Irving spent two years employed as a private detective in Northern Virginia, where he pursued wayward spouses, located skips, investigated insurance claims, and handled criminal investigations. In his early years as a lawyer, he practiced criminal law, which, along with his investigative experience and trial work, informs this fictional account of Joth Proctor. Mr. Irving and his wife, Cindy, live in Vienna, Virginia.

James' book list on quest for justice in an unjust world

James Irving Why did James love this book?

I love this unusual approach to a historical whodunit. A hospitalized police detective combats the boredom of inaction by reviewing a compelling historical mystery: did much-maligned King Richard III commit the crimes that have been attributed to him for centuries? Or was he the victim of character assassination by those who deposed him?

This thought-provoking novel–a quick and compelling read–examines an eternal question: is history the truth or the version of truth presented by the victors? It’s as important a question today as it ever was. 

By Josephine Tey,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Daughter of Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_________________________
Josephine Tey's classic novel about Richard III, the hunchback king whose skeleton was famously discovered in a council car park, investigates his role in the death of his nephews, the princes in the Tower, and his own death at the Battle of Bosworth.

Richard III reigned for only two years, and for centuries he was villified as the hunch-backed wicked uncle, murderer of the princes in the Tower. Josephine Tey's novel The Daughter of Time is an investigation into the real facts behind the last Plantagenet king's reign, and an attempt to right what many believe to be the…


Book cover of Maigret and the Bum

Stephen Holgate Author Of To Live and Die in the Floating World

From my list on neglected mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

From Poe to Conan Doyle and Christie to the hard-boiled school of Hammett and Chandler and modern practitioners such as Louise Penny and Walter Mosely, I can gobble up mysteries like candy. Their appeal lies not only in compelling storylines but in their promise to restore order to our chaotic world, assure us that justice will triumph and evil geniuses will lose to intrepid paladins. As with wines, art, and sex, tastes vary. While reading various lists of great mysteries to jog my memory to make this list, I realized that few of my favorites were even listed, much less among the top ranks. Like a good detective, I’m determined that justice prevails.

Stephen's book list on neglected mysteries

Stephen Holgate Why did Stephen love this book?

Like so many, I’m addicted to this series. Often imitated, never surpassed, Simenon is perhaps the only mystery writer to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was considered by some contemporaries to be the greatest French novelist of his time. Don’t let that put you off. These are great mysteries with an indelible sense of time and place. If the Sherlock Holmes stories can transport me to Victorian London, I can as easily take an absorbing mid-20th century trip to the underside of Paris with Inspector Jules Maigret.

These police procedurals offer unforgettable characters and deep psychological insight. Maigret and the Bum is perhaps my favorite. The bum of the title is a vagrant who has been beaten nearly to death on the banks of the Seine. As Maigret investigates the crime, he finds that the victim was once a highly respected doctor, dedicated to helping the…

By Georges Simenon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Simenon, Georges


Book cover of Sleeping Beauty

Geoff Loftus Author Of Murderous Spirit

From my list on thrillers to read on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a thriller writer, I have a simple goal: I want to entertain. I'm not the kind of writer whose name is coupled with the Pulitzer Prize or the National Book Award. I write the kind of stories people read to divert themselves on a rainy afternoon or on the beach or on airplanes. My hope is that I can divert and delight my readers. Help them forget the real world for a while. Give them an enjoyable reading break. If people have fun while reading my thrillers, I've done my job.

Geoff's book list on thrillers to read on a rainy Saturday afternoon

Geoff Loftus Why did Geoff love this book?

Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer books were my introduction to the American private-detective novel. Macdonald’s work is psychologically and morally complex, with the sins of previous generations cascading through time to horrific, homicidal effects on Archer’s clients.

In Sleeping Beauty, Archer tries to help a wealthy family with more trouble than any single family should have to deal with—including a missing girl, an oil spill, a ransom demand, and a corpse floating off a private beach. As Archer works his case, he untangles long-lost memories, the results of arrogant decisions, and the pained, twisted relations between parents and children. Sleeping Beauty is gritty and taut. Terrific detective fiction.

By Ross Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Sleeping Beauty, Lew Archer finds himself the confidant of a
wealthy, violent family with a load of trouble on their hands--including an oil spill, a missing girl, a lethal dose of Nembutal, a six-figure ransom, and a stranger afloat, face down, off a private beach. Here is Ross Macdonald's masterful tale of buried memories, the consequences of arrogance, and the anguished relations between parents and their children. Riveting, gritty, tautly written, Sleeping Beauty is crime fiction at its best.

If any writer can be said to have inherited the mantle of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, it is Ross…


Book cover of The Instant Enemy

Burt Weissbourd Author Of Rough Justice

From my list on character-driven thrillers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write character-driven thrillers, including my latest novel: Rough Justice. How did I come to write psychological character-driven thrillers? It began years ago when I went to Hollywood in 1977. This was the New Hollywood (1967 -1980), and I worked with writers whose work grabbed viewers viscerally, not with explosions but with multi-dimensional characters that would draw you into a deeply moving story. I spent countless hours working out the stories and shaping the people in them. Working closely with these great screenwriters was a rare opportunity to learn how to create complicated characters and to see how these complex people enriched storytelling.

Burt's book list on character-driven thrillers

Burt Weissbourd Why did Burt love this book?

I not only loved this book (and all of Ross Macdonald’s writing) but he wrote his only screenplay for me as a producer in Hollywood, based on this book, The Instant Enemy. Working with him closely on this book taught me a great deal about writing complicated character-driven thrillers. He was a master at that, and it was an extraordinary education for me.

By Ross Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Generations of murder, greed and deception come home to roost in time for the most shocking conclusion ever in a Lew Archer novel. At first glance, it's an open-and-shut missing persons case: a headstrong daughter has run off to be with her hothead juvenile delinquent boyfriend. That is until this bush-league Bonnie & Clyde kidnap Stephen Hackett, a local millionaire industrialist. Now, Archer is offered a cool 100 Gs for his safe return by his coquettish heiress mother who has her own mysterious ties to this disturbed duo. But the deeper Archer digs, the more he realizes that nothing is…


Book cover of The Moving Target

Ashley Clifton Author Of Twice The Trouble

From my list on literary novels masquerading as crime novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

Flannery O’Connor once said that all fiction is ultimately about the “mystery of personality.” I agree. In fact, I have always suspected that all good novels, genre-based or otherwise, are secretly mystery novels, if only in the psychological sense. Conversely, many so-called genre novels have just as much depth, insight, and realism as any literary work. I have read a lot of genre and literary fiction in my time, and I have long been fascinated by works that blur the line between the two. My favorite kind of book is one that feels like a genre novel (that is, it has a great plot) but also has the depth and vividness of a literary novel.

Ashley's book list on literary novels masquerading as crime novels

Ashley Clifton Why did Ashley love this book?

If there is one central defining quality of noir crime fiction, it is the main character’s struggle to preserve his moral center in a fundamentally corrupt and evil world. The best P.I. novels are able to render this kind of character in brushstrokes that are both beautiful and subtle.

One of my favorites is Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer, first introduced in this novel. When Archer is hired to find a missing rich guy in a tony, Southern California beach town, he finds himself knee-deep in violence, greed, and deceit, uncertain of who is guilty, who he can trust, and even who is worth saving. A moving target, indeed.

By Ross Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first book in Ross Macdonald's acclaimed Lew Archer series introduces the detective who redefined the role of the American private eye and gave the crime novel a psychological depth and moral complexity only hinted at before.

Like many Southern California millionaires, Ralph Sampson keeps odd company. There's the sun-worshipping holy man whom Sampson once gave his very own mountain; the fading actress with sidelines in astrology and S&M. Now one of Sampson's friends may have arranged his kidnapping.

As Lew Archer follows the clues from the canyon sanctuaries of the megarich to jazz joints where you get beaten up…


Book cover of The Barbarous Coast

Marjorie McCown Author Of Final Cut

From my list on crime about Hollywood.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been hooked on the magic of storytelling since childhood, always eager to go wherever imagination can take me. I think that early fascination led me to become a costume designer because costume design is about using clothing to help tell a story. I spent 27 years working on the costume design teams for films like Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Angels & Demons, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. When I decided to take what felt like a logical creative step, to write my own stories, I knew I wanted to write murder mysteries. And I thought the world behind the scenes of a movie would make the perfect setting.   

Marjorie's book list on crime about Hollywood

Marjorie McCown Why did Marjorie love this book?

This twisty, hypnotic story by the great Ross Macdonald focuses on the dark side of the Hollywood dream.

Private detective Lew Archer is drawn into the search for a missing woman, Hester Campbell-Wall, who seemed poised on the cusp of success via an oblique connection to Helio-Graff Studios when she vanished after a frantic phone call to her estranged husband.

Against his better judgment Archer agrees to look for Hester, a quest that pits him against the powerful and corrupt studio head, Simon Graff. The book is full of complex characters who are neither all good nor all bad, despite their acts of betrayal, deceit, and even murder.

That’s what makes them so poignant and believable: in various ways, they are all broken by dreams that didn’t come true. 

By Ross Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The beautiful, high-diving blonde had Hollywood dreams and stars in her eyes but now she seems to have disappeared without a trace. Hired by her hotheaded husband and her rummy “uncle,” Lew Archer sniffs around Malibu and finds the stink of blackmail, blood-money, and murder on every pricey silk shirt. Beset by dirty cops, a bumptious boxer turned silver screen pretty boy and a Hollywood mogul with a dark past, Archer discovers the secret of a grisly murder that just won't stay hidden.Lew Archer navigates through the watery, violent world of wealth and privilege, in this electrifying story of obsession…


Book cover of The Way Some People Die

Will Zeilinger and Janet Elizabeth Lynn Author Of Strange Markings: A Skylar Drake Mystery

From my list on golden age detective stories.

Why are we passionate about this?

Janet and I have traveled extensively and found inspiration and story ideas at every destination. As writers for more than 10 years and as fans of classic detective stories, we feel qualified to tackle this genre.

Will's book list on golden age detective stories

Will Zeilinger and Janet Elizabeth Lynn Why did Will love this book?

Ross MacDonald is one of the classic detective series that features a damaged leading character who finds more trouble than he knows. Many people have told us our writing style is similar to his. If you want to read classic noir, read this book. His books are hidden gems that beg to be discovered.

By Ross Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Way Some People Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a rundown house in Santa Monica, Mrs. Samuel Lawrence presses fifty crumpled bills into Lew Archer's hand and asks him to find her wandering daughter, Galatea. Described as ‘crazy for men’ and without discrimination, she was last seen driving off with small-time gangster Joe Tarantine, a hophead hood with a rep for violence. Archer traces the hidden trail from San Francisco slum alleys to the luxury of Palm Springs, traveling through an urban wilderness of drugs and viciousness. As the bodies begin to pile up, he finds that even angel faces can mask the blackest of hearts.Filled with dope,…


Book cover of A is for Alibi

G. Davies Jandrey Author Of The Law of Unintended Consequences

From my list on tough women crime busters who wouldn't be caught dead in heels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love to read about strong, independent, imperfect women who are capable of getting themselves out of their own messes. That's why my female protagonists are strong, independent, imperfect women who don't need a man to save them.

G. Davies' book list on tough women crime busters who wouldn't be caught dead in heels

G. Davies Jandrey Why did G. Davies love this book?

Kinsey Millhone, a private investigator, says she is a nice person, but she’s twice divorced, kidless, petless, doesn’t even want to take on the responsibility of a houseplant, drinks cheap Chablis out of a coffee mug—for God's sake—and she’s a killer. Frankly, how nice can she be?

I like not nice, and I loved Kinsey Millhone. Happily, there are 23 more Kinsey Millhone mysteries in the lineup.

By Sue Grafton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A is for Alibi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

`My name is Kinsey Millhone. I'm a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. I'm thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind . . .'

When Laurence Fife was murdered, few cared. A slick divorce attorney with a reputation for ruthlessness, Fife was also rumoured to be a slippery ladies' man. Plenty of people in the picturesque Southern California town of Santa Teresa had reason to want him dead. Including, thought the cops, his young and beautiful wife, Nikki. With motive, access and opportunity,…


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