The best hard boiled detective books

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229 authors created a book list connected to hard boiled, and here are their favorite hard boiled books.
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What type of hard boiled book?


Book cover of When the Sacred Ginmill Closes

Rick Tuber Author Of Well, I'll Be Damned!

From the list on mystery, humor, and revenge.

Who am I?

I spent a career as a television film editor, crafting other writers’ words and directors’ visions to help tell a story. I’ve always loved mysteries and the good ones always have clues that only the savviest of sleuths can figure out. When humor is added it’s even better. That’s what I’ve tried to do with my writing.

Rick's book list on mystery, humor, and revenge

Discover why each book is one of Rick's favorite books.

Why did Rick love this book?

This book is one of a series of Mathew Scudder stories by Block. I enjoy his books because his main character is as flawed as we are. Matt is a hard-drinking former cop who goes about helping friends out of their troubles. And his friends are in a lot of trouble. Action and close calls, as well as humor, abound in this well-crafted story.

By Lawrence Block,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When the Sacred Ginmill Closes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A superb thriller from the writer of A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES.

Scudder is a witness to a heist in an illegal drinking den, and the owners would like him to find the culprits, while another witness wants him to investigate the murder of his wife.

Get Shorty

By Elmore Leonard,

Book cover of Get Shorty

Marjorie McCown Author Of Final Cut

From the list on crime about Hollywood.

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Marjorie's favorite books.

Why did Marjorie love this book?

Elmore Leonard knew the vagaries of the movie business back to front, and he serves them up on a platter of delicious satire in this story about an East Coast loan shark, Chili Palmer, who comes to Los Angeles chasing a deadbeat debtor and winds up in his own fractured fairy tale version of the Hollywood dream.

Chili’s an endearing character, street smart with a unique blend of humility and self-confidence. When his collection job throws him into company with a group of movie people, he sees them and their milieu with clear-eyed objectivity.

Talking to an underworld associate, he says, “The movie business, you can do anything you want because there’s nobody in charge.” Leonard’s mastery of dialogue and character, along with his wit and sly affection for the industry he’s skewering combine to make this book a complete delight. 

By Elmore Leonard,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Get Shorty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A thriller filled with Leonard's signatures - scathing wit, crackling dialogue, twisted plot, mad scams - and set in the drug sodden world of Hollywood.


By Tom Pitts,

Book cover of Hustle

Joe Clifford Author Of Junkie Love: A Story of Recovery and Redemption

From the list on what addiction is really like, no punches pulled.

Who am I?

I'm a mystery writer and teacher now. Back then, I spent 10 years homeless and addicted on the streets of San Francisco. I could always return to Mom in CT and get put in a cushy rehab. Until I couldn't. And then she was dying, and my younger brother was addicted and soon he'd be dead too. It got scary at the end because I wasn't just some white suburban kid playing a scumbag junkie. I was a scumbag junkie. But why do I have a passion for the topic? I guess it's because it isn't all bad. I know that sounds weird, but being homeless and addicted has moments of beauty and joy too. 

Joe's book list on what addiction is really like, no punches pulled

Discover why each book is one of Joe's favorite books.

Why did Joe love this book?

The brilliance of Hustle is the way it juxtaposes the everyday addict's life. Sure, there's the big crime and action, bad guys, car chases. Again, that part fiction. But Hustle lives and breathes in between. In the minutia. Of the doldrums of, as Lou Reed once so eloquently sang, waiting for the man. It's the quiet moments and small conversations between Big Rich and Donny, where we see their humanity. As warped and twisted as the world may be around them, they never lose that appeal: being victims of the human condition. And like I said, living this life with Tom (the drug part), I can honestly say it was those little conversations that give you something to laugh about and a little hope to hold onto. 

By Tom Pitts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Two young hustlers, caught in an endless cycle of addiction and prostitution, decide to blackmail an elderly client of theirs. Donny and Big Rich want to film Gabriel Thaxton with their cell phones during a sexual act and put the video up on YouTube. Little do they know, the man they’ve chosen, a high-profile San Francisco defense attorney, is already being blackmailed by someone more sinister: an ex-client of the lawyer’s. A murderous speed freak named Dustin has already permeated the attorney’s life and Dustin has plans for the old man. The lawyer calls upon an old biker for help…


By James Lee Burke,

Book cover of Robicheaux

David Michael Dunaway Author Of Angry Heavens: Struggles of a Confederate Surgeon

From the list on celebrating an author’s literary style.

Who am I?

I'm a lifetime, passionate reader. During the summer vacations, my brother and I would often ride with our father to his job in downtown Mobile and walk to Mobile Public Library, where we would spend all day exploring and reading. Well-written novels with remarkable but believable characters—such as those I've noted here are my passion. I have included novels in my list where I can identify personally with the protagonist. My list of books is varied. They have one thing in common: believable characters who struggle with life—authored by legitimate wordsmiths. When I wrote Angry Heavens as a first-time novelist, it was my history as a reader that I used as a writer.

David's book list on celebrating an author’s literary style

Discover why each book is one of David's favorite books.

Why did David love this book?

James Lee Burke is now 85 as of the date of this submission and writes every day. As I just turned 76 this month, his remarkable work habits are a goal to which I can aspire. 

James Lee Burke’s writing is filled with memorable metaphors and similes that no one uses quite as well as this Southern man of letters

In Robicheaux: A Novel, Burke reminds us that Robicheaux is plagued by the acts he committed in Vietnam, now manifested in the ghosts of his alcoholism and tendency to violence. Complicating his life even more is the sudden death of his beloved wife, Molly. The New Iberia man who killed Molly is also killed, and colleagues accuse Robicheaux of murdering the man who killed Molly.

Dave Robicheaux is a good man who does not tolerate evil deeds by others, even though he must battle his tendency to react violently when…

By James Lee Burke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

James Lee Burke’s most beloved character, Dave Robicheaux, returns in this New York Times bestselling mystery set in the towns and backwoods of Louisiana: an “enthralling yet grim novel that…will captivate, start to finish” (Publishers Weekly).

Dave Robicheaux is a haunted man. From the acts he committed in Vietnam, to his battles with alcoholism, to the sudden loss of his beloved wife, Molly, his thoughts drift from one irreconcilable memory to the next. Images of ghosts pepper his reality. Robicheaux’s only beacon remains serving as a detective in New Iberia, Louisiana.

It’s in that capacity that Robicheaux crosses paths with…

Duet for the Devil

By T. Winter-Damon, Randy Chandler, Edward Lee

Book cover of Duet for the Devil

David L. Tamarin Author Of Hurting My Toys: Spiritual Suicide

From the list on extreme horror.

Who am I?

My experience and expertise – I am not only a reader of horror, in particular extreme horror, but I am a published writer with several hundred writing credits. I have had hundreds of stories and articles published on many websites, magazines, and anthologies including a story in Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 5. For eleven years I wrote articles on the bizarre and morbid for Girls and Corpses magazine. I have been consistently writing for 20 years, and have also helped write several independent horror films. I have written many reviews and interviews as well, most recently in Phantasmagoria Magazine.

David's book list on extreme horror

Discover why each book is one of David's favorite books.

Why did David love this book?

Two of the top voices in extreme horror fiction unite to create a surreal road trip to hell. Loosely based on the crimes of the Zodiac Killer, as well as several other serial killers, Duet for the Devil pushes all possible boundaries and stands as a monumental achievement in Extreme Horror. Featuring hundreds of pages of brutality and disturbing criminal behavior, the book is not one to be forgotten.

By T. Winter-Damon, Randy Chandler, Edward Lee

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

DUET FOR THE DEVIL is a brutal and grim tale of The Zodiac Killer, serial slayers, drugs, dark gods, black magicks, detectives, and a dog-a road trip to oblivion. You've never read a hardboiled crime/erotic horror novel anything like this before- DUET FOR THE DEVIL completely redefines the meaning of extreme...and shatters, once and for all, the perceived limits of hardcore horror...

A Great Reckoning

By Louise Penny,

Book cover of A Great Reckoning

N.L. Blandford Author Of The Perilous Road To Her

From the list on thrillers you won't want to put down.

Who am I?

I devour dark, gripping, thrillers which take readers on a journey alongside the characters. People who battle their own demons on whatever road they travel. It’s with this passion that I write stories which do the same. I bring readers into the story to the point where they are cheering for both the hero and the villain. Throw in a few twists and cliffhangers and voila – readers don’t sleep, or do their chores ;) The books on this list fuel my need to be thrilled. I hope you grip the pages like I did…and forget those chores!

N.L.'s book list on thrillers you won't want to put down

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Why did N.L. love this book?

Another author first for me…I know what is wrong with me! I wish Three Pines was real and I could meet all of the residents.

Each character is endearing, even the foul-mouthed Ruth, and reaches into the heart of the reader. I look forward to getting to know them over the numerous books in the series.

This book isn’t as dark as I typically read; however, the mystery of who the caped person on the golf course was, why they were there, and the side mystery of the history of the town had me losing track of time. 

Forget walking the dog. Take a walk through Three Pines and just try to leave town before you’ve finished the book!

By Louise Penny,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Former Chief Inspector Gamache has been hunting killers his entire career and as the new commander of the Surete Academy, he is given the chance to combat the corruption and brutality that has been rife throughout the force. But when a former colleague and professor of the Surete Academy is found murdered, with a mysterious map of Three Pines in his possession, Gamache has an even tougher task ahead of him.

When suspicion turns to Gamache himself, and his possible involvement in the crime, the frantic search for answers takes the investigation to the village of Three Pines, where a…

Book cover of A Song for the Dark Times

Steve Orme Author Of Storm Deaths

From the list on crime fiction with characters you won't forget.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by crime ever since I was a junior reporter working on a daily newspaper and covered a huge number of court cases. I’ve written all my working life and turned to crime writing after reaching the final of a UK TV channel’s Search for a New Crime Writer competition. I’ve built up contacts within the police force during my career which has enabled me to write Storm Deaths, the first in a series of police procedural crime novels. I’ve seen so many films and TV shows that don’t follow the proper procedure, so I ensure that all my writing is as authentic as possible. 

Steve's book list on crime fiction with characters you won't forget

Discover why each book is one of Steve's favorite books.

Why did Steve love this book?

For more than three decades Ian Rankin has been the master of “tartan noir” – police procedural fiction set in Scotland. The curmudgeonly, hard-faced, no-nonsense detective Inspector John Rebus has a tendency to bend the rules as investigations take over his life.

A Song For The Dark Times starts with Rebus’ daughter Samantha calling him to say her husband is missing. Rebus fears the worst and from his experience realises that his daughter will be the prime suspect. You’re always on the edge of your seat wondering whether Rebus will have to prevent the truth from coming out and compromising his position as an upholder of the law.

By Ian Rankin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Song for the Dark Times as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the iconic Number One bestseller Ian Rankin, comes one of the must-read books of the year: A SONG FOR THE DARK TIMES

'Genius ... Only great novels capture the spirit of the age. This is one of them.'

* * * * *

'He's gone...'

When his daughter Samantha calls in the dead of night, John Rebus knows it's not good news. Her husband has been missing for two days.

Rebus fears the worst - and knows from his lifetime in the police that his daughter will be the prime suspect.

He wasn't the best father -…

The Drop

By Dennis Lehane,

Book cover of The Drop

James Fouche Author Of Jack Hanger

From the list on crime mysteries with unconventional characters.

Who am I?

As a crime author and screenwriter, I’m fascinated by the consequences of crime and how it impacts feasible characters. I try to illustrate this obsession by creating realistic stress situations for my characters, then showcasing how it affects their decision-making process. In writing the protagonist for Jack Hanger, I consulted two different psychologists to research the protagonist and to capture the severity of his circumstances in detail. For King of Sorrow, I created an unconventional antagonist, with the aim of showing readers how ambition and greed can corrupt the most rational mind. I believe it is my job to challenge conventions and entertain readers from the opening page.

James' book list on crime mysteries with unconventional characters

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Why did James love this book?

After a lonely barman, Bob, rescues an abused puppy from a trashcan, his mundane world is turned upside down. He befriends an emotionally scarred woman, which puts him at odds with her ex, and unknowingly gets drawn into a con against the Chechen Mafia that uses the bar for money drops.

Lehane is masterful at creating flawed characters that pins readers to the text. As a short novel, The Drop is loaded with punchy dialogue, rapid characterisation, and off-beat humour. However, it’s barman Bob’s stoic presence that makes this such a fascinating read. He fades sublimely into the gloomy Boston crime scene in a profound way, which makes him one of the most unconventional protagonists caught on paper.

By Dennis Lehane,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane's The Drop is a crime story, a love story, and ultimately a journey of faith, set in Boston's underworld.

"[A] gritty gem...a stark and moving short novel." - Publishers Weekly

Two days after Christmas, Bob Saginowski, a lonely bartender looking for a reason to live, rescues an abused and abandoned pit bull puppy from a trash can and meets a damaged woman named Nadia Dunn looking for something to believe in.

As their relationship grows, they cross paths with the Chechen mafia, who have taken over his cousin Marv's bar and use it…

Book cover of A Dance at the Slaughterhouse

John J Jessop Author Of The Realtor's Curse

From the list on detectives from wacky to dark and deadly.

Who am I?

With a Ph.D. in pharmacology, I worked in drug development for many years. Now a published author, mysteries are my passion. I love to laugh and enjoy the humor of Steve Martin and Mel Brooks, so I’ve written a medical comedy mystery series. This dysfunctional detective series, starting with Pleasuria: Take as Directed, takes place in the pharmaceutical industry, a surprisingly fertile ground for humor, and murder. I’ve also written a dark mystery series, The Guardian Angel series. This includes a serial killer, a cult leader, and a touch of vigilante justice. With my overactive imagination you’ll enjoy engaging characters and unique plots.

John's book list on detectives from wacky to dark and deadly

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Why did John love this book?

In A Dance at the Slaughterhouse, Lawrence Block’s alcoholic and unlicensed PI, Matthew Scudder, investigates two cases. Scudder is introduced to the first when shown a copy of the movie The Dirty Dozen, over which someone has taped a gruesome crime involving a child. The second involves sex games and a potential murder for hire. Scudder is a PI who often skirts the law, and sometimes strays into brutality. His friend Mick Ballou, churchgoing butcher and Irish mobster, and his lover call-girl Elaine, help him sort things out. This book includes superb characterizations, interesting insight into the world of alcoholism, and a very dark nature. The book also delves into the world of vigilante justice. In this arena, the worse the bad guy, the more satisfying the justice, and in this case, Block is spot on.”   

By Lawrence Block,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Dance at the Slaughterhouse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 9th breakneck thriller in the Matt Scudder series, from a master of the genre.

To Matt Scudder, no one can rise above the law.

But when the ex-cop is privately hired to investigate the murder of a beautiful pregnant woman, he finds himself pushed to the limits of his beliefs. With every step he takes, Scudder discovers darker and more depraved secrets. Human trafficking, snuff films, murderous fetishes: the light of humanity seems all but extinguished.

In the seedy underworld of New York City, nothing is sacred and anything can be bought.

Book cover of In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead

Robin Yocum Author Of The Sacrifice of Lester Yates

From the list on the baddest badass dudes of crime fiction.

Who am I?

My novels range from coming-of-age to suspense. I was an award-winning crime and investigative reporter for the Columbus Dispatch for 11 years. That background helps me with the investigative aspects of my books. I enjoy exploring the moral dilemmas often presented in real life. My characters all have morals, but I like putting them in compromising situations. It’s easy to sit back and judge others, but how far would you go to keep your own son out of jail? Would the love of your son get in the way of your morals? It’s never black or white. Most of life is spent dancing in and out of the vast gray area in the middle. 

Robin's book list on the baddest badass dudes of crime fiction

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Why did Robin love this book?

Dave Robicheaux is a New Iberia, Louisiana, sheriff’s detective in a series by James Lee Burke. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of Dave. He is righteous, but flawed. He regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, struggles with nightmares of Viet Nam and other unseen demons, but has an acute sense of right and wrong. In Crusader’s Cross, his loyal sidekick, Cletus Prucell says of Dave, "He's got polka dot giraffes running around in his head, but he's the best guy I've ever known.” I’m a Burke fan, and I like everything he writes. In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, and Purple Cane Road are my personal favorites. In Electric Mist, Dave is drawn into a 40-year-old unsolved murder that he witnessed as a college freshman. In the midst of his investigation, Dave has regular conversations with the ghost of Confederate General John Bell Hood.…

By James Lee Burke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The sixth in the New York Times bestselling Dave Robicheaux series delivers a heart-pounding bayou manhunt—and features “one of the coolest, earthiest heroes in thrillerdom” (Entertainment Weekly ).

When Hollywood invades New Iberia Parish to film a Civil War epic, restless specters waiting in the shadows for Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux are reawakened—ghosts of a history best left undisturbed.

Hunting a serial killer preying on the lawless young, Robicheaux comes face-to-face with the elusive guardians of his darkest torments— who hold the key to his ultimate salvation or a final, fatal downfall.


By James Sallis,

Book cover of Drive

John Bowie Author Of Weston-super-Nightmare: A Hellbent Riff Raff Thriller

From the list on gritty noir full of poetic lines and dark humour.

Who am I?

I am the author of the Black Viking and Hellbent Riffraff Thrillers and several volumes of dirty realism poetry. I am also the Founder and editor-in-chief of Bristol Noir, an indie publisher and ezine specialising in curiously dark fiction and crime noir. Since 2017 Bristol Noir has been publishing up-and-coming and best-selling authors from around the world. I’m a writer originally from Northumberland in Northern England. In the late 90s, I studied in Greater Manchester when the IRA bomb went off and during the infamous years of the Hacienda club. I now live in Bristol. I’ve devoted my writing to exploring my heritage and the environments I’ve been in.

John's book list on gritty noir full of poetic lines and dark humour

Discover why each book is one of John's favorite books.

Why did John love this book?

This is angry, savage, beautifully poetic, and uncomfortably real crime fiction.

Sallis writes like a master blues or jazz musician with deft control over what notes not to play, as much as which to let shout out…creating tensions, succinct phrasing, and beautifully rich and condensed narratives and characters.

I’ve learned a lot from Sallis’ books and the translation onto the screen of this one in particular. They're a masterclass of modern neo-noir.

By James Sallis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Much later, as he sat with his back against an inside wall of a Motel 6 just north of Phoenix, watching the pool of blood lap toward him, Driver would wonder whether he had made a terrible mistake. Later still, of course, there'd be no doubt. But for now Driver is, as they say, in the moment. And the moment includes this blood lapping toward him, the pressure of dawn's late light at windows and door, traffic sounds from the interstate nearby, the sound of someone weeping in the next room....'

Thus begins Drive, a new novella by James Sallis.…

A Cold Day in Paradise

By Steve Hamilton,

Book cover of A Cold Day in Paradise

Barbara Ellen Brink Author Of Roadkill

From the list on mysteries set on the banks of Lake Superior.

Who am I?

I’m a Minnesota writer who loves to read and write books set in places I’ve spent time in. The Upper Peninsula is a favorite vacation destination. It has so much history to unearth, quaint towns and woods to explore, and giant mosquitoes to avoid. I’ve traveled along Lake Superior in all seasons. Lake Superior covers 31,700 square miles and holds more water than all the other Great Lakes combined, so there's a lot to see and enjoy. After my first visit to the U.P., I began to write the Double Barrel Mysteries series. Set in the tiny fictional town of Port Scuttlebutt, Lake Superior isn’t just a backdrop, but part of the story.

Barbara's book list on mysteries set on the banks of Lake Superior

Discover why each book is one of Barbara's favorite books.

Why did Barbara love this book?

From the first sentence, There’s a bullet in my chest…, you know this story is going to be exciting. Set in the U.P. on the banks of Lake Superior, Paradise is a town with plenty of work for a newly-licensed private investigator. Hamilton’s protagonist is an ex-cop who barely escaped death, is dealing with PTSD, and just wants to live a quiet life chopping wood, having a beer at the pub, and on occasion getting a non-violent case to work. 

This author knows how to ramp up the action and keep the reader turning pages. He makes a well-worn mystery twist (a convicted murderer serving a life sentence appears to be killing people on the outside), seem brand-new and completely original.

By Steve Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Cold Day in Paradise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When first published, A Cold Day in Paradise won both the Edgar and Shamus awards for Best First Novel, launching Steve Hamilton into the top ranks of today's crime writers. Now, see for yourself why this extraordinary novel has galvanized the literary and mystery community as no other book before it....

Other than the bullet lodged near his heart, former Detroit cop Alex McKnight thought he had put the nightmare of his partner's death and his own near-fatal injury behind him. After all, the man convicted of the crimes has been locked away for years. But in the small town…

Book cover of The Imago Sequence and Other Stories

Paul StJohn Mackintosh Author Of Blowback

From the list on modern Lovecraftian horror.

Who am I?

I believe that H.P. Lovecraft, only now appreciated at his full stature, has spawned a whole generation of equally brilliant writers who make modern weird horror the most vibrant, confrontational, and relevant of all current genres. He looms over today’s literature and pop culture like Cthulhu looms over the sea, and his heirs include some of the best writers of their generation. As a much-travelled Scottish writer, I’ve needed tools to tackle the chaotic, disorienting contemporary experience, as well as the darkest, most imaginative strains of my own Celtic legacy. Lovecraftian horrorthrough HPL’s explicit mythos or simply his implicit sensibility—served up the palette I needed to do that. 

Paul's book list on modern Lovecraftian horror

Discover why each book is one of Paul's favorite books.

Why did Paul love this book?

Laird Barron may be the Robert E. Howard of modern horror and weird fiction—or its Dashiell Hammett. So hard-boiled you could break rocks with it, his prose is ferociously energetic, brutally unsettling, and consummately capable of crafting its own phantasmagoric world. If Melville was resurrected and took to writing plots for Quentin Tarantino, the result might be Laird Barron. The Imago Sequence is among his best collections, but almost any of them is equally strong.

By Laird Barron,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Imago Sequence and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To the long tradition of eldritch horror pioneered and refined by writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Peter Straub, and Thomas Ligotti comes Laird Barron, an author whose literary voice invokes the grotesque, the devilish, and the perverse with rare intensity and astonishing craftsmanship.

Collected here for the first time are nine terrifying tales of cosmic horror, including the World Fantasy Award-nominated novella "The Imago Sequence," the International Horror Guild Award-nominated "Proboscis," and the never-before-published "Procession of the Black Sloth." Together, these stories, each a masterstroke of craft and imaginative irony, form a shocking cycle of distorted evolution, encroaching chaos, and…

Book cover of I Should Have Stayed Home

Stephen Rebello Author Of Dolls! Dolls! Dolls!: Deep Inside Valley of the Dolls, the Most Beloved Bad Book and Movie of All Time

From the list on the down-and-dirtiest showbusiness Romans à clef.

Who am I?

A Southern California-based author and screenwriter whose adventures in and around the film business have led to hundreds of feature stories for such magazines as Vibe, Playboy, Entertainment Weekly, American Film, Smithsonian, and Movieline. My books include three dedicated to Disney animated classics and a volume on the art of American movie posters. The lovingly satirical book Bad Movies We Love, co-written with Edward Margulies, inspired a Turner Network movie marathon series. My next non-fiction book will be published in 2024.

Stephen's book list on the down-and-dirtiest showbusiness Romans à clef

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Why did Stephen love this book?

Hardboiled specialist Horace McCoy made his mark as an unsparing chronicler of Depression-era despair with his 1935 masterpiece They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?. His 1938 novel isn't nearly as good, but it feels so lived-in and sordid that it tells major truths about the dreamers, users, and big talents who populated '30s Hollywood. In it, Ralph and Mona, two modestly talented beautiful losers, hit Tinseltown hungering for stardom. But Ralph, 18 years before the doomed screenwriter hero of Sunset Boulevard, winds up providing stud service to a wealthy older woman and Mona finds her own private hell. The novel is a bleak meditation on exploitation, failure, and corruption in a town where, as one character observes, “Morality never crosses the city limits.”

By Horace McCoy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Should Have Stayed Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

TEMPTATION and DESIRE in Hollywood! Ralph Carston, a handsome young man from Georgia, and roommate Mona Matthews work as extras and dream of Hollywood stardom when a courtroom fracas by Mona gives them a flash of notoriety. This leads to a swank Hollywood party and an introduction to Ethel Smithers, a rich older woman with a less than pure interest in Carston.

Edwin of the Iron Shoes

By Marcia Muller,

Book cover of Edwin of the Iron Shoes

M. Lee Prescott Author Of Prepped to Kill

From the list on humor, pathos, and a loveable woman sleuth.

Who am I?

I’m the author of over thirty novels, including two mystery series. One is a cozy, small-town series, the Roger and Bess mysteries, the other a series that features a smart, resilient, courageous, sometimes bumbling women sleuth, Ricky Steele. I hope that she is loveable to readers. They often write to tell me she feels like their best friend. I tend to read the kinds of books I’ve recommended. Devour them actually. I also write in the genre. Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Janet Evanovich, and Marcia Mueller have inspired and entertained me throughout both my reading and writing life. 

M. Lee's book list on humor, pathos, and a loveable woman sleuth

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Why did M. Lee love this book?

In many ways, Marcia Mueller started it all by introducing readers to Sharon McCone, a modern-day woman sleuth and staff investigator for All Souls Legal Cooperative. In Edwin of the Iron Shoes, she works to solve the murder of antiques dealer Joan Albritton. Her investigation takes Sharon from the antiques and curios shops of San Francisco’s Salem Street to a museum frequented by the city’s social elite. I love strong, self-deprecating women characters of which Sharon is one. From my observation, Sharon McCone became a role model for Kinsey Milhone, V.I. Warshawski, Stephanie Plum, and so many others including my sleuth, Ricky Steele.

By Marcia Muller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It's Sharon McCone's first case as staff investigator for All Souls Legal Cooperative. She knows nothing about antiques, yet she has an affection for Salem Street with its charming mix of antique and curio shops. Now elderly dealer Joan Albritton has been found dead, stabbed with an antique dagger. Her neighbors are shocked. Recurring vandalism has them frightened. Ferreting out the facts will take Sharon from the chaotic jumble of the junk dealer's establishment to a museum where San Francisco's most elegant socialites gather.

The Sins of the Fathers

By Lawrence Block,

Book cover of The Sins of the Fathers

James L. Thane Author Of South of the Deuce

From the list on no fan of crime fiction should miss.

Who am I?

I began reading mystery novels while I was still a young boy, thanks to the influence of my parents who were both fans of crime fiction. Early on, I was drawn toward the hard-boiled school of crime fiction and I’ve always particularly enjoyed reading novels about both private detectives and police department detectives. Several years ago, I began writing my own series featuring a Phoenix, Arizona homicide detective, Sean Richardson, and his partner, Maggie McClinton. I’ve also written two fairly traditional mysteries, one set in Montana and the other in South Dakota as well as a standalone suspense novel and one nonfiction book.

James' book list on no fan of crime fiction should miss

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Why did James love this book?

This novel introduced Matthew Scudder, an ex-New York City cop turned unlicensed private investigator. In this case, a young woman has been brutally murdered and the police believe they have solved the crime. But the victim’s father hires Scudder to look deeper into the case which will produce more than its share of surprises. The beauty of this series, though, lies in the development of the Matthew Scudder character, who remains one of the most fascinating and compelling figures in all of crime fiction. The first chapter, which introduces Scudder, is one of the best opening chapters of any crime novel.

By Lawrence Block,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first novel in the explosive Matthew Scudder Series. The tenth novel in the series - A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES - is set to be a major Hollywood film, starring Liam Neeson.

A pretty young girl is butchered in her Greenwich Village apartment.

The prime suspect, a minister's son, is found dead in his jail cell.

As far as the NYPD is concerned, the case is closed.

But ex-cop Matt Scudder, is persuaded to look into the case by the dead girl's father. And suddenly he's up to his neck in sleaze and corruption, phoney religious cults and murderous…

The Hot Spot

By Charles Williams,

Book cover of The Hot Spot

Andrew Diamond Author Of To Hell with Johnny Manic

From the 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

Discover why each book is one of Andrew's favorite books.

Why did Andrew love this book?

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.

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…

Where It Hurts

By Reed Farrel Coleman,

Book cover of Where It Hurts

Charles Salzberg Author Of Second Story Man

From the list on memorable, morally complicated characters.

Who am I?

I’m a former magazine journalist and nonfiction book writer who now only writes crime novels. I try to write about a world that exists in varying degrees and shades of black and white. The characters in my books are flawed, sometimes deeply, trying their best to navigate a complex world while grappling with their own psychological and emotional scars. As a result, they often make decisions that wind up not being in their (or anyone else’s) best interest. In trying to breathe life into these characters, I get to know them better than I know myself, and it’s this I think allows me to admire the five books I’ve chosen.

Charles' book list on memorable, morally complicated characters

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Why did Charles love this book?

Reed Farrel Coleman, called “a hard-boiled poet,” and a “noir laureate” has written somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty crime novels, including a number of Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone novels. One of my favorites is Where it Hurts, which features divorced, retired cop Gus Murphy who’s picked up part-time work as a courtesy van driver for a run-down hotel. The only thing that interrupts his mindless routine comes when ex-con Tommy Delcamino asks Gus to investigate the mysterious death of his son. Coleman is particularly strong when it comes to character. This book especially resonates with me because of Coleman’s ability to dig deep inside his character’s psyche, not only examining how they tick but why they tick. His books, especially this one, are tightly plotted but for me the real attraction is his examination of personal, moral dilemmas. I’m especially attracted to and admiring of Coleman’s books,…

By Reed Farrel Coleman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nominated for the 2017 Edgar Award for Best Novel

From the critically acclaimed and award-winning author comes a gritty, atmospheric new series about the other side of Long Island, far from the wealth of the Hamptons, where real people live—and die. 
Gus Murphy thought he had the world all figured out. A retired Suffolk County cop, Gus had everything a man could want: a great marriage, two kids, a nice house, and the rest of his life ahead of him. But when tragedy strikes, his life is thrown into complete disarray. In the course of a single deadly moment, his…

The Way Some People Die

By Ross Macdonald,

Book cover of The Way Some People Die

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

From the list on golden age detective stories.

Who are we?

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

Discover why each book is one of Will's favorite books.

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,…

The Hunter

By Richard Stark,

Book cover of The Hunter

Verlin Darrow Author Of Murder for Liar

From the list on psychological thrillers that expand readers' minds.

Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in how people change, and how trauma and difficulties hasten change. After all, if we have to grow and gain new skills to stay alive, we find a way. Originally, personal transformation was a priority because I was terribly unhappy, scared, and had shielded myself from direct contact with the world around me in an effort to stay “safe.” Don’t do this. It doesn’t work. So I asked myself, as an author, how would murders, deception, and sanity-threatening events affect a depressed therapist? Murder For Liar is the product of exploring this.

Verlin's book list on psychological thrillers that expand readers' minds

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Why did Verlin love this book?

Westlake gets into the head of a successful career criminal, making available the kind of attitude and thinking that most readers would normally abhor.

Somehow, we don’t in the Parker series. Even as the clever, convoluted plot unfolds, we never stop caring what happens to Parker and we root for him against creepier crooks.

I especially like the authentic feel of the techniques and procedures Parker employs. It’s almost as though Westlake was a criminal himself. His work inspired me to write about what I don’t think most authors have directly experienced—what happens in a therapist’s head.

So I think my books also feel real.

By Richard Stark,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Hunter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

You probably haven't ever noticed them. But they've noticed you. They notice everything. That's their job. Sitting quietly in a nondescript car outside a bank making note of the tellers' work habits, the positions of the security guards. Lagging a few car lengths behind the Brinks truck on its daily rounds. Surreptitiously jiggling the handle of an unmarked service door at the racetrack.They're thieves. Heisters, to be precise. They're pros, and Parker is far and away the best of them. If you're planning a job, you want him in. Tough, smart, hardworking, and relentlessly focused on his trade, he is…