Connolly, John (Ed.) & Burke, Declan (Ed.) - 'Books to Die For'
BOOKS TO DIE FOR is hefty, weighing in at well over 700 pages, and has a striking typographic cover design.
The introduction explains that the book is not an attempt to create a consensus view of what constitutes the best crime fiction ever, but is a collection of 120 personal views, "heartfelt and flawless in its in its inclusions, if not its omissions". That personal feel comes across more in some of the pieces than others. Brighton local Peter James patriotically chooses Graham Greene's BRIGHTON ROCK. Ian Rankin nominates the Brit noir classic I WAS DORA SUAREZ, but mixes in a good deal of his own memories of its fascinating author Derek Raymond. Elmore Leonard picks THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE by George V. Higgins, a book he says unlocked him as a writer.
The first instinct when presented with a book such as this is to immediately flick to the entries for your own favourite books, to see who agrees with your own immaculate taste. In this I was rewarded by an entry by Phil Rickman, who shares my enthusiasm for the now slightly obscure (and apparently, amazingly, out-of-print) THE TIGER IN THE SMOKE by Margery Allingham. I was also delighted to find Chris Brookmyre praising Douglas Adams' DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY, a science-fiction book I'd recommend to any crime fiction fan.
The range of contributors is impressive: Mark Billingham, Liza Marklund, Laurie R King,Lee Child, Anne Perry, Jo NesbÝ, Sara Paretsky, etc. etc. etc. You have a pretty good chance of discovering the identity of your favourite crime novelist's favourite crime novel. I did wonder how the books were allocated - first come, first served, or was there an element of management? How many writers were forced to choose their second- or third-favourite novel?
And there are some surprises. Raymond Chandler's THE BIG SLEEP is missing (although this is explained in the introduction). There are only two Agatha Christies, neither of which is THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD. Nobody has chosen Dorothy L Sayers' GAUDY NIGHT. Which goes to say that BOOKS TO DIE FOR is not an attempt to create a new canon for the crime genre, but that the contributors have stuck to the brief. There are plenty of authors and books that are new to me, many so enticingly described that they've gone straight onto my books-to-get list.
So, this isn't a beginner's guide to crime fiction or an attempt to create a critical overview of the genre. It is, however, entertaining and a great book to dip into. If you're a crime fan already, you'll find much to agree or disagree with, and, like me, you are bound to wind up with a few more books on your wishlist.
Rich Westwood, England
last updated 8/09/2012 13:13