Sean Connery? Wrong again. A guy named Bob Holness played in a radio play in South Africa in Sure, that was a trick question. Nobody said it was a film role. Sue me. No , starring Sean Connery? In the opening credits, during the famous aim-down-the-barrel sequence, the guy playing Bond is Bob Simmons. Connery is Bond in the rest of the movie. Along with Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain , the author that grabbed a nice literary mystery world by the lapels and shook it like a dog shakes a rat, pretty much defining the hardboiled mystery, was Raymond Chandler.
To truly know the genre, one must know Chandler. Much like Cain, Chandler hit the ground running at full gallop with the release of his first novel, The Big Sleep , introducing us to emotional and physical pain through his gristly private detective, Philip Marlowe. After seeing combat in the trenches of France in , Chandler had dabbled in business and journalism and poetry, to varying degrees of success.
The 10 Best Mystery Books
A high-paying job as a corporate executive fell to his inclinations to drinking and womanizing, and his thoughts of suicide. The hard-scratch times of the Depression pushed him to try his hand at writing for the pulps, and he published his first in in Black Mask , featuring his hardboiled detective, Mallory. Through short stories, he honed his craft before trying novels.
And his use of simile and metaphor comes quick and deadly, like the strike of a cobra see what I did there? The snappy patter, the quick use of the gun, the cynical outlook. Sharp imagery and short sentences abound. Honesty requires an unflinching look at the dark side of human nature and an admission that it lives in us all. He drew up his Ten Commandments for mystery fiction:.
It must be about real people in a real world. If it is a puzzle story operating in a rather cool, reasonable atmosphere, it cannot also be a violent adventure or a passionate romance.
If the detective fails to resolve the consequences of the crime, the story is an unresolved chord and leaves irritation behind it. Complexity of motive, however, often overrides simple explanation in his novels, but maybe it was clearer to him than to the reader.
Give him a pass on that one. Nevertheless, any writer of suspense would be wise to keep this list handy. Note that he ends his commandments with 10, honesty. Sherlock Holmes looms large in mystery fiction, and indeed in Western culture. His uncanny gifts of observation and deduction, though perhaps unrealistic and fantastical, remain entertaining and engaging.
In homage—or desperation, perhaps—writers ever since have created fictional sleuths with similar powers. Even Dr. House, as played by Hugh Laurie. When you get down to it, most fictional sleuths are smarter or at least more insightful than the rest of us. But being smart and a step ahead does not a Sherlock make. Not in itself.
The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates
To be truly Sherlockian one must possess quirkiness or oddness of character. Obsessiveness helps too. He was cast as brilliant and enigmatic and odd , but seemed a bit of a drag in an otherwise gripping novel. My least favorite among the characters. He struck me as vague, not fully drawn, two-dimensional, while the other characters were fleshed out. That was intentional.
Buy the Book…
The problem, I realized, was not on Pendergast or the authors. It was on me. The guy was truly built as a series character, a long-term project, one which gives up more glimpses inside with each novel. Peels off an onion.
The Differences Between a Crime Novel, Mystery Novel and Thriller Novel
He possesses the requisite oddness of a Holmes. He cuts a gaunt memorable figure, dressed in his tailored, expensive black suit, emotionally aloof, pale almost to albinism. I imagine he scares the shit out of little children. Fabulously wealthy, hailing from an old-money, weird-as-shit New Orleans family, the source of his honey-toned drawl.
Exquisite tastes in food and the arts. Lives in the Dakota. Why does someone with a vast fortune in pocket agree to be a working stiff for the FBI? He could buy the Bureau. Well, with his brains and money he can do whatever he wants, and what he wants is to solve intractable mysteries.
For its part, the FBI seems to let Pendergast work on whatever he feels like, whenever he feels like it. Did I mention his family? It seems that nearly every family member has been blessed with brilliance, but is either good or bat-shit crazy. And homicidal. One of the appealing things about the series is how the authors handle Pendergast in narrative point-of-view. Often even from the viewpoint of cameo characters. In the occasional scene in which Pendergast is alone, the scene is in third-person objective.
You only see him move through the scene in typical wraith-like style. Bit by bit, over time and novels, the fuller picture of Pendergast emerges. And each new revelation leads to new questions.
- The Most Anticipated Crime Books of Summer | CrimeReads!
- Top Turkey Recipes;
- Historical Thrillers.
- The Generic Demands of Greek Literature.
- The Precious Blood of Christ;
As Doyle felt the need to invent in Professor Moriarty a villain equal in smarts and cunning to Holmes, so have Preston and Child invented villains to counter Pendergast, among them his own brother, Diogenes. Along with arch-villains, plausible science or at the least, plausible- sounding science underpins the stories, so each novel assumes an out there feel, straining the limits of the everyday.
The reader is rewarded with a Sherlock for the 21 st -century, one with all the smarts and an extra helping of weirdness, but one also armed with and facing an extra century of cutting-edge technology and nastiness. Relic was adapted into a bad movie, The Relic , in Inexplicably, Pendergast is absent from it. All the inventiveness, all the chills…also absent.
Skip the movie, read the book. To the contrary, although the novel as a whole was indeed inventive and revolutionary, grave robbing was widespread in the 18 th and 19 th centuries. And though the chief practitioners were ruffians and scoundrels, the chief beneficiaries were medical students although very few succeeded in reanimating dead tissue. Medical science was on the march; in 19 th century America alone, medical schools grew in number from four to one-hundred-sixty.
Raw materials were needed for teaching this new army of students. Historically, before the demand for bodies for medical study became prevalent, any self-respecting grave robber would dig up a corpse for the actual loot to be had. This time-honored tradition dates to at least ancient Egypt, and probably much earlier.
A well-to-do Egyptian might be laid to rest with gold, jewels, weapons, wine, grain, carts, mummified baboons, tickets to Cats , you name it. Those kinds of riches were hard to resist. A few millennia later, one might still find good pickings such as pocket watches, eyeglasses, silk handkerchiefs, interred with the deceased of even modest means. May not sound like much, but this was before Walmart.
In , archaeologists studying graves associated with the London Hospital realized the extent of grave robbing by finding coffins with bodies containing more than the usual numbers of arms and legs. The question is begged, are archaeologists somehow different from grave robbers?
So when public outcry against grave robbing for medical science reaches a fever pitch, what do you do? You pass laws to snatch bodies legally. This has gone on since at least , when Henry VIII provided doctors with the bodies of executed criminals. That was a nice start. Boston did something similar in Not even close, so more laws followed. Yet the number of medical schools in Europe and America ballooned, and the demand for cadavers still outpaced the supply.
The illegal snatching continued, right into the 20 th century.