Imagine it’s a gloomy Monday morning. Outside your window, dark malignant clouds fill the sky. The residue of the weekend’s fun and frolics is draining away like dishwater down a plug hole. And work – the ultimate four letter word- is hanging over you like a hawk ready to strike its prey.
You want to turn over and smooch with Morpheus but you know you can’t. So what can haul you out of the pit and into the world as effectively as a hair of the devil dog that bit you?
Well, here are ten shots of crime writing medicine that will work as more than a little eye opener.
1. Deadfolk by Charlie Williams.
Royston Blake is god. Well, in his own mind he is. The head bouncer at Hopper’s Wine Bar is the king of Mangel, a dead end town somewhere in the north of England. In the first of a cracking series of books, Royston is dragged by his lapels into a series of wickedly funny and increasingly violent scrapes. This book will change your life in a way Paolo Coelho never will.
2. One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night by Christopher Brookmyre.
Die Hard An On Oil Rig. Like the pitch? In OFDITMOTN, a school reunion is held on an oil rig that has been converted into a luxury hotel. But when an inept bunch of terrorist mercenaries gate crash the party only Scotland’s answer to Bill Hicks can save the day. Yes, really.
3. The Mexican Tree Duck by James Crumley.
The eponymous tree duck is Private Eye C.W. Sughrue’s Rara Avis and it’s part of a wild ride that is cluttered with multi-coloured characters and vivid, lurid even, scenes. You have bikers and obese twins and ‘Nam and stolen fish and booze. And a tank. This is a book for someone who, like C.W. Sughrue, thinks that ‘life is a joke, so make it a funny one.’
Like Ed McBain’s 87th precent novels, the graphic novel Top 10 details the work and day-to-day lives of the police force at one particular police station, in this case the 10th Precinct Police Station in Neopolis, a city in which everyone, from the police and criminals to civilians, children and pets, have super-powers.
One story involves the suspicious death of the member of a boy-band called Sidekix, whose hit single was Holy Broken Hearts, and other pop-culture in –jokes abound, including a clothing store called The Phonebooth and Deadfellas, a story about vampire gangsters.
5&6. The Big O /Crime Always Pays by Declan Burke
The Big O and its follow up Crime Always Pays actually are that oxymoron
‘screwball noir’. These novels are like two cracking, fast paced, clever and very droll road movies with a top drawer cast that includes a narcoleptic called Sleeps and a one eyed wolf. Twists and turns, spicy dialogue and scenes which really make you ‘LOL’, as the young people say.
7. On Broadway by Damon Runyon.
You know you’ve made it as a writer when your name is used as an adjective: Runyonesque. Damon Runyon is probably best known for the film adaptations of his stories such as Guys and Dolls and The Lemon Drop Kid. He created his own world with a number of pithy short stories set amongst the low lifes of New York’s Broadway during the 1930. These yarns, sometimes shaggy dog stories, are peppered with gaudy, fast talking characters and smart punch lines. The language and the style is Runyon’s own. Much copied –think of the film Some Like It Hot – and never bettered.
8. Musical Chairs by Kinky Friedman.
Kinky Friedman is his own number one fan. The country/ protest singer is also the hero of Friedman’s novels and the cast of these novels is Friedman’s cronies, The Greenwich Village Irregulars. But what could have been an elaborate in – joke is actually a series of very funny and entertaining mystery romps. In Musical Chairs Kinky riffs on Agatha Christie as the members of his old band, The Texas Jewboys, get bumped off one by one. Cracking live act, too.
9. BLUE HEAVEN by Joe Keenan
Gilbert Selwyn is selfish, feckless, greedy and, more pointedly, openly gay, so it comes as a bit of a surprise to all and sundry when he decides to get married and especially when the person he is going to marry is Moira Finch, a person who, to all intents and purposes, he had previously loathed. What their friends don’t know, however, is that the marriage of inconvenience is a plot hatched by the money grabbing ‘couple’ in order to score a payday on the wedding gifts.
Although you may not find anything as hum drum as a kitchen sink in this romp, you will stumble across the Mafia, cross dressing, blackmail and even a John Woo style shoot out.
10. Old Dogs by Donna Moore.
Donna Moore’s smashing caper yarn has an absurdly colourful cast of self- interested characters chasing a McGuffin, a pair of rare ornamental Tibetan dogs. There are laughs aplenty and great farcical moments in this sweary Ealing Comedy as the characters collide with and crash into each other in their attempts to get their grasping and grubby paws their treasure. Murder, mayhem and mischief abounds.
(This post first appeared at the Mulholland Books’ blog a couple of years ago but seems to have gone walkabout.)