The Crime Files series (under the stewardship of Clive Bloom) is proving to be an invaluable one for students of the crime fiction form – and I can make that claim without the slightest accusation of logrolling, even though I’ve contributed to the series myself (though not this volume). But speaking objectively, a book such as Steven Powell’s 100 American Crime Writers is something of a revelation, particularly as I was convinced that there was very little that I could learn about the subjects under consideration here. How wrong I was! Commissioning a variety of writers (of whom the most celebrated is probably as the Rap Sheet’s J Kingston Pierce) to offer fresh insights into such US luminaries as Chandler, Connelly, Goodis, Cornwell and Willeford is an enterprise that has born a rich crop of fruit and – most importantly – has provided a slew of fresh insights into much-travelled territory. Less familiar, however, are some of the subjects here, such as the underrated Frederick Nebel, Frank Gruber and Roy Huggins (writer and creator of such iconic television series as 77 Sunset Strip and The Rockford Files).

The most cogent comment one might make about the book is this: if you think you are going to pick up 100 American Crime Writers and simply dip into it, you will find that not such an easy impulse. What’s more, it will cost you money: within just a few pages I was making a note of the books I had to buy, even with my shelves groaning under hundreds of similar crime novels. An essential purchase.

100 American Crime Writers Steven Powell, editor, is published by Palgrave Macmillan

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