Friday, May 16, 2014

Reading books about crime fiction

Earlier in the week I reviewed James Sallis’ Salt River.  In the frontispiece there’s a short review of the book by Woody Haut.  This is how he starts his piece:

In this, his third Turner novel, Sallis demonstrates the degree to which his writing reflects his long held revisionism regarding the poetics of the genre.  More interested in plot as a process rather than a means to an end, Sallis’s narratives invariably include fictional memoir, meaningful quotations, episodic rumination, diversions, non-sequiturs and a great deal of atmosphere.

His observations are spot on.  Not only does it capture the style of a great book, but Haut's review also made me want to go and read his own books, which chart the history and evolution of American crime fiction: Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood; Pop Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War; and Neon Noir.  All three have recently been re-issued by 280 Steps.  I’ve shied away from reading books about crime fiction in favour of reading the fiction itself.  Maybe it's about time I started to rectify this state of affairs.


Sandra Davies said...

Len Wanner's interviews of crime writers are well worth reading, and hugely informative - see

TracyK @Bitter Tea and Mystery said...

I am very fond of books about crime fiction and authors. I sometimes find that I have to put off reading the interviews or overviews because they tell more than I want to know about a book or series. But still, they are usually very enjoyable and lead me to new books and authors. Haut's books sound very interesting.

Anonymous said...

I only came across 280 Steps last week. They've got some interesting titles and their covers are excellent.

I've been reading books about crime fiction almost as long as I've been reading crime fiction, and it's just possible I enjoy them as much as the books themselves. The Hatchards Crime Companion was one of the things which led me to blogging, but my favourite is an odd book called Murder Ink which I'll have to review one day. It's a tongue-in-cheek portmanteau of appreciations, puzzles, gazeteers, and non-fiction.

Rob Kitchin said...

Sandra, thanks, I'll take a look at Len's interviews. Tracy, Rich, yes, I should start to take a read and thanks for the tips of Hatchards Crime Companion and Murder Ink. I just have this feeling that my academic side will kick-in and I'll start putting together my own book! The person do this of course is Margot Kinberg, not me.