Compulsion #53: Private Detective Novels

When I was in graduate school at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, I (on a whim) took a course entitled EH 592: Noir Fiction and Film. There, I read my first ever private detective novel, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. Philip Marlowe was everything I wanted to be. Tough. Resourceful. Fair-minded. Quick-witted. Too, Marlowe (like almost all great detective characters) is an iconoclast. He has an overwhelming desire to investigate crimes and right wrongs, but he doesn’t need the police force or the government or any other organized body to tell him what is right and what is wrong. He has his own moral compass. Even better, he has a real problem with authority (as do I).

Below are some of my all-time favorite PI novels. Each of these novels has memorable characters and an engaging plot, all elements I strive for in my writing.

Don’t Ever Get Old, Daniel Friedman

Purgatory Chasm, Steve Ulfelder

Trigger City, Sean Chercover

The Last Good Kiss, James Crumley

The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler

The Drowning Pool, Ross MacDonald

The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett

The Monkey’s Raincoat, Robert Crais


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