Monday, 29 March 2010


I came across this Meme at Patti Abbott’s excellent blog – a double digit here will take you to Patti’s choices.

The idea was not to think about this too much and this is what I came up with.

1) Comics. My earliest reading memories are of Marvel comics and characters such as Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Captain America etc. I also read DC Comics (mainly Batman and Superman). I think it was the fantastic artwork that initially attracted me but it was also the thrilling storylines that kept me going back for more and more.

2) The Three Investigators; Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Series featuring Jupiter Jones, Bob Andrews and Pete Crenshaw. I can’t nail down a particular favourite but I remember loving these tales as a kid, most of them were loaned from the public library and had fantastic titles such as The Secret of Terror Castle. Super, super stuff!

3) Hell Is Always Today by Harry Patterson (aka Jack Higgins). I think I must have read this when I was about fifteen. I remember that it was my sister’s paperback book and it was my first introduction to the prolific thriller writer Jack Higgins.

4) 1984 by George Orwell. Not Crime or Thriller fiction but I was knocked out by Orwell’s prose and this book is a classic on so many levels. It has a superb and memorable opening line ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’

5) The Guards by Ken Bruen. Many years ago I purchased some of Ken’s early work at a local independent bookshop (sadly long since closed). First, The White Arrest books featuring Sergeant Brant and Chief Inspector Roberts. I was bowled over by the stark style of Bruen’s prose and the viciously dark humour that runs through it. When The Guards, the first Jack Taylor story, was published I was bowled over again as Bruen took the PI genre (that I have long been a fan of) and stood it on its head. I think Ken verges on genius.

6) A Good Year for the Roses by Mark Timlin. I used to work close to Maxim Jakubowski’s Murder One bookshop (sadly missed). Visits to this bookshop introduced me to Mark Timlin’s hardboiled South London PI creation, Nick Sharman.

7) Layer Cake by J. J. Connolly. This was another purchase from the local indie bookshop. Years later I saw a trailer for an upcoming movie; Layer Cake. The penny dropped and I realised this was the big screen version of a favourite book. The film was a fine one and, I think, ranks up there with Get Carter, The Long Good Friday and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

8) Easy Meat by John Harvey. My Murder One visits also introduced me to Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick and Harvey’s Nottingham based Police procedurals. Harvey is a stylish writer, very easy on the eye and a joy to read. This was the first one that I read.

9) Alive & Kicking by John Milne. Yep, Murder One again - Milne created a marvellous character in Jimmy Jenner; a one legged and partially deaf London based Private Investigator. There are four books and, I think, this one, the last in the series, is the standout.

10) The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. I could not end my list without including Chandler’s great creation; Los Angeles based PI Philip Marlowe. Chandler’s prose is superb and the opening lines took my breath away, this bit still does: ‘I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.’

... As Patti said, which I whole heartedly agree with, it might be a different list next week. That’s the joy of reading.

And I didn’t get a chance to squeeze in Out of Sight by Elmore Leonard or The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy…

Oh, maybe next time!


  1. Very interesting list! You were into mystery fiction at an early age.

  2. The Three Investigators and comics were so important in those first ten years.

  3. I got into serious reading a bit later (about 18/19) but from my early years I do remember The Famous 5 (bookwise) and Marvel comics, but as said above, from 18/19, when I read my first 'adult' fiction which was a Jack Higgins novel, I haven't stopped reading.

    There are so many out there that, as you've said, your top ten could change from week to week. You've certainly given me a good few for my TBR list.

    Nice post, Alan.

  4. It's fascinating to see writers' defining early reading. It can be so diverse, and yet somehow, leads all crime writers to the same place (loosely defined, 'course.) I've said before that James M. Cain was a turning point for me later in life, but early on, it was a series called Freddy the Pig, about a barnyard detective who solved animal mysteries. Thanks for the post, Alan.

  5. I have 1984 on my list as well. It's one of the few books I've read a half dozen times or more.

  6. Nice post. I just watched Layer Cake again the other day, and would say it's one of the better done crime movies of the past 5-10 years. Morty and Jimmy in the Cafe...what a great scene- music, et al.


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