Thursday, April 29, 2010

What’s Old Is New Again

There are a couple of newly reissued novels that crime-fiction fans really ought to lay their hands on soon.

The first is Picador’s 40th anniversary edition of The Friends of Eddie Coyle, a work that Dennis Lehane, in his new introduction, calls “the game-changing crime novel of the last fifty years” and “quite possibly one of the four or five best crime novels ever written.” Part of what distinguishes this gritty tale of Beantown thieves, mobsters, and small-time gunrunners from its literary brethren is its dialogue, “the louts and knuckleheads of Boston’s crime world running off at the mouth,” as another author, William Landay, explained in The Rap Sheet last summer. Higgins, a junior-grade federal prosecutor at the time he penned Eddie Coyle, had listened to many transcripts of trials, hearings, and interrogations, and tried to capture that authenticity in his prose, giving us crooks and assorted other lowlifes who Landay says “mumbled, stumbled, spoke in code, mangled common phrases; sometimes they made no sense at all.”

Also of note: The Leavenworth Case (Penguin Classics). Almost a decade before Sherlock Holmes’ initial appearance, Anna Katharine Green (1846-1935) introduced the first detective star of a book series. In The Leavenworth Case--a once-bestselling 1878 yarn, much lauded by Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White), but now largely forgotten--resolute Ebenezer Gryce of the New York Metropolitan Police Force investigates the locked-mansion murder of Horatio Leavenworth, a wealthy retired merchant and philanthropist. Was one of his nieces, set to inherit his fortune, behind this nefarious deed? Gryce and a rising young lawyer investigate, in a story that modern whodunit fans should not miss.

READ MORE:Paperback Writers: Boston, Down and Dirty,” by Richard Rayner (Los Angeles Times); “Down and Out in Boston,” by Troy Patterson (Slate).



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