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Old 19th November 2017, 05:33 PM   #1
wasapi
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Suggestions for good PI fiction?

I've read all of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett a few times over many years. Also, I've completed all of Robert Parkers' books. Also over many years I have tried to find other authors of good PI fiction, and often have trouble.

Yes, I've read Sue Grafton, and some have been OK. There are a few writers of mysteries that I like a great deal, the characters are often detectives or other law enforcement, but I'm searching for the more specific PI novels.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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Old 19th November 2017, 06:16 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
I've read all of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett a few times over many years. Also, I've completed all of Robert Parkers' books. Also over many years I have tried to find other authors of good PI fiction, and often have trouble.

Yes, I've read Sue Grafton, and some have been OK. There are a few writers of mysteries that I like a great deal, the characters are often detectives or other law enforcement, but I'm searching for the more specific PI novels.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.
The Burglar novels by Lawrence Block are particularly good. He's not a PI per se, just a burglar who happens upon murder mysteries and has to solve them to get his own neck off the hook. Block also wrote some more serious murder mysteries featuring Matthew Scudder (IIRC on the last name; 8 Million Ways to Die is the most famous of that series and definitely worth a look).

The Nameless Detective novels by Bill Pronzini. If you like one you will like them all, and there are quite a few.

If you don't mind a little sexist trash, check out the old Sheldon Scott mysteries by Richard Prather. They are quite a hoot.
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Old 19th November 2017, 06:21 PM   #3
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Not exactly PI, but police procedural. There are a heap of great series and characters. Ian Rankin with Rebus and La Plante with Tennison are two to savour.
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Old 19th November 2017, 07:35 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
The Burglar novels by Lawrence Block are particularly good. He's not a PI per se, just a burglar who happens upon murder mysteries and has to solve them to get his own neck off the hook. Block also wrote some more serious murder mysteries featuring Matthew Scudder (IIRC on the last name; 8 Million Ways to Die is the most famous of that series and definitely worth a look).

The Nameless Detective novels by Bill Pronzini. If you like one you will like them all, and there are quite a few.

If you don't mind a little sexist trash, check out the old Sheldon Scott mysteries by Richard Prather. They are quite a hoot.
Thanks, I've noticed Pronzini, but will try one now. Sheldon Scott sounds good. I actually like the old politically incorrect genre, which Chandler and Hammett did so well. I loved when Marlow was dealing with a hysterical blond "dame" who groveled at his feet after he had taken her little pearl handled gun away from her, saying, "Get up, lady. You are reminding me of a Peekineese."
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Old 19th November 2017, 07:45 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by lionking View Post
Not exactly PI, but police procedural. There are a heap of great series and characters. Ian Rankin with Rebus and La Plante with Tennison are two to savour.
Though I don't recall ever having read one, Ian Rankin sounds familiar. I have some good resources for books so I will make sure and get one. I love finding a series. I always find myself excited that there is a new world to enter that is enjoyable and I can look forward to walking through for a long time.
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Old 19th November 2017, 08:53 PM   #6
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I'm listening to Rhys Bowen's three series now. Not strictly in the PI genre but close and very entertaining.
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Old 19th November 2017, 09:46 PM   #7
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Let me also recommend the Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald. McGee is the great philosopher detective and MacDonald can write rings around almost anybody other than Chandler.
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Old 19th November 2017, 09:53 PM   #8
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"Murder In The Gunroom" by H. Beam Piper. Let me confess; not a big reader of detective stories. This is the only published PI novel by my favorite science fiction writer. It's set in @ 1947. Very good character sketches and sense of place. It has several good red herrings and plot twists.
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Old 20th November 2017, 12:38 AM   #9
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For a light hearted spin on PI tropes, try Getting Rid Of Gary, by Noah Chinn.
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Old 20th November 2017, 12:50 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
Let me also recommend the Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald. McGee is the great philosopher detective and MacDonald can write rings around almost anybody other than Chandler.
Ditto this. But do try to read them in order (or relatively so). The earlier character developments are not generally crucial to the later plots*, but you can see McGee and Meyer developing if you read them in order.


ETA: *As compared to, say, Martha Grimes or Elizabeth George, where you absolutely need to read them in order because the character development is crucial to understanding some of the later works. I highly recommend both of them but they're not hard-boiled PI stories, which was the OP topic.
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Old 20th November 2017, 01:17 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
Let me also recommend the Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald. McGee is the great philosopher detective and MacDonald can write rings around almost anybody other than Chandler.
Originally Posted by Foolmewunz View Post
Ditto this. But do try to read them in order (or relatively so). The earlier character developments are not generally crucial to the later plots*, but you can see McGee and Meyer developing if you read them in order.

This. I read them all when I was much younger (at school 40 odd years ago) and always assumed they were just standard trashy fiction, but really enjoyed them.

I re read them later on and enjoyed them just as much, with a new appreciation for just how well they were written. Such an easy to read, smooth style that gets you immersed in the stories straight away and they just unfold.
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Old 20th November 2017, 01:59 AM   #12
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If you want to get into an author from the beginning, may I suggest David Redstone?

I've read two of his novels, purchased from Amazon, and "The Case of the Night Rabbit" definitely fits your target.

The other one, was an interesting mix of sci fi, fantasy and PI.

Oddly enough, I bought the books purely on the strength of meeting the author online through JREF forums.
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Old 20th November 2017, 02:18 AM   #13
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I'm a big fan of the Mallory novels by Carol O'Connell. Starts with 'Mallory's Oracle'.

A sociopathic street kid gets adopted by a cop and becomes a detective.
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Old 20th November 2017, 02:36 AM   #14
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4 high school kids who have never calculated the circumference of a warm apple pie decide to learn math for the first time and discover pi. You can title it American Pi.
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Old 20th November 2017, 02:40 AM   #15
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The Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith* are worthwhile.

*aka JK Rowling
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Old 20th November 2017, 02:43 AM   #16
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Harry Bosch. Cop, not PI.
"Either everyone matters, or no one matters."
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Old 20th November 2017, 03:40 AM   #17
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The Amos Walker series by Loren D. Estleman. A bit like Chandler. He also wrote very good western stories, not at all like Louis L'Amour.

The series about Navajo police detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee by Tony Hillernan. Yeah not gumshoes, but very very readable.
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Old 20th November 2017, 03:47 AM   #18
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I loved Peter Corris' Cliff Hardy novels. I haven't read all of them, but the ones I have, I enjoyed immensely. He is very Aussie, so he might not translate too well, but worth it if you like that kind of thing.

http://www.petercorris.net/petercorr...iff_Hardy.html
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Old 20th November 2017, 06:58 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by TheGoldcountry View Post
Harry Bosch. Cop, not PI.
"Either everyone matters, or no one matters."
Yes, I really like the Bosch series, and have read most!
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Old 20th November 2017, 07:01 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Brainache View Post
I loved Peter Corris' Cliff Hardy novels. I haven't read all of them, but the ones I have, I enjoyed immensely. He is very Aussie, so he might not translate too well, but worth it if you like that kind of thing.

http://www.petercorris.net/petercorr...iff_Hardy.html
I have read some other Aussie crime novels, but the chain of command and procedures are a bit confusing!
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Old 20th November 2017, 07:31 PM   #21
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Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe series was pretty good but it looks like they are all audio books. It's also more comedic than detective, but still fun.

I only listened to 2 of them, didn't know there were more. Now I'm going to have to add the rest of them to my audiobook list.
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Old 20th November 2017, 08:05 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
I've read all of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett a few times over many years. Also, I've completed all of Robert Parkers' books. Also over many years I have tried to find other authors of good PI fiction, and often have trouble.

Yes, I've read Sue Grafton, and some have been OK. There are a few writers of mysteries that I like a great deal, the characters are often detectives or other law enforcement, but I'm searching for the more specific PI novels.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.
For a version of the genre that's a s dark as it gets, The Burke series by Andrew Vachss:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burke_(series)

He covers a lot of ugly ground and it is not for everyone.

The Hap and Leonard novels from Joe Lansdale I recommend wholeheartedly:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hap_and_Leonard

Lansdale is one hell of a writer. In the Hap and Leonard series he can claim one of the funniest fictional scenes (while plinking out in a field, Hap and Leonard are attacked by a rabid squirrel) ever written in Bad Chili, and in Captains Outrageous one of the most well written depictions of interpersonal violence I've encountered - which, as I eventually found out, was based on an actual encounter between an LEO student of Lansdale at his dojo and an attacker high on meth.

If you like Noir in a historically accurate fictional context, check out James Ellroy's Underworld USA series:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underworld_USA_Trilogy

The primary protagonist is the fictional character Pete Boundurant, decorated Marine, ex-crooked cop (LASO) and all around crooked PI fixer for Howard Hughes, etc etc. There are no redeeming characters in the whole trilogy other than some innocent victims, but almost every single historical character from the era from politicians to entertainers are named and their vices delved into and exploited by the fictional protagonists. Unforgettable scene included where a crooked FBI agent working undercover for Hoover inside the Kennedy campaign (while simultaneously working for the CIA and LCN) introduces the Marilyn Monroe angle into the mix solely to titillate Hoover - I laugh about it to this day. If you read the series you'll have a rat's eye view into the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK. Like the Vachss books, not for everyone but I do recommend the trilogy as the best conspiracy theory ever floated. James believes he has it pretty much nailed down. He and I have had some spirited discussions on the subject, and here is how he engraved my copy of Blood's a Rover:



Carlos Marcello has been a point of contention over the years.
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Old 20th November 2017, 09:20 PM   #23
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Agatha Raisin mysteries did not start out as PI but have been such for a while now. The British tv series is neither like the novels or the plots - it's mild fun but the books are better. The Brits ruined Father Brown also - the TV character and plots are entertaining but have stupid police (unlike the books) occur mostly in the same small village in England
(also unlike the books) and make Flambeau a criminal (which he had started out as but was repaired by FB in the books. Earlier series of FB were from the books). Oh, the Phryne Fisher books are quite good (the tv show is not bad, but it leaves out a lot of her more interesting ways of detecting and entrapping). Technically she also is not an official PI.
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Old 20th November 2017, 10:39 PM   #24
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If you want to try something with a quirky twist try the Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr. The protagonist is a hard boiled type of detective in Nazi era Germany. He is a largely "working stiff" hired or pressured to find "regular" murderers even while the pervasive background of evil, political violence, and genicide surrounds him. Very dark.

I also like the Gordianus the Finder series by Steven Saylor- takes place in Imperial Rome.

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Old 20th November 2017, 10:42 PM   #25
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Lew Archer stories by Ross Macdonald.
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Old 24th November 2017, 11:15 AM   #26
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No love for the classics? GK Chesterton's Father Brown stories, Sayer's Lord Peter series. Ngaio Marsh's detective is a cop, but still good, especially the ones with his wife in them. I don't care for most of Margery Allingham's work, except for Tiger in the Smoke, where she seems to have been struck by lightning or levelled up in writing for one instance.

For moderns I like Elizabeth George (cops again) and John Mortimer's Rumpole stories. ( he's a barrister so it's courtroom detecting, but he does seem to figure out a lot of crimes beyond who nicked the nail brush from the Chambers loo).
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Old 24th November 2017, 11:20 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
I have read some other Aussie crime novels, but the chain of command and procedures are a bit confusing!
That won't be a problem with a Cliff Hardy. He breaks most of the rules.
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Old 24th November 2017, 03:34 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by lionking View Post
That won't be a problem with a Cliff Hardy. He breaks most of the rules.
I'm off to order them.

Also, has anyone read Walter Mosely? Many years ago I read Devil in a Blue Dress, and really liked the book, but I haven't followed him.
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Old 24th November 2017, 03:41 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
I'm off to order them.

Also, has anyone read Walter Mosely? Many years ago I read Devil in a Blue Dress, and really liked the book, but I haven't followed him.
Mosely is great. Anything he writes is worth reading.
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Old 24th November 2017, 05:27 PM   #30
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John D MacDonald's Travis McGee novels, which several others have mentioned, are excellent. (John D wrote many other good novels, in a variety of genres. Don't miss The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything.)

Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer novels have been recommended. I think the third in that series, The Way Some People Die, is the best. (If you read the entire series, you'll understand why people say he kept writing variations of the same book, but it was a good book.)

Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn series has been recommended, and I concur.

I like Craig Johnson's Longmire series, which is still in progress. (Walt Longmire (and Joe Leaphorn) are in law enforcement, not private investigation, but it's a closely related sub-genre.)

If you're willing to look farther afield, you might enjoy authors such as Richard Stark, Sam Holt, and Donald Westlake.

Or Brendan DuBois.

Or even Carl Hiaasen.

Speaking of Sue Grafton, I enjoyed reading this earlier today:
Quote:
As I'd forgotten to eat lunch, I prepared a nutritious dinner at home: a peanut butter and pickle sandwich on a multigrain bread so textured, I could count the seeds, nuts, hulls, and bits of straw baked into the loaf. I rounded out the fiber content with a handful of Fritos...
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Old 24th November 2017, 05:41 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by W.D.Clinger View Post
John D MacDonald's Travis McGee novels, which several others have mentioned, are excellent. (John D wrote many other good novels, in a variety of genres. Don't miss The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything.)

Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer novels have been recommended. I think the third in that series, The Way Some People Die, is the best. (If you read the entire series, you'll understand why people say he kept writing variations of the same book, but it was a good book.)

Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn series has been recommended, and I concur.

I like Craig Johnson's Longmire series, which is still in progress. (Walt Longmire (and Joe Leaphorn) are in law enforcement, not private investigation, but it's a closely related sub-genre.)

If you're willing to look farther afield, you might enjoy authors such as Richard Stark, Sam Holt, and Donald Westlake.

Or Brendan DuBois.

Or even Carl Hiaasen.

Speaking of Sue Grafton, I enjoyed reading this earlier today:

I really enjoyed Hiaasen. A good mystery mixed with his fun mayhem. Another mystery writer who surprised me is Jimmy Buffet, the singer. The one that I read was great, but I don't know if he has written more.

I've read all of Hillerman, and have read, and enjoyed, a couple by his daughter. But with mysteries I tend to lean more towards "the mean streets".
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Old 25th November 2017, 03:58 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
I really enjoyed Hiaasen. A good mystery mixed with his fun mayhem. Another mystery writer who surprised me is Jimmy Buffet, the singer. The one that I read was great, but I don't know if he has written more.

I've read all of Hillerman, and have read, and enjoyed, a couple by his daughter. But with mysteries I tend to lean more towards "the mean streets".
I enjoyed the Hillerman series a great deal. The specifics of each mystery differed and I enjoyed the setting and the characters. But I must admit the interactions between Chee and Leaphorn, and Chee's search for love, became rather repetitive.
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Old 25th November 2017, 04:01 PM   #33
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Has the Brother Cadfael series been mentioned? By "Ellis Peter."

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Old 25th November 2017, 04:52 PM   #34
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I second much of the above, but I would add the Elvis Cole series by Robert Crais, particularly the first, "The Monkey's Raincoat."

For not strictly PI but fun mysteries anyway with a mix of lighthearted and somewhat darker at times, then the Lovejoy mysteries by Jonathan Gash. Again, the best is the first, "The Judas Pair." This has apparently been made into a British television series, but I have not seen it.
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Old 25th November 2017, 09:53 PM   #35
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The Garrett Files by Glen Cook are really good. Their gimick is that the PI lives is a fantasy universe.
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Old 26th November 2017, 06:37 PM   #36
wasapi
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I don't know if he has been mentioned, I apologize if already suggested; Dennis Lehane. I'm reading a second book of his. It's a lively, sometimes funny, always gritty read. The thing that keeps me from calling him a favorite, is the complicated love story that he has with his PI partner. To me, it dilutes the work.

Part of what I liked so much with writers like Hammett's and Chandler's was their 'lone-wolf' PI style. However, I did enjoy Robert Parker having Spencer and Susan's involvement.
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