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Hammett created revolutionary models for the morally ambiguous hero (Sam Spade) and the equal partnership of modern marriage (Nick and Nora Charles) now so universal that we have forgotten our debt to him.
Reprinted in 2004, his Continental Op stories proved so stunningly fresh that the 1920s hero could have carried a Blackberry without raising eyebrows unduly.
We present them in no particular order, and make no apology for our omissions. Should Ellery Queen have been two of the names on the list? We wanted to include writers like Dash Hammett, who brought something new and exciting to the genre; like Elmore Leonard, who turns an old trick in it with incomparable style; and like Poe, who invented it.SR Read: Bleak House (1852-3) Georges Simenon 1903-1989 Fabulously prolific Belgian master, said to have schtupped more than 10,000 ladies and written more than 300 novels.We don’t know how long he spent on each lady, but he reckoned to write 60 pages of fiction a day.SL Read: King's Ransom (2003) Kyril Bonfiglioli 1929-85 A raffish former art dealer, Bonfiglioli created - in Charlie Mortdecai - an antihero (also a raffish art dealer) of irresistible charm. SL Read: Outsider in Amsterdam (1975) Carl Hiaasen 1953- A master of the comic crime novel, Hiaasen patrols Florida's Everglades.
Charlie has the manner of a demented Bertie Wooster and the morals of a polecat. SL Read: The Mortdecai Trilogy (1991) James Ellroy 1948- Ellroy's labyrinthine novels chart a West Coast underworld of corruption and evil, played out against real historical events. His villains are big business, petty crims and That Mouse.
TC Read: Peril at End House (1932) Wilkie Collins 1824-1889 The Moonstone established the genre's ground rules: red herrings; a long list of suspects; the man from Scotland Yard, and a nod to a pressing social issue, in this case opium addiction.