Each also gave an appendix of more novels at session's end, which gave Friday's lunchtime session-goers even more to think about.
1) Heading the list, appropriately so for a convention in San Francisco, was Dashiell Hammett. Hughes chose The Glass Key, Connolly Red Harvest, and Hughes, never a man to be shackled by understatement, called Hammett "the Bach, the Louis Armstrong" of crime fiction. "Everything started with him." I'd say Hughes was right.
2) Where Hammett goes, Raymond Chandler follows. Connolly and Hughes chose The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye, if my memory serves me well. "I believe I can tell the level of [Chandler's] drinking by chapter," Hughes said. Added Connolly: "I think Chandler is a great writer and a terrible novelst." Connolly's beef? Chandler's plotting.
3) Up third, Ross Macdonald. For Hughes, "his achievement is unsurpassed." In Macdonald's Lew Archer, Connolly said, "we have the first great Christ figure in the genre."
4) Patricia Highsmith, in whom Connolly "senses a genuinely unpleasant person" and whose novel Deep Water Hughes called "a perverse comedy of manners."
They also cited Ed McBain, "the father of the police procedural"; The Friends of Eddie Coyle; and James Lee Burke ("He had not read much crime fiction," Connolly said. "He comes out of a very different tradition.").
Hughes favorite Margaret Millar made the list, as did Red Dragon (Connolly had much of interest to say about the Hannibal Lecter books) and the surprise of the lot, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Hughes said Christie could say in a few sentences what P.D. James would take three pages to say.
More to come.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010