Guest Post, By Sidney Williams:
(Thanks to Charles for letting me drop by and chat here a bit.)
I have a new hardboiled novel called Fool’s Run from the Gordian Knot mystery imprint on the horizon. It releases Nov. 22. That means of late, I’m getting asked about favorite fictional detectives.
If I’m pressed to pick a favorite, I have to say all of ‘em because I’ve read and enjoyed detective novels since I was in high school, and I’ve sampled for years.
All are influences of course, though I tried to make my hero, Si Reardon fresh and different. His adventure is a bit of a caper and a bit of mystery at the same time. It’s also a bit noir and a bit hardboiled as well. If you’re in the camp that draws a line, the noir protagonist’s usually an anti-hero. Si’s a bit of that and accepts a dirty job from my hopefully modern variation on a femme fatale. She’s a lawyer working as a “special counsel” who helps fix things, a bit on the dark side, confident and in control. Si’s journey leads him from darkness to a battle for survival.
I guess above all the hardboiled school is about an individual on a tough journey, a matter of quests and questions.
Mitchell Tobin created by Tucker Coe (Donald E. Westlake)
Many tend to think of Donald E. Westlake as a comic caper
writer because of his Dortmunder books, but he wrote a lot of hardboiled
fiction along with the comic and not just as Richard Stark focusing on the
thief Parker. Mitch Tobin’s a cop booted from the force because he was busy
with an extramarital affair when he should have been on the job. As he works to
repair his life and symbolically build a wall around his back yard, he gets
roped into some powerful tales with interesting mystery plots, starting with Kind of Love, Kinds of Death. In that
one, he’s hired by a mob boss. I
discovered that book as a kid when it was reissued by Charter, and happily all the
Tobin ebooks are readily available these days.
Matthew Scudder created by Lawrence Block
I read Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery
Magazine as a kid as well. I first encountered Matt Scudder, another cop
who’d left the force, in A Candle for the
Bag Lady, a novella. In that tale, Scudder took it upon himself to solve
the murder of the titular character. Responsible for a death on the job,
Scudder drank and lit candles in Catholic churches, ever seeking rebirth. That
story was a great introduction, and later I connected the dots between it and
Block’s Writer’s Digest column and
other work. The Scudder tales are a powerful character study as Scudder copes
with alcoholism, and the tales are great hardboiled novels as well. The
flashback entry When the Sacred Ginmill Closes
is a standout.
Ed Noon created by Michael Avallone
an audio tape on mystery writing when I was young. It featured Michael Avallone
who made mention of his TV tie-in work, and of course his hero Ed Noon. I had
to scour used paperback shops to find early ones, but I got a kick out of
Noon’s breezy voice. I like the early, traditional hardboiled Noons best
including The Tall Dolores, but the
spy-era books are fun too. Ed goes to work for the president. Avallone’s son,
David, has reissued most of the novels as ebooks these days, usually nicely
Of course Marlowe’s a favorite. I started with Farewell, My Lovely and followed Marlowe
from there. The Marlowe tales, to me, are the ultimate in romanticized private
eye fare. Chandler pretty much defined noir language and offered up a tough
sleuth with a soul, and I loved what he was doing.
The Continental Op created by Dashiell Hammett
I read The Maltese
Falcon early on in my reading life and when a TV miniseries happened along,
I picked up The Dain Curse. That’s a
later tale featuring Hammett’s unnamed operative from the Continental Detective
Agency. I think he considered Dain a
lesser entry. It’s interesting, but above all it was a gateway to the short
stories in The Big Knockover including
“The Gutting of Couffignal” in which The Op battles heavily robbers on an
island that’s home to the very rich. Red
Harverst came my way as well, and in later years, I’ve come to like Hammett
more and more and to understand what he was doing with The Op’s gritty,
Around the time I discovered Marlowe, I ran across The Drowning Pool by MacDonald in the
tie-in edition with the Paul Newman film. Archer clicked with me the most of
all the detective heroes. There’s something spiritual in Archer’s encounters
with troubled family and reverberations from the past. I segued from The Drowning Pool to the later works,
perhaps not fully appreciating the texture early on. But one summer, I devoured
The Moving Target, The Goodbye Look, The
Blue Hammer and the rest and waited for more that would sadly never come.
Since it’s a bit different of a different novel for me, there’s agoing on Goodreads. You might win a free signed copy and get to sample it for free.
Visit Sid online at