Digital Publisher Julia Silk looks ahead to some of the great vintage crime novels we’ll soon be seeing resurrected in ebook in The Murder Room in 2014.
THE MALTESE FALCON (1930) Dashiell Hammett
The master of noir, the book that defines the genre: what more could you want? Sam Spade is the blueprint for the hard-drinking PI, and the moody, filmic settings and parade of femmes fatales through his novels give Hammett’s work its abiding appeal.
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL (1951) by Ellery Queen
It doesn’t get much more classic than the King of pulp fiction, Ellery Queen. The Edgar-winning duo, cousins Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay, whose pen name they also gave to their fictional detective, also founded the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, which legitimised the pulp genre and is still considered one of the most influential crime fiction publications of all time.
When Laurel Hill, daughter of Hollywood jeweller Leander Hill, believes that her father was frightened to death, Ellery Queen is asked to investigate. Someone is still out to get Hill’s business partner, Roger Priam, but he’s not talking. And it appears that a mysterious and violent incident in the men’s past may be at the heart of the matter. Queen follows a trail of murder that includes a dead dog, a green alligator wallet, a burned book and a series of cryptic notes. Classic.
CAPE FEAR (1957) by John D. MacDonald
Dean Koontz called John D. MacDonald ‘my favourite novelist of all time’ and Stephen King describes him as ‘The great entertainer of our age and a mesmerizing storyteller’. Filmed twice (most recently by Martin Scorsese in 1991, starring Robert De Niro) the novel’s antagonist Max Cady is one of the most terrifying and relentless psychopaths in literature. For those of you who missed the movies, when Max Cady, a brutal rapist, is released from prison he begins to stalk the man who put him away, Sam Bowden. As Cady’s campaign of terror mounts, the police are powerless to protect Bowden’s family, forcing them to use their wits to survive a psychopath bent on revenge.
PSYCHO (1959) by Robert Bloch
So iconic that any introduction is most likely redundant, but if you’ve seen the film you’ll notice some key differences. Most interestingly that the Norman Bates of the novel is far less personable than he at first appears in the incarnation of Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock’s film.
MR. SPLITFOOT (1968) – Helen McCloy
One of the best loved authors of the Golden Age, Helen McCloy was rated by the New York Times as being among ‘the best writers of the Sayers-Blake-Allingham school’. Her detective thrillers feature psychiatrist-sleuth Basil Willing, and supernatural chiller Mr Splitfoot was listed by acclaimed critic and mystery writer H.R.F. Keating as one of 100 best crime and mystery books ever published.
FIDDLERS (2005) – Ed McBain
The final instalment in the 55-title 87th Precinct series, one of the best loved and best known police procedural series of all time. Begun in 1956 during the Cold War, the series came to an end only with the death of its author in 2005, and perfectly mirrored the changes that took place in urban American over half a century. A brilliantly twisting puzzle of a book with unrelenting pace as the 87th precinct team race to take down the elusive serial killer ‘Chuck’.
These books and over 500 other classic crime novels are available in ebook in The Murder Room.