CIS: My classics by Dan Judson

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Especially for Classics in September, we’ve invited four crime novelists to share their favourite crime classics with us. First up is thriller writer and Shamus Award winner Dan Judson, whose book The Bone Orchard is being featured as part of Read a Book Day tomorrow – 6 September 2015. He is well known for his Gin Palace and Southampton trilogies and his latest novel, The Confessor, is due out next year.


The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain
The subject of an obscenity trial in Boston; a hard-hitting tale of adultery, obsession, forbidden sex, murder, and betrayal; the inspiration for Camus’ The Stranger – this was what I knew about Postman when, at the age of 17, I found a tattered copy in a used bookstore and decided to give it at read. A little over 100 pages later, I knew something else – what I wanted to do with my life. As I searched for my own voice – a hit-and-miss journey that took close to two decades – Cain’s visceral masterpiece was a book I returned to again and again as an example of what a master craftsman of noir can achieve.
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Marathon Man by William Goldman
A review on the cover of the paperback edition (which I carried with me everywhere I went during my junior year in high school) called Marathon Man “brilliant entertainment in the Graham Greene sense.” So not only is Goldman’s witty and chilling tale the first thriller I ever read (okay, obsessed over), it was what led me to search for books written by this Graham Greene fellow (see below). I mimicked Goldman’s style for years, much to the chagrin of my Oxford-educated creative writing professor in college, and I can still see traces of Goldman in the way I structure my sentences today, nearly 40 years later.
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The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Not technically a crime novel, but writers learn by mimicking other writers, and one of the writers I mimicked the most during my 30s (I wasn’t published till I was 40) was Graham Greene. Full disclosure: the opening line of my first published novel, The Bone Orchard, is a careful reworking of the first line of Greene’s The Quiet American. There is a restrained pathos in the narrator’s voice that spoke to me in a way I didn’t fully understand at the time. I probably still don’t understand it. But there is something… I don’t know… elegiac to Greene’s first person prose, and I was drawn to it then and am still drawn to it now.
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Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith
Though Gorky Park is one of the seminal crime novels of the last century, its sequel, Polar Star, really triggered something in me. While Investigator Renko was an outsider in Gorky, he was nothing less than an exile in Polar. Working as a fish-gutter aboard a factory ship in the Bering Sea, Renko is hiding from everything he knows – the woman can’t forget, his own corrupt government and, most importantly, himself. Gorky had Moscow as its main setting, but the action in Polar is confined almost entirely to the decks of a decrepit ship, and it’s that intimacy/claustrophobia that sent me in a particular direction, creatively. And I can easily trace my fascination with fallen heroes finding redemption to Renko’s triumphant return to investigator (and heroic) status.
Buy now on Amazon


You can visit Dan Judson’s website here.

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