Dave’s Shelf L-M

Since I blundered onto The Maltese Falcon in the school library at age 14 (I was looking for a book about knights and squires and thought it sounded swords and shields like) I have been a lover of crime fiction. A volume of Sherlock Holmes stories as a birthday gift was the next major crime fiction event in my life but then I seemed to drift into literary books; Kafka, Grass, Pynchon etc. Then on a holiday in Crete, confined to quarters by miserable weather, I scored a bunch of Agatha Christie novels from the seed merchant who doubled as second-hand book reseller. Fortunately the first one I read was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. What a ripper, I was hooked.

Nowadays I write crime novels myself. Number 11 After The Flood will be out in August. A Dan Clement book set in Broome, Western Australia, it is the third in the series. At first draft stage is Summer of Blood. Set in San Francsico in 1967 it takes my two Sydney detectives from my 1999 Big Bad Blood and puts them in SF at the height of flower-power. Fremantle Press have that slotted for Nov 2023.

Despite writing my own books I remain a dedicated reader of crime fiction. For reasons of space I only keep those novels I really, really, enjoy. (Although Kindle and Kobo are good for storage too) On my bookshelf there is no more favourite shelf than the L-M.

I had seen Camila Lackberg’s novels as TV episodes before I discovered the book in a second-hand bin. Her style of Scando-noir is probably the most copied template there is these days, especially by Australian authors. She’s excellent at creating a balance in the private life of her ‘detective’ and the case at hand. Dennis Lehane writes great tough-arsed detective books with complex plots and social resonance. His books make great movies. My great pal and guitarist Johnny Leopard got me onto Elmore Leonard back in the late 80s. Personally, I think Leonard is the best of all crime writers at capturing a character through dialogue. Incredibly succinct but with plots that interweve from multiple characters. Some of his books are far better than others, all good reads but the best like Get Shorty, Rum Punch or Freaky Deaky are sublime. And then of course there is my favourite contemporary crime-writer Henning Mankell. I love the Wallander series, the atmosphere, the marvellous character portraits, the effect of location and the variety of plots. Greg Manson’s novel is hidden down at the end. Greg is a mate of mine and this is his Brisbane crime novel. So good to see a crime novel set there. The Ns and Ps on the shelf below are pretty darn good too.

I hope these thoughts are useful to you as you choose your next crime novel – and of course would be grateful if you stuck some Warner on your list as well.


  1. My brother gave me a Raymond Chandler and I was hooked on crime fiction. I do love the sense of place your books provide as the likes of Chandler, Mankell, Mosley, Disher and others do for their respective cities/areas

    • We had a book at school in my English class around sub-leaving year as it was then, that had an excerpt from a Chandler story and I thought it was terrific but I never went back and found the books until the 70s. Magnificent turns of phrase. Thanks about the location bit – it was really reading Mankell and James Lee Burke that lead me to writing Before It Breaks. Just really wanted to do a story where the main character was the setting. Cheers

  2. I read a lot of Christie novels as an 8 year old on school holidays at my nanna’s house Minilya Ave, White Gum Valley. She had many of those books on her shelf, among an army of gold lined Readers Digest bound books.
    I love that Australian writers are prominent in the genre these days, thanks for the reminder.

    • Donna you were onto Agatha a lot earlier than I was. I think she is still the most inventive plotter we’ve seen. Her twists still pop up today in many crime shows on TV/novels and so on.

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