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Crime Beat

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Crime Beat: Paul Mendelson’s top 10 crime novels

paul mendelsonLast year in April UK-based Paul Mendelson added a title to the list of South African crime novels, The First Rule of Survival, and introduced a new cop Vaughn de Vries. He has a follow-up – The Serpentine Road – due for publication in April. Below is his list of the ten crime novels he most admires.

James Ellroy

I can recommend all the novels from my hero of crime writing, from his raw, simplistically frightening early work to his more contemporary stories in which he pitches his largely amoral group of heroes into the real-life big events of US history over the last fifty years. In particular, his last completed trilogy: American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s A Rover, is an epic story encompassing the reign of Edgar J Hoover, Mob domination of Las Vegas, through to the Bay of Pigs and the assassination of JFK.

Using rhythms of language which, while taking a while to get used to, soon transport you to within the conversation, make undertaking an Elroy novel an intensely satisfying experience.

Deon Meyer

A world-class home-grown thriller writer, I read his work and weep. If only I could combine plot and pace and character so brilliantly. Blood Safari and 13 Hours are my favourites; none disappoint. My only regret is not being able to read them in Afrikaans. First, I have to wait months for the translation to be published; second, my friends tell me his stories glitter still more in his native tongue.

Michael Connelly

His first half dozen Harry Bosch novels are masterclasses in the art of contemporary US police procedural. I started with The Black Ice, and just kept reading. If his more recent work has proven slightly less satisfying, this is only testament to how difficult it must be to keep writing at the absolute top of your game.

Robert Crais

His novels featuring PI Elvis Cole and his silent sidekick, Joe Pike, read so fluently, he makes the art of crime writing seem simple. From The Monkey’s Raincoat on, each is a little delight – often devoured in one sitting.

Mark Billingham

Gritty, graphic, violent and nasty, UK based Billingham’s novels make the tips of your fingers tingle. From Lazybones and Sleepyhead through to his latest offerings, Di Tom Thorne and his team unravel the darkest of crimes, and face the most sick and ruthless of perpetrators.

Peter Temple

This Australian novelist won me over with the first book of his I read, In The Evil Day, and whenever I dip into his work I am impressed. Whether his Jack Irish stories or those of governmental and international conspiracy, Temple’s ability to switch from the minutiae to the grand sweep is inspirational.


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