As we wrap up The Circle for November, we're closing in on the last Book Club of 2013, which we plan to commemorate... with murder. December is dedicated to hard-boiled classics spanning the middle of the 20th century, from authors you're almost certainly familiar with but might not have picked up for a while. The poll will be running until early December, after which we'll start a few days late.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)
Raymond Chandler helped found a genre, lent his work to numerous film adaptations, and had his prose style immortalized in its own adjective. And within his ouevre, The Big Sleep stands near the very top. Introducing detective Philip Marlowe (later played by Humphrey Bogart), it helped set the tone for pretty much any noir trope you can name.
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (1934)
If you're not in the mood for some gritty Chandler, you can try something from another hard-boiled titan: Dashell Hammett. The Thin Man sparked a film franchise, and it's considered lighter than much of Hammett's catalog; in Prohibition-era New York, witty couple Nick and Nora Charles are drawn into a murder mystery where nothing is as it seems.
Savage Night by Jim Thompson (1953)
Here's where things get weird. Jim Thompson was lauded as a sophisticated and unpredictable crime fiction writer, and Savage Night, about a sick and injured hit man sent to kill a prosecutor's star witness, is considered one of his best works. It's also considered an incredibly surreal piece of crime fiction, moving from typical noir to a strange and grotesque conclusion.
The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (1987)
Crime fiction author James Ellroy based this book on the famously mysterious murder of Elizabeth Short, dubbed the Black Dahlia killing. From there, it moves into the realm of fiction, as two police officers attempt to solve the case, their lives going into a downward spiral as they get closer to the truth. The Black Dahlia was the first of Ellroy's "LA Quartet," which also includes the critically acclaimed LA Confidential.