Good day, book people. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy participating in reading challenges every year. Some years I actually meet most of the goals from various challenges, but, more often than not, my reading challenge fizzles out sometime in February or March. I usually meet the total number of books I want to read for the year and that’s it. If you’re a mystery or crime fiction reader, then I hope you’ll enjoy today’s visitor. Please help me welcome John Nardizzi, author of The Burden of Innocence, as he shares some of his crime fiction recommendations. Perhaps one or two of these titles might help you meet your reading challenge goal for the year. Thank you, Mr. Nardizzi for joining us today and sharing with us, the blog is all yours.
Voices of Crime – Top 4
by John Nardizzi
I started out in the detective business in San Francisco, a city with a rich history of both real and fictitious detectives. I partied in the same building where Dashiell Hammett lived. But I did not know that my childhood literary fascination with the genre would lead to working in the industry—and also writing crime novels.
The question I get most often from readers: What are the books that most closely resemble the actual tone and feel of real investigations? Contrary to most people’s understanding, PI work has not gone completely high tech, limited to database research. Yes, that is part of the job (and a fun part of it too). Modern investigations still revolve around the most important thing in a trial: witnesses. PIs talk to strangers about difficult things. And those witnesses provide color and tone for the case—all their flaws and imperfections exposed.
So for me, great crime novels speak in the voice of not just the detective, but the witnesses and criminals. Here are my four “must-read” books for any fan of the genre:
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Set in Italy, Patricia Highsmith’s beautiful prose contrasts with the spare, calculating mind of Tom Ripley. A low-level con man, Ripley sees an opportunity to subsume himself in the identity of his rich friend Dickie Greenleaf, leading to murder and betrayal. Story plays out amid beautiful beaches and seaside apartments in Italy, lavish meals and endless glasses of red wine. No one puts you into the delusional, paranoid mind of a criminal better than Highsmith. Great insights: “This is what I like, sitting at a table and watching people go by. It does something to your outlook on life. The Anglo-Saxons make a great mistake not staring at people from a sidewalk table.”
Tijuana Straits by Kem Nunn
Sometimes called the creator of “surf noir”, Nunn tells the story of apathetic, strung-out old surfer Sam Fahey, who comes across a Mexican woman named Magdalena fleeing a pack of wild dogs in the waste lands at the border. She is working to uncover environmental crimes committed by factory owners. Sam finds some compassion and helps Magdalena, who is fleeing the murderous Armando. Amid the grasslands of the Tijuana River Valley, Sam and Magdalena tangle with drug traffickers, bandits, and refugees from the maquiladora factories burning through cheap labor at the border. Dark stuff redeemed by some fine writing.
The Grifters by Jim Thompson
Author Jim Thompson grew up in Oklahoma Territory and worked later at a honky-tonk hotel in Texas where he took odd jobs procuring all kinds of vices for the guests during Prohibition. This later led to Thompson’s prolific output of crime fiction and screenplays, but none better than his take on a group of grifters operating in Los Angeles in the 1950s. The book opens with Roy Dillon, a young con artist who gets caught in a scam and takes a bat to the belly for it—leading to his long-gone mother, veteran con Lilly Dillon, coming back to nurse him back to life. He resents her, but she’s a lot tougher than he is. And Lilly doesn’t much care for his girlfriend, so we know how that will end. Lilly always gets the last word: “Grift’s like anything else Roy, you either go up or down. Usually down, sooner or later.”
The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley
Hard-boiled PI C.W. Sughrue rambles all over the west, solving two mysteries at once: tracking down a girl who went missing in San Francisco while also searching for a complex mess of a writer, Abraham Trahearne. The writer is lost in a boozy haze of wartime regrets and mixed blessings of fame; he is also the centerpiece—like a big baby—of a strange domestic triad of ex-wife, current wife, and mother, all living on his Montana ranch. Part road trip, part buddy novel, part mystery, part black widow revenge, Crumley writes like few others. And he seemed to have a blast writing the women characters as they lead the men around the ring like blind horses–just too good of a view back into the 1970s to be ignored. Be prepared—the rude poetry of the book is so saturated in booze and western machismo that you might stumble just touching the pages—as PI Sughrue opines: “I try to stay two drinks ahead of reality and three behind a drunk.” Words to live by.
The Burden of Innocence
by John Nardizzi
December 6, 2021 – January 31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
Private investigators Ray Infantino and Tania Kong take on the case of Sam Langford, framed for a murder committed by a crime boss at the height of his powers.
But a decade later, Boston has changed. The old ethnic tribes have weakened. As the PIs range across the city, witnesses remember the past in dangerous ways. The gangsters know that, in the new Boston, vulnerable witnesses they manipulated years ago are shaky. Old bones will not stay buried forever.
As the gang sabotages the investigation, will Ray and Tania solve the case in time to save an innocent man?
Genre: Mystery, Crime Noir
Published by: Weathertop Media Co.
Publication Date: December 5, 2021
Number of Pages: 290
Series: PI Ray Infantino Series, #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Kobo | Google Play | iBooks
John Nardizzi is writer and investigator. His work on innocence cases led to the exoneration Gary Cifizzari and James Watson, as well as million dollar settlements for clients Dennis Maher and the estate of Kenneth Waters, whose story was featured in the film Conviction.
His crime novels won praise for crackling dialogue and pithy observations of detective work. He speaks and writes about investigations in numerous settings, including World Association of Detectives, Lawyers Weekly, Pursuit Magazine and PI Magazine. Prior to his PI career, he failed to hold any restaurant job for longer than a week. He lives near Boston, Massachusetts.
Catch Up With John Nardizzi:
BookBub — @johnf4
Twitter — @AuthorPI
Facebook — @rayinfantino1
Want to start an InstaParty? Join us at #JohnNardizzi!
Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!