Annal: 2009 Hammett Prize for Crime-Writing

Results of the Hammett Prize in the year 2009.

Book:The Manual of Detection

The Manual of Detection: A Novel

Jedediah Berry

Reminiscent of imaginative fiction from Jorge Luis Borges to Jasper Fforde yet dazzlingly original, The Manual of Detection marks the debut of a prodigious young talent. Charles Unwin toils as a clerk at a huge, imperious detective agency located in an unnamed city always slick with rain. When Travis Sivart, the agency’s most illustrious detective, is murdered, Unwin is suddenly promoted and must embark on an utterly bizarre quest for the missing investigator that leads him into the darkest corners of his soaking, somnolent city. What ensues is a noir fantasy of exquisite craftsmanship, as taut as it is mind- blowing, that draws readers into a dream world that will change what they think about how they think.

“This debut novel weaves the kind of mannered fantasy that might result if Wes Anderson were to adapt Kafka.”—The New Yorker

Book:Bury Me Deep

Bury Me Deep: A Novel

Megan Abbott

In October 1931, a station agent found two large trunks abandoned in Los Angeles’s Southern Pacific Station. What he found inside ignited one of the most scandalous tabloid sensations of the decade.

Inspired by this notorious true crime, Edgar®-winning author Megan Abbott’s novel Bury Me Deep is the story of Marion Seeley, a young woman abandoned in Phoenix by her doctor husband. At the medical clinic where she finds a job, Marion becomes fast friends with Louise, a vivacious nurse, and her roommate, Ginny, a tubercular blonde. Before long, the demure Marion is swept up in the exuberant life of the girls, who supplement their scant income by entertaining the town’s most powerful men with wild parties. At one of these events, Marion meets—and falls hard for—the charming Joe Lanigan, a local rogue and politician on the rise, whose ties to all three women bring events to a dangerous collision.

A story born of Jazz Age decadence and Depression-era desperation, Bury Me Deep—with its hothouse of jealousy, illicit sex and shifting loyalties—is a timeless portrait of the dark side of desire and the glimmer of redemption.

Book:Devil's Garden

Devil's Garden

Ace Atkins

San Francisco, September 1921: Silent-screen comedy star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle is throwing a wild party in his suite at the St. Francis Hotel: girls, jazz, bootleg hooch…and a dead actress named Virginia Rappe. The D.A. says it was Arbuckle who killed her—crushing her under his weight—and brings him up on manslaughter charges. William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers stir up the public and demand a guilty verdict. But what really happened? Why do so many people at the party seem to have stories that conflict? Why is the prosecution hiding witnesses? Why are there body parts missing from the autopsied corpse? Why is Hearst so determined to see Arbuckle convicted?

In desperation, Arbuckle’s defense team hires a Pinkerton agent to do an investigation of his own and, they hope, discover the truth. The agent’s name is Dashiell Hammett, the book’s narrator. What he discovers will change American legal history—and his own life—forever.

Book:The Long Fall

The Long Fall: The First Leonid McGill Mystery

Walter Mosley

A brand-new mystery series from one of the country’s best-known, best-loved writers: a new character, a new city, a new era. A new Walter Mosley.

His name is etched on the door of his Manhattan office: Leonid McGill , Private Investigator. It’s a name that takes a little explaining, but he’s used to it. “Daddy was a communist and great-great- Granddaddy was a slave master from Scotland. You know, the black man’s family tree is mostly root. Whatever you see aboveground is only a hint at the real story.”

Ex-boxer, hard drinker, in a business that trades mostly in cash and favors: McGill’s an old-school P.I. working a city that’s gotten fancy all around him. Fancy or not, he has always managed to get by—keep a roof over the head of his wife and kids, and still manage a little fun on the side—mostly because he’s never been above taking a shady job for a quick buck. But like…[more]

Book:The Way Home

The Way Home: A Novel

George P. Pelecanos

Christopher Flynn is trying to get it right. After years of trouble and rebellion that enraged his father and nearly cost him his life, he has a steady job in his father’s company, he’s seriously dating a woman he respects, and, aside from the distrust that lingers in his father’s eyes, his mistakes are firmly in the past.

One day on the job, Chris and his partner come across a temptation almost too big to resist. Chris does the right thing, but old habits and instincts rise to the surface, threatening this new-found stability with sudden treachery and violence. With his father and his most trusted friends, he takes one last chance to blast past the demons trying to pull him back.

Like Richard Price or William Kennedy, Pelecanos pushes his characters to the extremes, their redemption that much sweeter because it is so hard fought. Pelecanos has long been celebrated for his unerring ability to portray the conflicts men feel as they search and struggle for power and love in a world that is often harsh and unforgiving but can ultimately be filled with beauty.

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