Hatchards Crime Companion 1990
Subject of the book
Edited by Susan Moody, this 150-page paperback is a guide to the 100 top crime novels of all time, published by the booksellers Hatchards as part of a marketing drive for the bookshop chain. The credibility of the selection comes from the fact that the selections are made by members of The Crime Writer's Association, of which Len Deighton is a member.
Each chapter is introduced by a master writer of the genre; so, for example, critic and writer H.R.F. Keating introduces his selection of the "ten founding fathers" of the genre, among whom he cites Edgar Allen Poe, of course Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Wilkie Collins, and provides an essary explaining their contribution to the development of crime and thriller fiction over the last century and more.
The book offers the reader top ten books in crime genres from Whodunnits to the Hardboiled fiction characterised by Raymond Chandler. No doubt every reader will want to make some amendments to the top 100.
Len Deighton's Game, Set & Match trilogy makes it into the top 100 at number 58 - 'a richly powerful mixture of action, authenticity and bleak betrayal' - while The Ipcress File enters the top 10 at number 9. Moody describes this as full of 'ironic humour about the day-to-day routine of office betrayal.'
Deighton develops an analogy of what the ideal London club would contain - leather-buttoned chesterfields, no muzak, no regimental doorman, and a library stuffed with books - and draws comparisons with Hatchards on Piccadilly (sadly, no longer open), arguing that it's as close to a cosy London club for 'book maniacs' (as he describes himself too) as one will find. In welcoming the selections by members of the CWA, Deighton also notes that writers are a consevative bunch, and many of those picked are the classics, often famous as much for their films as for the books. But, in his foreword he highlights nonetheless the vibrancy and talent of the writers lauded in this book ... which includes himself!
'For those who want to wonder if the crime story is a crime novel - or if the crime novel is art - there is plenty here to fuel argument. There is something for everyone.'