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Best books … chosen by Otto Penzler
Otto Penzler, critic, editor, and bookstore proprietor, has just published a new anthology, The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps. Below he names some favorite novels by six of today’s pulpiest writers.
 

Blood on the Moon by James Ellroy (Vintage, $13). Neither Ellroy’s best-known book (L.A. Confidential) nor his best (The Black Dahlia), this first in the Lloyd Hopkins trilogy is the epitome of pulp, with relentless action and suspense. The parallel psychological makeup of the villain and the cop who must stop him exemplifies the brutality and moral ambivalence of Ellroy’s mentor, Dashiell Hammett.

The Hunter by Richard Stark (out of print). Parker is cold and hard, a professional criminal. Do something bad to him and he will neither forget nor forgive. The prose is as direct and abrupt as the protagonist. Filmed as Point Blank with Lee Marvin and as Payback with Mel Gibson.

Kiss the Girls by James Patterson (Grand Central, $14). A memorable series character, psychologist/detective Alex Cross must outthink a pair of serial killers on the prowl simultaneously. No big words, no long sentences, unrelieved suspense—a pulp editor’s dream.

City Primeval by Elmore Leonard (HarperTorch, $7.50). When Clement Mansell, a psychotic killer known as the “Oklahoma Wildman,” gets away with murder because of a sharp lawyer, he kills a judge, too. Detroit homicide detective Raymond Cruz refuses to let him avoid justice again and so goes after him. Like most pulp cops, Cruz isn’t troubled about breaking department rules.

The Guards by Ken Bruen (St. Martin’s, $14). The exception to the only-in-America rule for pulp writers and stories, Bruen’s melancholy Galway cop Jack Taylor is introduced in the ultimate Hibernian noir novel. Pulp writers were paid by the word, and Bruen’s style is so spare that he would have starved.

The Cleanup by Sean Doolittle (Dell, $7). A good cop loses his job by messing up. When he falls for the wrong girl, he encounters problems and makes every stupid decision it’s possible to make—and then things get really bad.

 

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