Why did you become a crime fiction reader/writer?

I’m always intrigued to find out what makes my (alas, very few) readers and blog readers tick. And as I like to think that we all got into crime fiction because one novel crept through and somehow twisted our young psyches, I’m interested to find out what that novel was and why it had the effect that it did. I’ll kick this list off then…

The book which made me an avid reader of crime fiction was Elmore Leonard’s LaBrava, and I was fifteen. The reason I picked it up was because it had a glowing review on the cover by Stephen King, who at that time was my favourite writer (if the guy had written a laundry list I would have read it). I bought LaBrava, took it home and devoured it in one sitting, which meant that I was late for school the next day (because I stayed up until the early hours of the morning). I enjoyed it so much that I bought another four second-hand Leonard’s the next week. Slowly, but surely, Stephen King’s recommendation meant that he slipped down the league of my favourite writers as I replaced him with Leonard, early James Ellroy and found a couple of ancient and tattered Jim Thompson novels (slightly duff ones though – Texas By The Tail being one of them). The book that really made me want to write crime fiction was the Jim Thompson omnibus, which was published by Picador in 1995. As much as I’d enjoyed Texas By The Tail (though it’s a slightly crappy Thompson, to be honest), the reason I bought the omnibus was because of the introduction by Tim Willocks, whose Green River Rising I had only just recently read. It was enough for me to buy it and race through the four mind-blowing novels within. The Getaway, The Grifters, The Killer Inside Me and Pop 1280 were unlike anything else that I’d read – they blew me away by making me root for their depraved protagonists – and the endings were simply astonishing. After reading Thompson everything felt different, like a whole new world had been opened up to me. I started writing short stories, or devised novel plots (all of them rubbish), with a noir sensibility. And I started seriously ploughing through the work of other noir and hardboiled writers. I had several false starts with novels, but eventually, after reading more Thompson, I went back to my past, borrowed from it, and devised a novel that I thought Thompson himself might have devised if he’d come from the north of England and had a gambling addiction, which pretty much leads me here…

Anyway, readers and writers, post in the comments box below and let me know who it was that turned you into crime fiction fiends? Who knows, we might all pick up a recommendation or two and read something that blows us away.

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