Let’s be honest: most mystery novels do not come with “Wow! Holy heck!” titles.
You know what I mean: A title so punchy, you find yourself buying the book before you know what the plot is about, or which sub-genre the book explores. We’ve all done that. But honestly: we don’t do that every week. Hell, we probably don’t do that every year.
The great and venerable Walter Mosley just released an e-book titled ALL I DID WAS SHOOT MY MAN. There you go; perfect example. Show of hands – who wouldn’t pick that up off the shelf? (OK, “e-shelf….”)
In 1991, Northwest author Earl Emerson released HELP WANTED, ORPHANS PREFERRED. Boom. What a great title. I picked that one up without ever reading the back-cover blurb. In this case, I chose well. Hell of a book.
Raymond Chandler’s THE BIG SLEEP. Poetry in three words.
Meg Gardiner’s THE NIGHTMARE THIEF. Snagged it off the shelf en passant to the cashier. Wasn’t disappointed.
I’m stupid to post this publically (all right, I’m stupid for many, many other reasons…) but I always wanted to write a mystery titled WHO PUT THE ‘LAUGHTER’ IN ‘SLAUGHTER?’” I just haven’t found the right story yet. If you steal it, I will hunt you down like the dog you are.
Your turn: nominees for greatest, punchiest mystery titles of all time. Ready? Go!
Best-sellers John Connolly and Declan Hughes offered their version of the 10 Mysteries You Gotta Read at Bouchercon in San Francisco. Katy King and I are buying tickets to September’s Bouchercon, so this came to mind.
1. THE GLASS KEY (1931) – Dashiell Hammett. I’ve read it. It was good.
2. THE LONG GOODBYE (1953) – Raymond Chandler. Yup. Though, I actually liked the film even more, which is rare.
3. THE CHILL (1964) – Ross Macdonald. Oh, hell yes! Great read.
4. DEEP WATER – Patricia Highsmith (1957) Haven’t read it yet.
5. THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (1972) – George V. Higgins. Every rule I know about writing, Higgins breaks. Yet this novel just chugs forward. It’s amazing.
6. DIXIE CITY JAM (1994) – James Lee Burke. Haven’t read it yet. Alafair: Try not to beat the crap out of me.
7. RED DRAGON (1981) – Thomas Harris. Yes! Scared the bloody @#$%* out of me.
8. A STRANGER IN MY GRAVE (1960) – Margaret Millar. Haven’t read it but you gotta admit, that’s a great title!
9. LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE DEAF MAN: A NOVEL OF THE 87th PRECINCT (1972) – Ed McBain. One of my favorite villains. McBain created a mastermind inside a procedural. Trust me when I say: that’s genius!
10). THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD (1926) – Agatha Christie. Yeah, I read it when I was, like, 20. It was great. But I continue to believe that Philip MacDonald was the best tea-cozy mystery writer of that era.