The world of crime fiction, despite some notable inroads made by women the past few decades, is still dominated by white men—many of whom are quite capable of writing complex characters and weaving nuanced storylines all while compelling you to keep turning pages. If you want to find a good work of crime fiction by a white male author, you can. But it’s good for the industry—and even more so for the readers—when we broaden the scope.
For today’s Blotter, I want to offer up a few suggestions for series, or individual works from a more diverse group of crime writers. Tellingly, each of these was recommended to me through word-of-mouth from friends. I want to return the favor!
Leonard Chang | The Allen Choice Trilogy
Chang is a Korean-American novelist, as well as screenwriter and producer (you’ve seen his work on Justified, and Snowfall). The three books in his Allen Choice series (2001’s Over the Shoulder; 2003’s Underkill; and 2004’s Fade to Clear) follow Choice, a Silicon Valley security consultant turned private investigator, though dangerous cases and family secrets. I love that Choice is not all off-putting bravado, but rather a complex, thoughtful, unpredictable narrator, who (bonus) is sometimes filled with self-doubt. You know, sort of like how any normal human being would act under similar circumstances.
Mary Wills Walker | Molly Cates Series
Mary Willis is an Edgar Award-winner (i.e. the Oscars of mystery writing) and author of the Molly Cates series of crime novels. All are set in and around Austin and all follow Molly, a veteran journalist, as she uncovers increasingly dangerous stories. The three books that comprise the series—The Red Scream (1994), Under the Beetle’s Cellar (1995), and All the Dead Lie Down (1998)—are powerful enough to hook you before you learn of the letdown: Walker, for reasons unknown, just stopped writing (or at the very least, publishing). Frustratingly, many of these titles are best found in used bookstores. All the more reason to act quickly.
Michael Nava | Henry Rios Series
So, without qualification, I can tell you that the seven books in the Rios series (published between 1986 and 2001) are the best legal thrillers I’ve ever read. So why has no one heard of them? Maybe because the protagonist is gay and Latinx, or maybe because the author is. I don’t know. But the books have suffered from marginalization (and a wider audience has suffered for not having read them). I acquired my copies piecemeal over the years from used bookstores, but recently looked them up to find that several are available for less than 5 bucks each on Kindle. Frustratingly, not all seem to be available yet. Nava, himself a practicing attorney, has made clear he is done with Rios and has since published one other standalone novel. Still, I’m keeping a lookout, just in case. I got pretty attached.
I’ll be back Thursday, with a return to the “true” in true crime. In the meantime, if you have other favorites I’ve missed (and I know I’ve missed many), please let us know @WeTalkMovies so we can, what do the kids say, signal boost.
Featured image: Bantam