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These are the series I will reread time and again, the ones that suck me back in and have held up over time. By “modern” I mean 1960s on, and include both licensed P.I.s and sole investigators. I’ll occasionally go back to some individual classics by Hammett, Chandler, Christie, and Ellery Queen (especially the trilogy of Queen failures at the center of which is Ten Days Wonder, a masterpiece.) But these twelve are the ones I will reread in their entirety.
JOHN D. MACDONALD, Travis McGee (21 books)
A hardcore beach bum burnout who lives on a houseboat in Florida, Travis is a prototype for many to come, including Jack Reacher. The Kindle versions are high-priced, but individual ones pop up occasionally for $1.99.
ROSS MACDONALD, Lew Archer (18 books)
Psychological Los Angeles P. I. writing that set the foundation for the more light-hearted Elvis Cole. Yeah, I know. Violates my “modern’ rule, but for some reason, Archer always feels saturated in early 60s L.A. culture. Perhaps it’s the whole timeless Hollywood thing.
ROBERT B. PARKER, Spenser (39 books) / Jessie Stone (9 books) / Virgil Cole & Everett Hitch (4 books)
You have to respect a writer who gets his Ph.D. in English Lit and writes his dissertation on “The Violent Hero, Wilderness Heritage and Urban Reality: A Study of the Private Eye in the novels of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald.” The first Spenser novel is not fully realized as the later character, but Parker hits his stride with Looking for Rachel Wallace and Early Autumn. Jessie Stone, and Cole and Hitch are embodiments of Spenser, and all worthwhile. Appaloosa is a little literary western masterpiece. If only Parker’s writer-replacements had his literary chops.
NELSON DEMILLE, John Corey (8 books)
DeMille wrote Plum Island without thought of a series. But the smart-ass character’s popularity took over. Funny and smart. I think it’s time to start reading this series again.
DENNIS LEHANE, Patrick Kenzie & Angela Gennaro (6 books)
Carries on Parker’s Boston P. I. tradition. Lehane is a writer’s writer and virtually all he writes turns to gold. The movie version of Gone, Baby, Gone did the characters justice.
LEE CHILD, Jack Reacher (26 books)
Yeah, not the literary style of the other writers, but still fun and viscerally compelling. Reacher carves out his own world as a character, and though the plots are often predictably routine, they are still rereadable primarily for Reacher’s compelling inner drives. Tom Cruise? Uh, no. But there is a series in the works where the actor playing Reacher is over six feet. Here’s hoping.
ROBERT CRAIS, Elvis Cole & Joe Pike (18 books)
Always fun! A great twist on the Spenser-Hawk kind of duo. Crais knows how to write, and he’s one of the few I will buy hot off the press, rather than waiting for the price to drop.
MICHAEL CONNELLY, Harry Bosch (20 books)
Okay, not exactly a P. I., but he’s a sole investigator in spirit. Bosch is Bosch and Titus Welliver on the Amazon series nails him.
STEPHEN HUNTER, Bob Lee Swagger (12 books)
The movie and TV attempts to deliver this character completely fail. Bob Lee Swagger is an icon that would require miracle casting. The three Earl Swagger books are excellent as well.
JAMES W. HALL, Thorne (15 books)
Carrying on the Travis McGee tradition in the Florida Keys. If you enjoy Travis and have not tried Thorne, pick him up! You can’t beat the Kindle prices.
C.J. BOX, Joe Pickett (21 books)
A nice surprise as a series. Joe is a Wyoming game warden who has the occasional “Hawk/Joe Pike” sidekick Nate Romanowski. Different and fun to read.
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So did I miss any? What would be on your reread list?Published in