It's been probably a decade since I read a book. I never liked reading very much - I was always skipping paragraphs because the text was too boring (and then obviously missing out important info such as a character dying). But I had been going to the library recently for DVDs and figured I might as well exercise my brain for a change with a few novels that were made into films I enjoyed.
I liked Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice (better than the film which I've never finished) and Double Indemnity (seems like Chandler actually changed some of the dialogue which makes sense as I don't think the original lines would work as well on the big screen). His style is extremely tight and precise. With both his novellas clocking in around 100 pages each, Cain exemplifies that less is more. On the other hand, I couldn't stand Mildred Pierce (despite actually enjoying the film) so I stopped by Chapter 2 I think.
Raymond Chandler was enjoyable and it's a little bittersweet that I started with him as I think he really is the master of detective fiction - The Long Goodbye is wonderful and a worthwhile finale of the series (OK there's Playback, but Chandler himself probably didn't lose sleep over that technicality). All the other ones leading up to it are good as well. Only his later short stories show the style he is famous for. Nevertheless I read them all because you can practically taste his ascendance from another bland pulp writer to the cream of the crop by the time he finished his last short and started his string of novels.
I actually do not find Dashiell Hammett that great. I think the Dain Curse and Red Harvest were readable. I couldn't get into Maltese Falcon or The Thin Man. I felt the same with his short stories.
Read Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me (no, never saw the film). It's well written psychologically in terms of how the main character feels. But from a literary perspective it's a little lacking. I've got The Grifters on hold - will see how that reads.
Ross MacDonald's The Drowning Pool was readable. Some lines were good maybe even better than some of Chandler's. But overall the novel rates slightly below Chandler's first 6 (it's probably on the level with Playback). I was interested enough by it to check more of MacDonald's novels but I've given up reading them as they just weren't good. Oddly enough it seems the writing became more boring and more formulaic and he was going through the motions of writing detective novels whereas Chandler seems to write with a purpose and the novels just happen to be about a detective.
I'm now reading James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss and it is excellent. That first chapter is practically flawless, and he's got a sort of poetic cadence that really does make reading fun - very much like Chandler's prose. That is not to say the content is similar though. It's set in 1978 and people just don't seem to give a damn (well with Vietnam, the hippies, and most of the action taking place in California, Denver, and Montana I can see that). Certainly that sort of refined English sensibility that Chandler appreciated had all but disappeared from American/Pacific Coast lifestyles by then. But I think Sughrue (Crumley's detective) is not nearly as deranged as what I've read about him in reviews. He's pretty close to what I'd assume to be normal for the era and geography. But then again I'm not finished yet, so maybe he'll execute someone with a baseball bat in a few chapters from now.
Based on what I've written - does anyone have any suggestions for where to go from here? I'm looking for writing that is fun to read and I'm less focused on the story and big picture and themes. Doesn't necessarily need to be crime fiction either.