JASON STARR, AUTHOR OF THE CHILL PICKS HIS SIX MOST INFLUENTIAL CRIME NOVELS
There have been so many crime novels that have influenced me, that it was a struggle to narrow this list down to just 5, so I extended the list to 6 and it still feels like I'm leaving a few out. I'm sure once this is posted I'll want to add more, but these 6 have definitely been major influences. And I'm sticking to prose novels rather than graphic novels and pure literary fiction.
THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE by George V. Higgins
Every aspiring crime novelist (or any kind of novelist really) should read this book, as it's a flawless example of how to move a plot forward with dialogue.
THE KILLER INSIDE ME by Jim Thompson
Thompson's masterpiece showed me how to tell a crime story inside out, from the point of view of the bad guy. He wasn't the first to write from this point of view (James M. Cain is the other master), but it's the definitive anti-hero novel of the 20th Century.
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY by Patricia Highsmith
The ultimate psychological thriller. Highsmith shows us that what happens inside a character's head can be just as compelling and gripping as great physical suspense.
THE SHARK-INFESTED CUSTARD by Charles Willeford
Few list this as Willeford's best novel but, trust me, it is. The structure and the multi point of view style blew me away (and it was a big influence on Tarantino for Pulp Fiction, I've heard). Also, Willeford has a great "voice" for crime fiction, and that talent shines here.
GET SHORTY by Elmore Leonard
Like Donald Westlake, Leonard is a great satirical crime writer. While Leonard gets tons of praise for his dialogue, his plotting and characterizations are just as impressive. He's the ultimate crime writer in my opinion, a living legend. I could have picked a dozen Leonard novels as most influential.
THE GUARDS by Ken Bruen
One of the most unique stylist in crime fiction--think Raymond Chandler meets Samuel Beckett. Bruen can do more in less space than any other crime writer.