Sunday, November 20, 2022

Five of the best novels with memorable, morally complicated characters

Charles Salzberg is a novelist, journalist, and founding member of the New York Writers Workshop.

His first novel, Swann’s Last Song, was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel. After losing, he swore he’d keep writing crime novels until he won something.

After four more novels in the Henry Swann series, he wrote two successful stand-alone novels, Devil in the Hole (named one of the best crime novels of 2013 by Suspense magazine) and Second Story Man (nominated for another Shamus and a David Award, both of which, true to form, he lost). He finally broke the losing streak when Second Story Man was named winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award.

At Shepherd Salzberg tagged five favorite novels with memorable, morally complicated characters, including:
Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman

Reed Farrel Coleman, called “a hard-boiled poet,” and a “noir laureate” has written somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty crime novels, including a number of Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone novels. One of my favorites is Where it Hurts, which features divorced, retired cop Gus Murphy who’s picked up part-time work as a courtesy van driver for a run-down hotel. The only thing that interrupts his mindless routine comes when ex-con Tommy Delcamino asks Gus to investigate the mysterious death of his son. Coleman is particularly strong when it comes to character. This book especially resonates with me because of Coleman’s ability to dig deep inside his character’s psyche, not only examining how they tick but why they tick. His books, especially this one, are tightly plotted but for me the real attraction is his examination of personal, moral dilemmas. I’m especially attracted to and admiring of Coleman’s books, especially this one, because, as in my book, I try hard to create characters who struggle with personal issues that color their behavior, sometimes for the good but often for the not-so-good.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Where It Hurts.

--Marshal Zeringue