Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 11-12.

 

Condon, Richard.  Prizzi’s Honor.  New York: Coward, McCann, and Geogehan, 1982.

Prizzi’s Honor brought Richard Condon to more attention than any of his books, with the possible exception of The Manchurian Candidate (1959).  With Janet Roach, Condon co-wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of the novel, directed by John Huston and starring Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner, and Angelica Huston.  For the screenplay, Condon was nominated for an Academy Award and received awards from the Writers Guild of America and the British Academy of Film and Television Sciences.  The novel ultimately became the middle novel in a trilogy, with the prequel, Prizzi’s Family, being published in 1988 and the sequel, Prizzi’s Money, in 1994.  Prizzi’s Honor was a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection, and Prizzi’s Family was a main selection of the Literary Guild.

The Prizzi novels were three of the final four novels that Condon produced.  They represent a culmination to his career, and yet, in some ways, they also represent an unexpected turn in his career.  The main character is Charley Partanna, a hit man for the Prizzi mob family.  At the center of Prizzi’s Honor is Charley’s marriage to Irene Walker, a free-lance killer for hire.  Exploiting Condon’s fascination with rampant but justifiable paranoia, the novel builds to a darkly ironic climax as the spouses are compelled to accept contracts on each other.  Organized crime was not a subject that Condon had previously explored at any great length.  The Prizzi novels move beyond realism to myth-making, but the end result is something a good deal more skewed than the myth-making at work in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.  Imagine Thomas Berger writing the Godfather, and you’ll have some sense of how Condon brings the reader to the point of laughter and then does not allow the release of a full laugh.  Unlike many of Condon’s other novels, the Prizzi trilogy is satiric but too off-center to be simply classified as satire.

 

Connelly, Michael.  The Concrete Blonde.  Boston: Little, Brown, 1994.

In the several decades since he published his first detective novel, Michael Connelly has won an Edgar Award, multiple Anthony Awards, several Macavity Awards, the Shamus Award, and the RBA International Prize for Crime Writing (worth more than $150,000).  Formerly a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Connelly has invested his novels with a sharp sense of contemporary American life and of the ways in which the mainstream culture intersects with the illicit sub-cultures.  Most of Connelly’s novels have featured Los Angeles police detective, Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch, but as the series has become more extended, Connelly has alternated novels in the series with novels featuring other characters, such as a crime reporter, a retired F.B.I. agent, and a burglar.

Although it is not one of the Bosch novels for which Connelly has received a major award, The Concrete Blonde stands with the best of his work.  A multi-leveled mystery, the novel’s central action is Bosch’s trial for gunning down a suspected serial killer.  Bosch had thought that the suspect was reaching for a gun, but instead of a weapon, he died clutching a toupee.  Bosch is tried by an assistant district attorney determined to establish a reputation for having zero tolerance for police brutality.  But, in the course of the trial, someone using the serial killer’s signatures resumes the murder spree.  Bosch must determine whether the original suspect was, in fact, innocent or a copycat killer is now at work.

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Previous Posts in This Series:

Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 1-2: https://academeblog.org/2015/06/24/murder-is-our-peculiar-pastime-fifty-notable-american-crime-novels-1-2/.

Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 3-4: https://academeblog.org/2015/07/02/murder-is-our-peculiar-pastime-fifty-notable-american-crime-novels-3-4/

Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 5-6: https://academeblog.org/2015/08/07/murder-is-our-peculiar-pastime-fifty-notable-american-crime-novels-5-6/

Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 7-8: https://academeblog.org/2015/08/11/murder-is-our-peculiar-pastime-fifty-notable-american-crime-novels-7-8/

Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 9-10: https://academeblog.org/2015/08/18/murder-is-our-peculiar-pastime-fifty-notable-american-crime-novels-9-10/

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Previous Series:

The final post in each series is followed by links to all of the previous posts in that series.

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/30/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-49-50/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: https://academeblog.org/2015/06/02/13370/

 

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