The hard boiled crime genre is a harsh, unsparing one populated with morally crippled characters, gritty street realism, and outbreaks of sudden, graphic violence. The genre's bloodlines run through the classic works of Jim Thompson, George V. Higgins, and James Ellroy.
Here are three of the best hard boiled crime writers working today:
George Pelecanos - His novels are set in Washington D.C., but not in the world of big time politics. This world is one of working class streets, gang turf, and small time hoods with vicious ambitions. A series of novels feature streetwise former cop Derek Strange, beginning with Right As Rain. The author's recent novel The Cut introduces a new character, Spero Lucas, an Iraq war veteran and freelance investigator who will work for almost anyone, including local criminal types.
Pelecanos writes with a clean, razor-sharp style that seems to move with an effortless momentum through the hard-edged stories that he tells.
James Sallis - Author of the novel Drive and its sequel Driven, whose main character is known only as Driver. He works as a movie stunt driver and sometimes makes side money driving in robbery jobs for crime gangs. Sometimes, those jobs go bad.
The novels are brute, existentialist parables. Driver lives day-to-day. He defines himself only by his actions to survive in the moment, whatever that uncertain next moment may be, Stay alive, keep moving somewhere.
That restless, spontaneous movement is a metaphor for the character and for the novels themselves. Sallis writes with an ice-cold minimalism that embodies the bleak, violence-spotted road that Driver travels down.
Dennis Lehane - His work is set in the rough-edged blue collar neighborhoods of south Boston -- areas of worn brick tenements, raw red complexions, and shabby local bars filled with tired, embittered patrons. A petty crime act is only a step away for people who don't have much to begin with.
An ongoing series of novels features private eye Patrick Kensie and his partner, and later wife, Angela Gennaro. The series includes the classic Gone, Baby, Gone and its recent sequel Moonlight Mile.
Central to the novels is the sardonic narrative voice of Kensie and how changes in his new family situation with Gennaro and their small daughter affect his philosophy in facing the brutal violence he encounters in his work.