Unsung Heroes

tby Rob Gregory Browne

There are a number of writers who I think
are wonderful, but never get the accolades they deserve. These people
consistently write great books, have enough of a following to keep
doing it, but are unknown or forgotten to most of us — including those
of us who read quite a bit.

One such writer is, unfortunately, no longer with us.  More about that later.

His name is Eugene Izzi. He is, quite possibly, one of the best
crime writers ever to put words to paper. His stories are set in a
gritty Chicago, inhabited by bad boys, mob bosses, thiefs, burglars and
hard-assed cops:

The Take
Bad Guys
The Eight Victim
The Booster
King ot the Hustlers
The Prime Roll
Tribal Secrets
Tony’s Justice
Bulletin from the Streets
Safe Harbor
A Matter of Honor
The Criminalist

He wrote three books under the name Nick Gaitano:  Special Victims, Mr. X, and Jaded.

I have most of these books on my shelf. Eventually I’ll have them
all. I have read many of them, but hesitate to read them all because
Mr. Izzi is no longer with us and I want to make them last. I know when
I open an Izzi book that I will not be disappointed. He’s that good.

Now a word about his death. It was officially ruled a suicide, but
there is some controversy about that. He was reportedly found hanging
from a noose outside his office window, with a disk containing several
pages of a new book — one of the scenes describing a man being hung
outside his office window.

I don’t know if this is true. But there were some who said that Izzi
was murdered by a militia group he was researching. Others said he was
merely doing hands-on research that got out of control.

Whatever the case — while this is an interesting side note, it has
little to do with Izzi’s books. If you are a lover of crime fiction, I
urge you to grab as many of them as you can. My first was Bad Guys. A
work of perfection.

Now, I know that many of you reading this have probably heard of Izzi, or your own favorite unsung hero has sprung to mind.

So please share.  Tell us who you think deserves more of the limelight than he or she is getting.


13 thoughts on “Unsung Heroes

  1. Donna

    Daniel Woodrell and Eddie Muller – both deserve to be FAR better known. Both are amazing writers. I wish I had a millionth of their talent.

  2. JDRhoades

    Ditto on the Woodrell. (No disrespect to Mr. Muller, I just haven’t read any of his stuff yet. It just went to the top of the list, though, with Mr. Izzi).

    James Crumley ought to be better known outside the crime fiction community.

    And I think all my fellow Murderati should be making Dan Brown-level money and getting Cormac McCarthy-level respect.

  3. JDRhoades

    Ditto on the Woodrell. (No disrespect to Mr. Muller, I just haven’t read any of his stuff yet. It just went to the top of the list, though, with Mr. Izzi).

    James Crumley ought to be better known outside the crime fiction community.

    And I think all my fellow Murderati should be making Dan Brown-level money and getting Cormac McCarthy-level respect.

  4. Louise Ure

    Here’s to Dan Brown-money and Cormac McCarthy-respect. What a grand toast for the New Year.

    I’ll second the Eddie Muller mention, and I think Crumley still wins the championship for the best opening line of a novel, ever.

    But now I’m off to investigate Mr. Izzi.

  5. Pari Noskin Taichert

    JD,What a nice wish. May I ditto it?

    An author few people have heard of, but whom I like a great deal, is Lucinda Delany Schroeder. She worked for years as a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and has written a great book:A HUNT FOR JUSTICEabout an undercover job in Alaska that nearly killed her. Lucinda lives in ABQ and I’ve convinced her to come to LCC this year in Denver. I urge all of you to read her book and meet her. She’s about, oh, five feet tall and thin — looks like a little fluff of a nothing — and she’s positively lethal (and tremendous fun, too).

    Another author I like very much is Kirk Russell.

    Boy, Rob, there are SO many . . .

  6. Patrick Shawn Bagley

    Charles Portis. He’s kind of a cult figure, a writer’s writer who has only published five novels since 1966 (Norwood, True Grit, The Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis, Gringos).

    Also: Woodrell, Crumley, and Leonardo Padura.

  7. Rae

    Oooh, several underappreciated authors spring immediately to mind:

    Rob Kantner: Writes the amazing Ben Perkins series, about a guy who by day runs the maintenance crew at a condo complex, and in his spare time ‘solves problems’ for people. Think blue-collar, slightly darker Elvis Cole. Just terrific.

    Richard Barre: I don’t think he’s writing crime fiction these days. His Wil Hardesty series was lyrical and dark and poetic.

    Donald Harstad: A great procedural writer, his books are set in small-town middle-America. Comparisons can be drawn with the very excellent Julia Spencer-Fleming, although there’s no romantic conflict in Harstad’s books.

    Ariana Franklin: Her “City of Shadows” was well reviewed last year, but I didn’t hear many people talking about it. One of my all time favorite books, it’s set in Berlin just prior to Hitler’s ascendance. Franklin has begun a new series, featuring a female coroner in 12th century Europe. She just rocks (and I typically don’t much care for historical fiction).

    I could go on, but am stopping now…..

    (And I’m on board with the Brown / McCarthy wish for all you writerly types for the New Year 😉

  8. Peter

    I’ve read that Izzi’s life was such that he could have been one of his own characters.

    Thanks for this comment, which give me another chance to sound off about the great Bill James, probably the best prose stylist and certainly one of the darkest and funniest ever to have written crime fiction in English. Here’s a list of his Harpur & Iles novels. Numbers seven through sixteen, especially, are superb, full of suspense, humor, dark motivation, treachery and delicious social comedy.

    Harpur and Iles1. You’d Better Believe It (1985)2. The Lolita Man (1986)3. Halo Parade (1987)4. Protection (1988)aka Harpur and Iles5. Come Clean (1989)6. Take (1990)7. Astride a Grave (1991)8. Club (1991)9. Gospel (1992)10. Roses, Roses (1993)11. In Good Hands (1994)12. The Detective is Dead (1995)13. Top Banana (1996)14. Panicking Ralph (1997)15. Lovely Mover (1998)16. Eton Crop (1999)17. Kill Me (2000)18. Pay Days (2001)19. Naked at the Window (2002)20. The Girl with the Long Back (2003)21. Easy Streets (2004)22. Wolves of Memory (2005)23. The Sixth Man and Other Stories (2006)24. Girls (2006)


    ===================Detectives Beyond Borders”Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

  9. Woodstock

    I’m glad to see Rae mention Don Harstad. His protagonist is a small town Iowa deputy sheriff. I grew up in an Iowa town about the size of Don’s fictional one, and I meet the Iowans I grew up with on almost every page.

    I think Chester Himes should have a wider reputation. I still have a few of his to read, like Rob, I kind of parcel them out because I know the supply is limited.

    And really, enough with the recommendations, already! My TBR situation is grim enough as it is!

    Happy New Year to everyone!

  10. Allison Brennan

    Keith Ablow wrote six suspense novels for St. Martins and never hit any lists. They were brilliant and among my favorite books. Dr. Ablow is a forensic psychiatrist and his books have as much (or more) depth of criminal psychology and his protagonist is deeply and realistically flawed. But he never hit any lists and he stopped writing fiction. He became “known” and hit the NYT list after writing a NF book called INSIDE THE MIND OF SCOTT PETERSON. The book was good, but I think his suspense are far better.

  11. Linkmeister

    Can a writer be unsung for part of his work while at the same time highly acclaimed for another part? If so, John D. MacDonald’s non-Travis McGee books deserve more attention (and to be back in print!).


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