Thursday, November 26, 2015

Top 10: the best dialogue in crime fiction

Some of the most brilliant speech in novels can be found in this genre. From Agatha Christie to Raymond Chandler and even Martin Amis, here are some of the best practitioners

Farley Granger  (left) and Robert Walker in the 1951 film version of Strangers on a Train.

Insinuating ... Farley Granger as Guy Haines (left) and Robert Walker as Bruno Antony in the 1951 film version of Strangers on a Train. Photograph: Cinetext / Allstar Collection/Al/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar
I think the most important ingredient of a crime novel is style, and I have tried to embody this philosophy in my new book, The Yellow Diamond, which concerns a unit of the Metropolitan Police that investigates the super-rich. The settings – Mayfair and the south of France (both in winter) – seemed to demand a certain formal elegance, and I read a lot of Scott Fitzgerald while writing the book.

Fitzgerald wrote finely nuanced dialogue, as any stylist must. He was not a crime writer, but many of the best dialogue writers have been. Dialogue lends an immediacy that suits the genre. Also, crime fiction is essentially demotic (even if it’s about the rich), and bad, unmusical dialogue, always makes me think the author is too self-obsessed to have paid attention to how other people speak.

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