|Posted by Vladimir Mortsgna on March 12, 2019 at 10:10 PM|
1976 was not as strong a year for mysteries as 1975, but it wasn’t weak enough for me to endorse the award to the disappointing and overrated Promised Land. Other notable mysteries of 1975 include one of Agatha Christie’s very last novels, Sleeping Murder, and Dick Francis’ In the Frame. I read both and about all that I can remember is that Miss Marple was in one and a guy who painted horses was in the other. Neither would go in my Top 10 for that author. William F Buckley’s Saving the Queen launched a whole series that is fairly popular, though I prefer the works of the next generation by William’s son Christopher. Ira Levin’s The Boys from Brazil is worthy of consideration as well.
As of 1976, the great Elmore Leonard was 12 books into his career with Swag, a tragicomic tale of a car salesman who falls into a life of crime and finds that he is good at it. We are seven years before the incredible run that Elmore Leonard enjoyed between 1982’s Cat Chaser and 2000’s Pagan Babies, including masterpieces such as LaBrava (which won the Edgar), Pronto, Get Shorty and Maximum Bob. I know I think Pagan Babies is the best and it is hard to put the rest of Leonard’s greatest in order. But in some ways, it is Swag that shows Leonard starting to turn in a new direction, from the cowboy genre and the relatively linear crime novels like City Primeval or the ones with one moral twist like 52 Pickup to the classic Elmore Leonard with multiple colorful villains, complex and unsaintly heroes, meticulously described violence and downbeat twists. Some of Elmore’s greats came out in years with far more competition. For example, Maximum Bob came out in 1991, as did The Firm, The Secret Pilgrim, American Psycho, and Time’s Arrow. Swag is a strong book in a weak year and is my mystery of the year for 1976.
Categories: Edgar Winner Reviews (No Spoilers)