I missed the boat on The Rap Sheet’s great feature highlighting forgotten or under-appreciated mystery novels and didn’t get my suggestions in on time but that doesn’t mean they have to go unmentioned. One of them, THE NIGHT MEN by Keith Snyder, already got a nice writeup at Laura Lippman’s blog The Memory Project that I recommend you check out. The other I would have recommended was Victor Gischler’s brilliant academic satire THE PISTOL POETS. Mostly when people talk about VG’s work they mention GUN MONKEYS, SHOTGUN OPERA, or possibly even SUICIDE SQUEEZE, but I never hear mention of PP. When I was talking to him about this a while ago, he also mentioned it’s one of his own favorites and feels is was overlooked. So everyone go out and check it out. Now!
But when it comes to the one book I feel has been so under-appreciated it’s criminal, it’s not a mystery book. It’s called CARRIE PILBY by Caren Lissner and it was published by Red Dress Ink a few years ago. I first ran across this book in manuscript form when I was working at Bantam Dell and it was being considered by the pub board. They eventually passed on it, but the story of a young genius struggling to adapt and survive in New York City after graduation from Harvard at 19 stuck with me. I kept in contact with the author over the years here and there, then when it was finally published by RDI in 2003 I eagerly grabbed several copies and I’ve been passing them out like religious tracts.
If this book would have been published by Knof or Scribner it would have been hailed as a female CATCHER IN THE RYE. Catcher is by far my favorite classic novel, but Carrie is a much more likable and realistic character. Her transformation from a naive and judgemental girl into a full grown woman and fully rounded character is one of the true literary joys of my life. This book should be famous, and read in universities and high schools across the country and Caren Lissner should be the next big literary super star.