In some ways, Stuart M. Kaminsky’s place here is absolutely essential – he was a prolific writer of all kinds of crime novels (psychological, suspense, thrillers, spy fiction as well as the hard-boiled mysteries he is best known for), and won the Edgar for best Mystery novel for A Cold Red Sunrise, a police procedural set in Siberia. But, he also had a long career as professor of film; and his best novels are the series featuring shambolic shamus Toby Peters (the names of his two sons) which ably combine excellent plots with vivid descriptions of California in the 1930s and 40s and a firm knowledge of film (which, as we know, holds the secrets to all life’s mysteries).
Using a technique better known (and respected) in ‘straight’ fiction by such writers as E.L. Doctrow (most notably Ragtime), Kaminsky superbly blends real and fictional characters in a totally convincing way. So many people try this (including such fine authors as Peter Lovesey and George Baxt), but as far as I am concerned, he is the only one to have truly succeeded in the crime and mystery genre to generate a convincing series using this approach, thanks to his strong ear for dialogue, strong basis in factual research and some highly ingeniousplots. Oh yes, and he is extremely funny as well.
To single a few out for praise would be merely a matter of space, not preference, though I am not totally up to date (I have only the first 13 of the Toby Peters series, and the first 5 of his Inspector Porfiry series) as his books are a little hard to get over here. I plan to post some specific reviews of his books as time goes on though. Most recently he had published several TV tie-in novels featuring characters from CSI and the classic 1970s detective Jim Rockford created by Stephen J Cannell (of his more shortly), which I am sure are good, solid works, but still … Much better to go with his original creations such as Toby Peters (24 volumes), Inspector Rostnikov (16), tough Chicago PD officer Abe Lieberman (10) and his last series, featuring Florida process-server Lew Fonesca (6) as well as his dark stand-alone thrillers When the Dark Man Calls and Exercise in Terror.
In all he wrote some 70 books – well worth making an effort to find them if you can.