(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Like his predecessors Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, Jonathan Valin has created a hard-living, wisecracking, but essentially admirable private investigator. Valin’s Harry Stoner solves mysteries that the police are unable or reluctant to handle, often because the wrongdoers—though not always wealthy or influential themselves—have links to the rich and powerful. In the tradition of Hammett and Chandler, Valin writes in a straightforward, colloquial style. Like the earlier writers of the hard-boiled school, he is compassionate toward characters who despite their human frailties, occasionally rise to heights of courage and concern. Valin differs from the earlier writers of this school in his greater emphasis on sexual perversion, drug addiction, and graphic, sadistic violence. Clearly, he sees these elements as characteristic of the decadent, corrupt American society of the 1980’s and 1990’s, in which Harry Stoner must wage his lonely wars. Popularly and critically acclaimed for his fiction—winning a Shamus Award for Extenuating Circumstances (1989), garnering a Shamus nomination for Second Chance (1991), and named top vote-getter in an informal 2006 Rap Sheet poll asking which series readers would most like to see continued—Jonathan Valin has since 1995 eschewed fiction for nonfiction. Currently a contributing editor to The Absolute Sound, an audiophile periodical, Valin is considered an authority on contemporary upper-range stereo equipment and on classical musical recordings.