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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007 6:55 am
Underappreciated, Yes — But Not by Booklist
Posted by: Keir Graff

A quick link before I go. In the Los Angeles Times (“Mystery writer John Shannon prowls L.A.’s dark streets“), Josh Getlin does a nice profile of mystery writer John Shannon. (Oh, wait, the headline explained that, didn’t it?)

In John Shannon’s literary world, the neo-noir thriller is more than a lazy weekend read. He charges into Los Angeles neighborhoods where few mystery writers venture, shining a light on the city’s sprawling, multicultural enclaves. And unlike many of his brethren, he has a political chip on his shoulder, telling taut, fast-paced stories about underdogs and big shots through the eyes of an aging, disillusioned ’60s lefty.

The result is a body of work that has earned Shannon rich critical praise. But he may be one of the best L.A. mystery writers you’ve never heard of. After 35 years in the literary trenches, he’s still struggling for a visibility that other writers take for granted.

Shannon’s Jack Liffey series has been reviewed quite warmly in Booklist — lately by yours truly — so if Shannon hasn’t gotten the visibility he deserves, you can’t blame us (as Getlin notes).

At a time when noir fiction is thriving, it’s tempting to believe Shannon’s moment has arrived. Yet in one review after another, critics lament that he has not found his true audience. Booklist, for example, said Shannon’s series, “despite earning more than its share of critical raves, has yet to achieve the popular acclaim it deserves.”

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