The Last Good Kiss

The Last Good Kiss - James Crumley A true classic of the crime fiction genre, and for some reason I just got around to it. The book introduces C.W. Sughrue, a Vietnam vet who is now a private dick, usually working boring jobs doing repossessions and divorce cases. As the novel opens, he's finally tracked down Abraham Trahearne, a famous drunken writer who Sughrue was hired to track down before he drinks himself to death. While on the job, he takes another assignment from an old barmaid to track down her daughter, who ran away from home ten years prior. So, accompanied by Trahearne and an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts, Sughrue searches for a girl he's mysteriously drawn to, a girl he only knows from a faded, crumpled photograph.

This book inspired almost all of the contemporary crime writers working today. One of the big reasons why it was so influential is because it took your standard detective novel and turned it into something more, with it's brilliant, poetic prose that, before then, would usually be reserved for more "serious" fiction. Sughrue is a great character, also influencing the modern detective characters today, with his mix of not only toughness, humor, and rough charm, but also with a tender empathy that drives his search for Betty Sue and his friendship with Trahearne. Thankfully he's so likeable and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, because I really didn't like any of the other supporting characters, especially Trahearne. But along with Sughrue, it was Crumley's vivid writing that kept me turning pages, inherently hard-boiled and lyrical at the same time.
"Nobody lives forever, nobody stays young long enough. My past seemed like so much excess baggage, my future a series of long goodbyes, my present an empty flask, the last good drink already bitter on my tongue."