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The Last Good Kiss [Paperback]

James Crumley
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 5 1988 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
Tough, hard-boiled, and brilliantly suspenseful, The Last Good Kiss is an unforgettable detective story starring C. W. Sughrue, a Montana investigator who kills time by working at a topless bar. Hired to track down a derelict author, he ends up on the trail of a girl missing in Haight-Ashbury for a decade. The tense hunt becomes obsessive as Sughrue takes a haunting journey through the underbelly of America's sleaziest nightmares.

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Product Description


"The last good mystery." —Rolling Stone

"James Crumley is a first-rate American writer.... pyrotechnically entertaining, sexy, compassionate." —The Village Voice

"What Raymond chandler did for the Los Angeles of the Thirties, James Crumley does for the roadside West of today." —Harper's

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There's much better out there Oct. 25 2003
By Kirstin
This book has been praised by many, including crime writers I admire, but now that I've read the book, all I can say is that I don't understand what all the fuss is about. The story lacks suspense and narrative tension (things just kind of happen, one after another, to the passive protagonist); the characters are disappointingly superficial; and my B.S. meter was in the red zone throughout a large part of the book. It's neither a mystery nor a thriller; it's more of a period road-trip story with a weakly-motivated quest and some shady characters and dealings thrown in. The ending (with or without the last chapter) brought no satisfaction.
How anyone can compare this writer to James Ellroy is beyond me. Yes, there's some superficially grim subject matter in The Last Good Kiss, but Ellroy, unlike Crumley, digs into his stories' evil in a relentlessly true and honest way. Further, where Ellroy's writing sings and bops, Crumley's is pedestrian. Perhaps sleazy subject matter was shocking in the '70s, but it sure isn't now. The whole '70s on-the-road shtick gets old fast, too. The bulldog was the best thing about this book.
If you want to read fine crime writing that's grim, true, and well written, try Ellroy's The Big Nowhere and the rest of his L.A. Quartet, or anything by Dennis Lehane.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a winner! Oct. 14 2002
I agree with the other reviewers--a well-written P.I. novel. I don't usually read mysteries these days and even though I read this one two decades ago I simply had to say a word or two about it as a way of paying respects to Mr. Crumley and the fine job of writing he has done here. Terrific read. Just thinking about it makes me want to buy another copy (I lost the first one somewhere) for a second reading. Genre novels of this caliber are few and far between. Bukowski attempted to write one entitled Pulp and failed miserably. I like Buk a lot, but to be honest he missed the target entirely with his take on the P.I. tale. What can you do? Last Good Kiss delivers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Don�t Judge This One by the Cover May 22 2003
By the drawing of the bulldog on the most recent cover, one might mistake 'The Last Good Kiss' for a cozy, cute mystery. That would be a mistake of monumental proportions. 'The Last Good Kiss' is a hard hitting, gritty, graphic hard-boiled novel about some pretty nasty people doing some pretty nasty things. It's also exceptionally well written.
C.W. Sughrue, a Montana P.I., is hired to track down a drunken writer. He finds his man, but along the way Sughrue takes another case, a case he knows will lead to nothing good. His job is to find a girl who ran away from home many, many years ago. The hunt for the girl leads Sughrue through a parade of despicable degenerates with no redeeming qualities.
It can be a hard novel to read and a difficult one to forget. In Sughrue, Crumley has created a detective who lives in a broken world, hoping that there might just be one good thing on the horizon, one good reason to live, one good thing to believe in. The settings, characters, tone...it all works, establishing the novel as one of the greats in the hard-boiled mystery genre. But again, if you are looking for a nice, cozy mystery to curl up with for a relaxing evening, this is not for you. Definitely not for kids.
244 hard-boiled pages
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sughrue Is In Control Sept. 1 2002
The story begins with private detective C.W. Sughrue tracking down poet and author Abraham Trahearne, who has taken off on a drinking binge. Just as Trahearne is found and run to ground in a California bar, the owner of the bar asks Sughrue if he could investigate the disappearance of her daughter. Problem is, the girl, one Betty Sue Flowers, went missing 10 years ago and finding her drifts into the realm of impossibility. Nevertheless, Sughrue agrees to do what he can.
James Crumley presents us with another private detective hailing from Meriwether, Montana. C. W. Sughrue is a very interesting character. While he's not without his faults, he drinks, chases women and breaks the law when he has to, he is a morally strong character who is determined to see that justice prevails above all else. He finds himself in an unusual position in dealing with Trahearne. Trahearne seems to live peacefully with his wife, ex-wife and mother, but feels the need to occasionally get away and go on a bender every so often. He befriends Sughrue and they do a bit of travelling together, but Sughrue keeps getting the feeling that something's not quite right, but can't quite put his finger on what it is.
There's quite a bit more to this story than first meets the eye, and the key to it has to do with Sughrue's feelings towards Trahearne and his family. Sughrue's uneasiness rubbed off to me a little and I was beginning to wonder what I was supposed to be picking up. It was a clever device that drew me into the story, ensuring that I read every word closely, looking for a clue that would tip me off.
This is an easy-going hardboiled story, if there can be such a thing. Sughrue is a very laid back character and seems to have all the time in the world to look for his missing persons, enjoying the journey as much as possible. This made it feel as though I was cruising through the book along with him until all the pieces of the jigsaw fell together towards the end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Modern hard-boiled detective...with a twist Aug. 28 2002
Gardner Dozois recommended James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss to me as the best hard-boiled detective novel written in the last ten years. With that kind of recommendation, I would have been hard-pressed to pass it up. And Dozois is correct, as far as I can tell. Crumley's C.W. Sughrue has that quality that I thought was lost when I finished reading the last Dashiell Hammett story. But Crumley isn't just playing off of Hammett and Chandler, although he is firmly in their tradition. Crumley is as post-modern as they come, and knows that life and people are as sleazy as anything James Ellroy or Andrew Vachss has put to the page (not to even mention the real thing).
C.W. Sughrue is hired to track down a derelict author who's on a drinking binge by the author's ex-wife. What begins so simply quickly soon complicates--I can't quite explain how complicated it becomes, either. There's a point in the middle of the novel where I said to myself, "Well, that's it. We've had the set-up, the complication, a little goose-chase, a climax, and here we are." But I was only halfway through the book. Contrary to normal novel structure, Crumley leaves you hanging within the denouement while he sets up an entirely new climax not once or twice, but three times.
Crumley has taught literature in Texas, Arkansas and Montana, and understands the directions recent fiction has taken. Although he's not about to give up the traditional, he has assimilated some of the modern tricks. The ending, in particular, is something that I doubt you would have seen in a previous decade.
All in all, Crumley is a voice that is worth looking out for. On the basis of The Last Good Kiss, I plan to search out his other two novels and his short story collection. I recommend that you do, also.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Best detective novel ever written
I bought this book some years ago because I liked the picture of the bulldog on the cover. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. C.W. Read more
Published on Oct. 9 2002 by Cindy
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll only use half your seat!!!
The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley is a book that will stay with me for a long time. The editorial review says that Last Good Kiss is "unforgettable" and it is. Read more
Published on July 15 2002 by Rafik
4.0 out of 5 stars For those of you who like to look under the rock . . . .
This is an excellent mystery novel. If you taught a University level course on the mystery-noir, this would follow Hammett and Chandler and precede James Lee Burke and George... Read more
Published on June 28 2002 by Larry Scantlebury
3.0 out of 5 stars meandering read
After reading the glowing reviews, I thought I would be in for a mesmerizing journey. Sorry to say, I would only classify it as meandering. Read more
Published on May 5 2002 by Frank Green
5.0 out of 5 stars No Heros, No Happy Endings
This is the first book by James Crumley that I have read. Believe me I plan to read others. After each reading of
Crumley's book I felt I needed to take a shower. Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2002 by Curtis R. Clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars The best mystery.
This is the best mystery novel I have ever read. Absolutly. No question. If you like Hammet, Chandler, or Ellroy you won't go wrong reading this terrific book.
Published on Oct. 16 2001 by David H Massie
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything You Want in A Story
Never having read raymond chandler I can't comment on comparisons to him, but I was blown away by this book. Read more
Published on Aug. 22 2001 by James C. Dascoli
5.0 out of 5 stars Crumley is a master; this is noir at its finest
Reading a James Crumley novel is like getting hit in the face with a two-by-four swung by a tennis pro. Great form, tremendous pain.
C.W. Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2001 by James L. Roberts
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