To second Martin’s Lawrence Block appreciation below – I am a dipper into detective fiction and it only really sticks when I hit a character I like. Chip Harrison was the clincher for me, a bumper library collected edition with a ridiculously pulpy cover from the crime sectiuon of the library. So I did not expect the first book to contain barely any crime in it and the musings of a runaway sixteen year old who is desperate to have sex.

Those who were on holiday with me last year will probably remember the lurid cover and my occasional exclaimations of how rude the whole thing is. The second book is equally joyous. (The third and fourth relocate Chip as a pseudo Nero Wolfe assistant and whilst are perfectly entertaining and retains his vibrant style are nowhere near as exciting as the first two). The Affairs Of Chip Harrison is a flipside to The Catcher In The Rye, no angst – lots of urges (which eventually, though tortuously, get satisfied).

Keeping an eye out for Block then led me on to Matt Scudder, the alcoholic loser deadbeat archetype of a private dick. Which he is for about the first five books. Then things start looking up. We notice he has more friends, he gets a sidekick and later even marries one of his clients. This is soap opera, but good soap opera because as said below – it also has guns in it. It may be a sign of genre fiction that they retain firmly fixed on running characters, but it strikes me that saying the novel must be a self contained form is disregarding the joys of serial fiction (something 24 fans may sympathise with).