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Featuring what is widely considered one of the most memorable opening lines in crime fiction, The Last Good Kiss takes readers on an alcohol-soaked, viscerally violent ride from the dark depths of San Francisco’s underbelly to what James Crumley referred to as “my twisted highways in the mountain West.” The 1978 thriller begins at the end of hardened Montana investigator C.W. Sughrue’s hunt for runaway author Abraham Trahearne, a job that launches him on an obsessive search for the daughter of a bar owner who went missing a decade earlier. Described in his Washington Post obituary as “a patron saint of the post-Vietnam private eye,” Crumley, who died in 2008, is credited with reinvigorating the hard-boiled subgenre by ushering it out of the Raymond Chandler era and into a grittier yet more poetic juncture. Although Crumley never achieved mainstream success, he published seven critically acclaimed detective novels starring either Sughrue or his anti-hero contemporary, Milo Milodragovitch, that attracted a devout cult following and inspired a new generation of American noir writers, including Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly. —Megan McCluskey

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