Murder in the Library: Comics

What? You thought I made this all up, or cut-and-pasted it all from Wikipedia? Nope. Here are the books that inspired me to create this site, and the books I’ve used to cobble it together over the years, as well as the ones I’ve discovered along the way, broken down into various categories. If you like this site, you may find some of these as fascinating as I do. 

| General Reference | History, Theory, Criticism & Other Agendas | The Pulps & Short Fiction |
| Television | Film | Radio | Comics | The Writing Life | DiversionsTrue Detectives | True Crime |
The Paper Chase |



  • Benton, Mike, editor.
    The Illustrated History of Crime Comics | Buy this book
    Dallas, Texas: Taylor Publishing Company, 1993.
    A mother of a motherlode of info on crime comics, lavishly illustrated, and with plenty of dirt on (and pics of) eyes you and I never even knew existed. Highly recommended.
  • Dinan, John A.,
    Private Eyes in the Comics | Buy this book
    Boalsburg, PA: BearManor Media, 2003.
    Master pulp historian John A. Dinan serves up arguably the first book specifically on PIs in the comics. A history and appreciation of the tough guy, the deadly dame and the dog in the trenchcoat. Illustrated.
  • Gifford, Denis,
    The Encyclopedia of Comic Characters
    UK: Longman, 1987.
  • Goulart, Ron, editor.
    The Encyclopedia of American Comics
    New York: Facts on File, 1990.
  • Gravett, Paul, editor,
    The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics | Buy this book
    London, Constable & Robinson, 2008.
    This hefty little brick of a paperback, edited by Paul Gravett, the editor of Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know, is like a warning tossed through the plate glass window complacency of all those skinny, over-priced little graphic “novels” that offer a lot of overblown pretentious artwork and precious little actual plot.
    You want story? This collections offers a virtual who’s who tour of crime comics from the forties to the present, offering samples of everything from Will Eisner’s The Spirit to Collins’ and Beatty’s Ms. Tree. The earliest selection is a dry run of Spillane’s Mike Hammer (“Mike Lancer and the Syndicate of Death” from 1942) and winds its way to the present, offering mostly complete stories (or story arcs, in the case of strips) of such familiar classics as Dashiell Hammett and Alex Ross’ Secret Agent X-9 (which, admittedly, is a bit of a letdown)
    Sure, even clocking in at close to 500 pages, there are some glaring omissions (No Dick Tracy? No Slam Bradley? No Johnny Dynamite or 100 Bullets?), but the spattering of off-beat choices and outright rarities they offer instead (a 87th Street Precinct tale from 1962, a 1975 Alack Sinner vignette, a 1948 Simon-Kirby short) more than make up for it. I’m a crime comic geek, but there are enough lost treasures here to satisfy even grumpy nitpickers like me, and the unflinching noirish sophistication offered here by some of the European entries wil be a knock upside the head for American fanboys who think the cartoonish Sin City is the be-all and end-all of comic noir. Please, please, please may this be an annual collection.
  • Gravett, Paul,
    Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know | Buy this book
    New York: Collins Design, 2005.
    A wide-ranging and literate (and well-illustrated) overview of the graphic novel form, with plenty of examples, keen observations, explorations of various genres, suggested further reading and an all-inclusive view that includes not just the done-to-death usual suspects but alternative, foreign and off-the-wall graphic novels you may have missed. Best of all, though, may be the author’s analysis of what he considers 30 key graphic novels. And you’ve just got to love the chutzpah of quoting everyone from Frederico Fellini, Salvador Dali and Dave Eggers to… me? What the fuck? Suffice it to say I’m flattered.
  • Horn, Maurice, editor.
    The World Encyclopedia of Comics
    New York, New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1976.
  • Nadel, Dan,
    Art in Time: Unknown Comic Book Adventures, 1940-1980 | Buy this book
    New York, Abrams ComicArts, 2010.
    A beautifully produced book, offering an interesting survey of forgotten comic book artists and writers, including two complete, hard to find stories each of Harry Lucey’s Sam Hill and Pete Morisi’s Johnny Dynamite.
  • Nicolson, Hope,
    The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen | Buy this book Kindle it!
    Philadelphia, Quirk Books, 2017.
    Sub-titled “Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book history,” this amzing volume traces the evolution — and sometimes the de-evolution — of female characters in Canadian and American comic book history, giving us the scoop on superheroes, detectives, nurses, Lois Lane and even Wendy, the Good Little Witch. Among the female P.I.s covered are Sally the Sleuth, A.Y. Jalisco, Ms. Tree and Dakota North. Sharp where it needs to be, and smart all the way through, this is just a fascinating romp through comic book history.
  • Schutz, Diana, editor,
    Noir: A Collection of Crime Comics | Buy this book
    Milwaukie, Oregon: Dark Horse Comics, 2009.
    The perfect apperitif to the previous year’s The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics, this collection from Dark Horse featured a slew of all-original stories by some of the best writers and artists working the dark end of the comics spectrum at the time, including Thrilling Detective faves such as David Lapham (Stray Bullets!), Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Brian Azzarello, Rick Geary, Paul Grist and Gary Phillips. And all in glorious, smack-in-the-mouth black and white.


  • Hart, Christopher,
    Drawing Crime Noir: Drawing Crime Noir for Comics & Graphic Novels | Buy this book
    Watson-Guptill; 2006.
    This 2006 title, by Christopher Hart, claims to give you the skinny on how to draw for “crime noir,” which he proclaims the “hottest style around”. And he does talk a good game, I admit–he mentions “windswept streets, dark shadowy figures, reckless women, gleaming pistols, men without conscience, boulevards of fear,” blah blah blah and he even namedrops Chandler at one point. But mostly he reduces the genre to a series of visual cliches, and then tells you how to render them. He does offer some interesting and useful drawing tips (providing you can alreadydraw relatively well). It’s when he expounds on the genre itself that he gets into trouble, and joins the long line of people (directors, critics, popcorn chewers, etc.) who wouldn’t know noir if it bitchslapped them across the face.
Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Additions and suggestions welcome.

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