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The Long-Legged Fly (Lew Griffin #1)

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  664 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
Take a little James Lee Burke, a touch of Ross Macdonald, and a dash of Raymond Chandler, the conventions of the classic American detective story and the fine, thoughtful writing of an original new talent - and you still don't quite have The Long-Legged Fly. This is a smart, tough novel teeming with life and always on the verge of igniting from its own energy. In steamy mo ...more
Paperback, 200 pages
Published October 1st 2001 by Walker Books (first published 1992)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,635)
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Richard Vialet
"In the darkness things always go away from you. Memory holds you down while regret and sorrow kick the hell out of you.

The only help you'll get is a few hard drinks and morning."
This book is unlike any other detective novel I've read. You know how in all detective stories you get the sense that the case our hero is investigating is a stand-out case for him amongst all of his smaller, regular assignments? That it's a a mystery that he'll probably remember forever and is worth dedicating a b
Jul 22, 2013 Algernon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013

My first James Sallis book, and it qualifies as a 'discovery' of a major talent that goes beyond genre borders to write a detective story that is an existentialist meditation on race and relationships, a prose poem dedicated to the city of New Orleans and its exhilarating mix of beauty and darkness, a blues album coming straight from the soul of a man repeatedly knocked down ( Robert Johnson's hellhound was nipping at my heels ). I've been thinking about the title, and I guess it refers to 'how
Oct 29, 2011 Greg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
Lately I've been on a crime fiction jag. I have a giant stack of read but not reviewed books sitting next to my computer, and I better get cracking at reviewing them, most of them are library books and they have to get back soon. I think I might be over-dosing a little on the genre, the stories will soon start blending with one another. I don't know if I can call myself a 'fan' of crime fiction, I certainly enjoy it, but I feel like I have to be reading it for a lot longer than I have been to sa ...more
Sep 15, 2012 Melki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction, noir
If you're a private dick, and potential clients need to track you down in a bar in order to hire you...that's probably NOT a GOOD thing.

It seems to work out okay for p.i. Lew Griffin, however, because he has a real knack for finding people.

In 1964, he is hired by a black militant group (not the Panthers), to find a missing female activist (not Angela Davis). The book then follows Griffin through the years to 1990 as he searches for the vanished. He's an interesting fellow with little tolerance
Dec 24, 2013 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night, lit
“In the darkness things always go away from you. Memory holds you down while regret and sorrow kick hell out of you. The only help you'll get is a few hard drinks and morning.”

This memoir of Lew Griffin, private detective, occasional drunk, crime writer and professional citizen of New Orleans, is the debut novel from James Sallis and no amount of superlative praise can do it justice. Sallis has written introductions for books from Derek Raymond, Charles Willeford and James Lee Burke and he wears
Anthony Vacca
Jun 19, 2015 Anthony Vacca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poet and translator of Oulipian lit, James Sallis goes the distance with his debut novel,The Long-Legged Fly, a private eye mystery that manages to bring a fresh approach to a well-established and sometimes derivative genre. Narrated by Lew Griffin, an autodidact African American PI operating out of the neon rain-slicked streets of New Orleans, the novel spans over three decades and is divided into four episodic parts that, rather than conforming to one over-arching mystery, instead paint the sw ...more
Jul 26, 2015 Jon rated it liked it
This is a difficult book to review and rate. The book has some good things to it, but there’s also some glaring weaknesses that ultimately made it more than a little frustrating to me. Unfortunately, I had high expectations from the beginning, so the disappointment was particularly acute. The cover blurb quotes several glowing reviews from The Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly, and The Washington Post Book World. The Times quote states “An extraordinary first novel….justly compared to James L ...more
Jul 10, 2011 Adam rated it really liked it
Shelves: black-comedy, noir
James Sallis’s Lew Griffin books are enigmatic and move at their own peculiar logic. Sometimes poetic, sometimes willing to linger on an exquisite slice of life, at points terrifying and existential(lots of disappearances and eerie phone calls), and always filled with literary references(Queneau, Bernhard, Robbe-Grillet, Beckett, Chester Himes). Where Le Carre and Greene get accused of writing “spy novels” as opposed to thrillers these books could be accused of being “detective novels”, as they ...more
Jack Tripper

Cover of the 1994 Avon Books mass-market paperback, not listed here.
Feb 03, 2015 Karl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The Long-Legged Fly” by James Sallis the first in the series of Lew Griffin books is like sipping some fine wine. This is my second time reading this book, the first reading was about fifteen years ago, and I must say the book has aged better than I remember it.

What Mr. Sallis gives us in the book are four views of Private Detective Griffin’s life through the span of some years. The common thread in the stories is the need for the detective to find a missing person. All the events take place in
May 19, 2013 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Maybe the best parts of out lives are always over. Maybe happiness, contentment, are things we only recollect through filters of time, elusive ghosts forever behind us.”

THE LONG LEGGED FLY is on par with the great American detective novels which embody and define noir down to its seedy and desperate core (think James Crumley). Drowning sorrows, starving the soul of oxygen, Griffin is the true tainted protagonist. Seeking love and ones lost, solace and a time to mean something, Griffin meanders
Nancy Oakes
Storylines, etc are detailed at my online reading journal's crime page while in this space I'll just leave my impression.

This is an absolutely super book, and something entirely different. Rather than having an entire series follow a main character's arc, James Sallis manages to put it into one book. There are five books which follow this one in his Lew Griffin series which I haven't read, but The Long-Legged Fly covers a span of time from 1964 through 1990.

Set in New Orleans, each section of
Aug 16, 2010 Mohammed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of serious crime fiction and great writers in general
A poetic,complex story about PI Lew Griffin who is a great character,so well realised,so human,real.

One of few contemporary serious,masterful crime books i have read. I liked that also that you had think what the writer was trying to say with his story. Not a simple crime book about plot this one.

James Sallis is one of the best living authors i have read. Looking forward to read every work he had done.
Andrew Smith
Jan 30, 2015 Andrew Smith rated it liked it
Lots of things I like here: Louisiana, detectives, dark tales of wrong doing - yeah, it's my kinda story. If it weren't for the fact I found it hard to follow the strands of the story & knit them together (I'm still not entirely sure what they add up to) I'd have rated it higher.
Jun 29, 2010 THOMAS rated it it was amazing
Devastating. I can't believe more people don't talk about James Sallis. I bought a copy of this book in 1998 as an example of a crime novel cover, before I really even read crime novels, for an illustration class. I filed it away, never read it, never looked at it. Forgot it. Then I found this at my folks' house RIGHT after reading my first novel of his. Shit is a REVELATION. Darkly poetic, at times excruciatingly painful and tragic. The Lew Griffin character encompasses all of the rage and alie ...more
Feb 25, 2009 Johnny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why it's taken me this long to read James Sallis, but this book is right in my wheelhouse. I liked the atmosphere and writing so much, I immediately bought the next three books in the series.

While personally, I think calling this a novel is a stretch. But while the four short stories that make up THE LONG-LEGGED FLY could easily stand on their own, the loose thematic links make me glad that they are together.

If there's a flaw, it's that the book doesn't know how to end. But that fac
Apr 02, 2012 Martin rated it did not like it
Shelves: library, thriller
I hated it, not to put too fine a point on it. I found it a completely pointless book: all it is is a series of episodes stretching from 1964 to 1990, in none of which anything actually happens except the hero realizing his life sucks. Not once but twice we get treated to an aseptic description of him falling into alcoholic squalor terminating in coma and hospital treatment, from which he returns to normality each time with no real transition period.

The only real hook for the book that I can se
Sep 26, 2009 Spuddie rated it liked it
#1 Lew Griffin mystery set in New Orleans. The book travels through time from 1964 when Lew was a young private eye to the 1990's when he's an older author of mystery novels and sometimes "looks into things" on the side. Lew Griffin is a tough black private eye and even in the 1960's he was cynical and world-weary, drinking too much and barely scraping by, alternating between apathy and rage with little in-between. Self-educated and sensitive underneath it all, his drinking problem develops into ...more
Samantha Glasser
Feb 09, 2015 Samantha Glasser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulps, fiction
It is always refreshing to read a book so tight and readable you can get it done in a day. This author really knew how to edit his story so the reader gets only the important facts and a full story emerges, without all of the flowery nonsense that some writers indulge in. That isn't what good crime novels are about. They're about men of few words, men of action, men who don't dwell on the menial details of their lives in fear of going crazy.

Lew Griffin is a private detective in New Orleans, a c
I wanted a new author to try as an audiobook. Sallis had two things going for him - We have the whole series on talking book and at least the first one is short. Sometimes I get lost in long talking books because it takes me awhile to listen to them.

Lew Griffin, the protagonist, is a black man reviewing his life from the 60's through the 90's. This is not necessarily a good time to be African-American and it is definitely not a good time to be Lew Griffin. He is angry, frustrated and an alcoholi
Tim Niland
Apr 25, 2010 Tim Niland rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-reads
Lew Griffin is an African-American private investigator in New Orleans. In this book (the first in a five book series) we follow him through four inter-connected stories set roughly a decade apart each. In the beginning we see Griffin as something akin to a traditional private eye, complete with shabby office and requisite drinking problem. As the stories progress, things deviate from the traditional detective story. He still acts as a "finder" looking for missing people, but the focus of the bo ...more
Feb 25, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
This is James Sallis first novel, the front cover reads "crime novel", but it is much more than that. He has that gift of prose like James Lee Burke, and also like him makes the characters so real they come to life off the pages. Lewis Griffin is a black man,well read, private eye in New Orleans who has an occasional serious drinking problem. It starts in 1964, and this short book ends in 1990. You just keep reading and turning the page, and then it ends and you want more.
May 17, 2012 Bert rated it it was amazing
Stunner. Stripped-down dreamlike molassic noir full of bar-room poetry, ruminations, New Orleans, night, coffee, heat, violence and blues. And chicory, which I'm considering taking up. Nothing you could accuse of being a plot, just a series of jags, investigations, failed relationships, recollections spanning decades that may, or just as likely may not, connect in some abstract way. It works. And by the end Sallis even throws in a little post-modern twist to add to the mystic soup.
Sep 23, 2016 F.R. rated it it was ok
Much like John Updike in his Rabbit novels, ‘The Long Legged Fly’ checks in with its central character at roughly ten year intervals. Except instead of a former high-school sports star gone to seed, we follow the life of a New Orleans private detective who’s damned good at finding missing persons. There are some interesting elements here: for example, the way that (until the final one) the cases are pretty interchangeable, raising questions of how much character really matters in detective novel ...more
Dec 28, 2015 Scott_flaxman rated it really liked it
This one is intriguing. It feels like it shouldn't work, but it does (so very well). The language is wonderful, the characters engaging and descriptions are hard boiled and to the point. The plot? I'm not quite sure there is one. There are a series of largely unrelated events that happen at different points in Lew's life. He doesn't really learn anything from those events. He doesn't really grow as a character. In fact, it's sort of like the biography that your 'colourful uncle' might like to wr ...more
Mar 01, 2014 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was so different from his John Turner books that I thought I'd picked up another writer by the name of Sallis. This story brought to mind the works of Brett Halliday/Michael Shayne whom I use to read in my teens (1960's) while others were reading more approved books. ..This was the first in the Lew Griffin series. Griffin a black P.I. working in New Orleans tells the story of his life through a few of his cases starting in 1964 and ending in 1990. There are ups and then rock bottom for ...more
Phillip Thurlby
Aug 08, 2014 Phillip Thurlby rated it really liked it
Now here is a work that leaves you wondering "what was that about?" - but in a good way I think. It's like an episode of The Wire in that you get to the end and think "what actually happened?" seems like not a lot but I was sucked in nonetheless.

It plays out like a series of episodes marking the defining moments in Lew Griffin's career as a Private Eye. Each miniature story has its own arc and momentum whilst contributing collectively to a very real portrait of a man whose life seems to be slipp
Apr 05, 2013 Chrisbeacham rated it it was amazing
There are rare writers of mysteries who succeed beyond the trappings of the genre. James Sallis is one of the best. What makes a great mystery?

A focus on place. While a mystery deals typically with crime, the crime/event takes place in time and place. Within "The Long-Legged Fly" you can smell, feel, and taste New Orleans.

A focus on character. One doesn't have to like the protagonist and here Lew Griffin is full of warts, an acerbic sometimes recovering drunk who is prone to letting people dow
Ty Wilson
This is the story of New Orleans detective Lew Griffin. A string of cases takes him from 1964 to 1990. As each story unfolds over the years, you realize the real mystery of this book is Lew Griffin himself. The picture of Lew becomes clearer and clearer as you go, as Lew evolves from a street-smart private dick to an author and teacher. This isn't really a book about the destination, this is all about the journey. This is a book written by a true poet, a writer that strings together words into a ...more
Terry Cornell
Sep 19, 2015 Terry Cornell rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
Loved the New Orleans setting. This is the second James Sallis book I've read, but the first in the Lew Griffin series. Much like the other book I read, 'Cypress Grove', you slowly learn about the main character as the book moves along. 'The Long-Legged Fly' is written in three parts, decades apart. If it was a stand alone book, I find that plausible, but considering it's the first in a series it seems like Lew Griffin must be getting fairly old in the following books. I guess I'll have to find ...more
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James Sallis (born 21 December 1944 in Helena, Arkansas) is an American crime writer, poet and musician, best known for his series of novels featuring the character Lew Griffin and set in New Orleans, and for his 2005 novel Drive, which was adapted into a 2011 film of the same name.
More about James Sallis...

Other Books in the Series

Lew Griffin (6 books)
  • Moth (Lew Griffin, #2)
  • Black Hornet (Lew Griffin, #3)
  • Eye of the Cricket (Lew Griffin, #4)
  • Bluebottle (Lew Griffin, #5)
  • Ghost of a Flea (Lew Griffin, #6)

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“In the darkness things always go away from you. Memory holds you down while regret and sorrow kick hell out of you. The only help you'll get is a few hard drinks and morning.” 6 likes
“I wondered then: what was it that started a person sinking? Was that long fall in him (or her) from the start, in us all perhaps; or something he put there himself, creating it over time and unwittingly just as he created his face, his life, the stories he lived by, the ones that let him go on living.” 2 likes
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