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Epitaph for a Tramp & Epitaph for a Dead Beat: The Harry Fannin Detective Novels

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  160 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Before achieving critical acclaim as a novelist, David Markson paid the rent by writing several crime novels, including two featuring the private detective Harry Fannin. Together here in one volume, these works are now available to a new generation of readers.

In Epitaph for a Tramp, Fannin isn't called out to investigate a murder — it happens on his doorstop. In the swelte
Paperback, 377 pages
Published November 15th 2006 by Counterpoint (first published 1959)
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May 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2006-reads

This is truly a golden age for mystery readers. The popularity of the mystery is on the rise, as evidenced by seeing names such as Michael Connelly and T. Jefferson Parker on the best-seller lists. Recently, there have been several publishers who have reached back into the crime fiction archives to publish books that have long been out of print. Such is the case with the Harry Fannin detective novels by David Markson, which are being reprinted by Shoemaker & Hoard. Markson wrote t
Laura Wallace
Jun 25, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-crime
How could I not love this? There is some particular hardboiled writer that Markson sounds just like. I guess I am thinking of Hammett. As in Hammett, the jokes really are devastatingly clever, thrown off a dozen to a page with that delicious nonchalance, but/and there is a certain campiness to them that adds an element of self-parody which just adds to the bleak tone of the genre. Which makes me realize how much I do love Hammett's style, even though I was all about Chandler in the noir class I ...more
Jul 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
I only read "Epitaph for a Tramp." Very enjoyable/easy read and full of great literary references, included but not limited to: Malcolm Lowry, William Gaddis, T.S. Eliot, Dostoevsky, Ernest Hemingway, and Marcel Proust. As hard boiled as hard boiled can be.
Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
Markson knew exactly what he was doing when he decided to pen a couple of hard-boiled detective novels, and he did so with flair and a wonderful literary eye. Fannin is probably one of the most erudite detectives to ever walk the streets of NYC.
Jun 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
For such a total square, Harry Fannin sure knows a lot of cool cats. He also has worse luck with the dames than any other fictional detective I know.
Corey Miller
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
With this book, you actually get two of the author's early crime novels in one volume. There are some wonderful turns of phrase in each; and a lot of memorable descriptions. But in the end, for me, both suffered from convoluted plots that didn't always make sense. A fun enough diversion, but not as memorable as I was hoping they would be.
Jack Duff
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reality-like
Just about the best classic detective fiction you can get, shocking how little Markson's more highbrow literary gifts show through in aesthetic, but they show through in an impeccably progressing plot, memorable characters, and some simply great prose.
Aveugle Vogel
Mar 21, 2018 rated it liked it
"under dense high firs"
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-have
If you gobble up hardboiled tales like they are Halloween candy, you'll chomp this one to bits. Yes, it is purposefully filled with all the cliches about a down on his luck PI who is holding a torch for an ex who descended into a downward spiral of trampiness and chasing the next high. But, it is simply a terrific read. Fannin slings the one liners like any great PI and stays just friendly enough with the police to stay out of the clink - barely. Cathy is the one who slipped through his fingers, ...more
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
You don't read a good, pulpy detective novel for the plot.

David Markson, perhaps one of the finest experimental fiction writers of the 20th Century, took this platitude and ran with it for his tales of private dick Harry Fannin, which borrows liberally from a rich genre history. Markson's prose reads like Chandler's on dope - it's filled with more verbose similes, more seedy characters and more explicit illusions to sex. Change New York in the '40s for New York in the '60s and you've got the bac
Holger Haase
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of my favourite new literary finds of recent times. Up till about a month ago I hadn't even heard of the Harry Fannin hardboiled beatnik Noirs, now I wish there'd have been more than just those two.

The novels were originally written in 1959 and 1960 and are about a hardboiled private eye in the tradition of Philip Marlowe who solves murders in Greenwich Village amongst the resident beatniks. In some of the subject matters the book is often quite daring for the time it was written in (open pr
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
EPITAPH FOR A TRAMP has Harry Fannin's ex-wife, out of sight for a year, stumbling into his office knifed in the chest and dying in his arms after mumbling a few words. Though their ending hadn't been pleasant, he'd caught her cheating on him, he goes off tto find her killer and the reason why.

EPITAPH FOR A DEAD BEAT finds Fannin stopping off at a late night bar after a job falls through and getting involved when a young woman is accosted by a man. Taking her home, they discover her roommate sho
Russell Atkinson
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Raymond Chandler lives! Or one might have thought so in 1959 when Markson wrote this remarkable novel (published the same year Chandler died, ironically). I've only read Epitaph for a Tramp. I'm saving the second one for dessert. Harry Fannin is a tough, sardonic, New York private eye. One night his ex-wife, a beauty and a beast (the tramp in the title), shows up knocking on his door. By the time he opens it, she lay dead, a trail of blood leading from the sidewalk. Harry calls Brannigan, an arc ...more
Jan 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Anyone, especially in their 20s, who is living in New York, should definitely pick this book up. It's a lighter book, a P.I. mystery novel, but really seems to touch on the social aspects of young "hipsters" in the 50s. Honestly, pick out any scene in the book where Harry is hanging around Greenwich Village and replace the Village with Williamsburg and Bohemian/Beatnick with Hipster and you'll know what it's like to be among young 20-somethings in Brooklyn today. Their views on life and the effo ...more
Mar 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Well, I'm a huge fan of Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress, and the works that followed, and with my Lee Child induced fascination with mysteries, the reprint of 2 early Markson novels seemed right up my ally.

Well, they were hit and miss. The writing was astonishing, and if I taught English classes, this is the text I would use to illustrate extraordinary uses of metaphors and similes. The plot at times was confusing, and occasionally boring. Sort of like listening to Guy Noir, where some weeks i
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a re-issue of two of the best pulp 'private eye' fiction pieces written by David Markson. The author wrote these books in the late 1950's, before he became a 'serious' writer' and went on to publish legitimate criticism and more literary fiction. One wonders why he wasn't considered a master of this genre since he wrote with such gusto and talent. The books are part of the Harry Fannin series. Fannie is a hard-boiled P.I. in New York City. The writing is solid and convincing. The dialogu ...more
Jul 23, 2011 added it
Markson, best known for his series of "experimental" novels starting with WITTGENSTEIN'S MISTRESS, also wrote the revisionist-Western spoof BALLAD OF DINGUS MAGEE, in which none of the outlaws can seem to shoot straight, two novels about Mexico (the potboiler MISS DOLL, GO HOME and the more mature work GOING DOWN), a droll novel about Greenwich Village literary life, SPRINGER'S PROGRESS, poetry, criticism, and a book-length analysis of Malcolm Lowry's UNDER THE VOLCANO, a novel he admired tremen ...more
Jun 05, 2008 rated it liked it
What fun. The seeds of Markson's experimental fiction are barely present but for some entertaining flights of stream-of-consciousness fancy that occasionally race out of the mind of his hardboiled detective character, Harry Fannin. Most interesting is Markson's grimed over portrait of the 50's Greenwich Village scene. I detected a veiled portrait of William Gaddis both as a character and also as the subject of one of Fannin's suspects' dissertation. The writing gets better into the second book a ...more
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best things in working with Hard Case Crime for several years was the discovery of the early mystery novels of some of todays best literary authors. Such is the joy of finding the two rediscovered classic detective novels by David Markson.
Set in early 60's New York during the influx of Beats, Bohemians, drugs, casual sex and poetry readings, Harry Fannin is faced with murder and mystery in two seperate novels. Very well written with strong story lines, vivid characters and even a red
Ryan Dieringer
Mar 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Great detective novels :: good for literary and crime nerds alike. Markson, legend of experimental fiction in later decades, wrote these in the early sixties to pay the rent, clearly has a lot going on beneath the veneer of wit and style which make his and all good detective novels so fucking loveable. You will either want to be, or fuck, Harry Fannin.
Sep 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: colleen
beautiful new york pulp, good characterization of the city and of the genre. fast read, and not as whiskey drenched as chandler's crime fiction, but definitely akin to it. very very fun time capsule read as well, both for the 50's new york snapping beatniks and poets and the dated but easily recalled references. you should take this book from me.
Dec 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: unfinished
I read Epitaph for a Tramp, which is one complete story in this book. It started off with a mysterious serious of events that set off the search for who dunnit, which wasn't all that satisfying in the end, but gave a fairly good ride with witty verbage in the noir style.
Jan 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Nice to have these packaged together. Fun examples of the '60s "hunk" P.I. genre. Especially enjoyed the take on "Greenwich Village" as home to those wacko longhairs, poets, intellectuals, and beatniks.
May 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
really enjoyable reading, witty and well-informed. campy. quotable.
Melisa Resch
ok. i will save my opinion on this work of art for FANCY FAMILY but i will leave you with this excerpt from the book:

"She was chilly as wet oysters."
Feb 15, 2012 rated it liked it
amazing. The first subway novel I ever read. A real page turner and exciting at every bumpy turn.
Bill Paterson
May 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Good fun. Odd little literary references throughout this NY pulp story. This is the stuff Markson wrote before he became a post-modern trickster.
Kit Fox
Nov 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like good stuff
This book was awesome. The self-aware stereotypical gumshoe banter was pitch perfect and hella funny.
Jan 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
He's not Hammett but he does a respectable job of engaging the genre. Dead Beat is the better of the two.
Brad Wojak
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a lot of fun. I have read and loved a number of Markson's later works and this was quite different but wonderful in its own right.
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David Markson was an American novelist, born David Merrill Markson in Albany, New York. He is the author of several postmodern novels, including This is Not a Novel, Springer's Progress, and Wittgenstein's Mistress. His most recent work, The Last Novel, was published in 2007 and received a positive review in the New York Times, which called it "a real tour de force."

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More about David Markson
“He had a face roughly the shape and color of a clumsily peeled Idaho potato, and he had a jaw like the end of a cigarette carton. ” 7 likes
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