Over the years there are Greeks who have written good crime fiction and English-speaking writers who are inspired by Greece and have proved very adept at trawling the Greek underworld. Here are 10 of the best writers of crime novels either based in Greece or featuring Greek protagonists. With summer approaching, perhaps it’s time to take a Greek Noir crime novel to the beach with you.
1. PETROS MARKARIS
The hero of this Greek-Armenian writer’s novels is the grumpy Athenian police inspector Costas Haritos. The 12 Haritos novels and a book of short stories have proved to be popular in Greece, Germany, Italy and Spain. He writes in Greek, German and Turkish. His first three novels have been translated into English including: Late Night News, Zone Defence, Che Committed Suicide. He has written non-fiction books including a history of Athens as seen along the old electric train route from Piraeus to Kifissia. In 2013, he was awarded the Goethe Medal for his “distinguished contribution to the German language and international cultural relations.” He has written several plays and worked with Theo Angelopoulos on a number of movie scripts.
2. YANNIS TSIRIKOMOS
Tsirimokos, whose pen name is Yannis Maris is the godfather of Greek crime-writing of the 1950s. He also went under the pen names Yannis Maris-Tsirikomos, Gianni Haniots and was a noted screenwriter. He was born in Skopelos in 1916 and died in 1979. A left-wing journalist, he took to writing in 1953. He wrote over 40 short, well-plotted novels which at the time were looked as pulp fiction but have in later years been recognised as classics of the crime genre. His main protagonist is Inspector Bekas the title figure of a Greek TV series. Contemporary novelist Petros Markaris said of Tsirikomos: “Maris is the patriarch of Greek crime fiction. If his extraordinary stories did not have the luck they deserved, it was because of historical circumstances. Maris wrote at the wrong time and in the wrong place, in a country that considered crime novel series a B genre. Yet no other writer of the time was able to describe with equal vigour Athenian high society after the war and the undergrowth of informers who became rich during the occupation and civil strife. If he had written, say, in French, now he would be famous around the world.” Surely now is the time for a good translator is needed to bring Maris’ work to the English world.
3. POL KOUTSAKIS
Writer of Athenian Blues and Baby Blue, Koutsakis’ crime novels feature the protagonist Strato Gazis – a virtuous hit man who confines his killing to those who deserve it. Koutsakis was born in Crete in 1974. Koutsakis lived in Chania until 2006 after which he moved to Ontario, Canada with his wife and daughter. In 2008, he returned to Chania only to leave again in 2016, this time to settle in Perth, Australia where he is teaching computer engineering. He is also keeping up with his writing of novels and plays. He won the national award for one of his Greek plays in 2005.
4. SERGIO GAKAS
His 2011 novel Ashes is a good example of Greek noir. A former actress Sonia Verika is the only survivor when the house she shared with a retired director and a family of African refugees is burned. Police Inspector Chronis Halkidis is assigned to the case. He soon finds that his work is being obstructed from within the Athens bureaucracy. But he perseveres…
5. ANNA ZOUROUDIS
Zouroudis is a British based author of the Greek Detective series featuring the mysterious Herme Diaktoros, also known as ‘the Fat Man’. Part detective, part mysterious agent of fate or some other force who picks at the dark seams of Greek society. Zouroudi was shortlisted for the ITV3 Crime Thriller Award 2008 for Breakthrough Authors. The first book featuring Diaktoros, The Messenger of Athens (2007) was shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2008 for first novels with word-of-mouth appeal. Zouroudis who married a Greek, lived for a time in Greece. She now is back in Britain with her son. She has written eight Diaktoros novels.
6. GARY CORBY
Gary Corby is an Australian with a bent for an older Greece. His crime novels take place in the mean streets of the Athens of Pericles and Socrates. Nicolaos is the protagonist. His girlfriend, Diotima also has a leading role. Her brother is a gadfly of a teen named Socrates later to find some fame as a philosopher. Pericles also features regularly. His books include The Pericles Commission, The Ionia Sanction, Sacred Games, The Marathon Conspiracy and, more recently, The Singer from Memphis and Death on Delos. In 2010 he was nominated for the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Novel 210 for The Pericles Commission. In 2008 he won the Arthur Conan Doyle Prize for new fiction in the historical mystery section for his short story The Passion Contract.
7. JEFFREY SIGER
The hero of Siger’s nine detective novels set in Greece is Andreas Kaldis, is an Athenian cop who not only solves crime but works steadfastly to uncover corruption and vice in the system. Siger, an American, worked as a Wall Street lawyer and was a partner in his own law firm in New York. He gave it all up and moved to Mykonos to write mystery novels.
His books are fast paced, as any good crime novel ought to be, but they are also accurate about Greek police procedure and reflect some of the serious issues affect modern Greek society. His books include Murder in Mykonos, Mykonos After Midnight, Target: Tinos, Devil of Delphi. He has been nominated for numerous book awards over the years.
8. PAUL JOHNSTON
Another foreigner inspired by the dark seams of Greek crime is awarding winning Scottish crime writer and poet Paul Johnston. He has written six ‘Greek’ novels including Crying Blue Murder, The Last Red Death, The Silver Stain, The Green Lady, The Black Life, and The White Sea. His hero is Greek-Scottish private investigator Alexander Mavros of The Black Life, a novel he sets in wartime Thessaloniki during the occupation and transportation of the Jewish community to the concentration camps. Johnston says, “The genesis of The Black Life really lies in contemporary Greece, where an extreme far-right populist party, Golden Dawn, has come to the fore. Many view them as neo-Nazis, although they now deny their past open allegiance to Hitler and his cronies. As ever in Greece, history is the key.” Johnston is also author of another crime novels, the Quint Dalrymple series.
9. GEORGE PELECANOS
Born 18 February 1957, this American-Greek author has gained much critical acclaim for his work in an author and scriptwriter. Twenty of his books are of a taut and lean type of detective fiction. Although these do not take place in Greece, his main characters are American Greeks fighting crime in the mean streets of Washington DC. He rates Elmore Leonard as his main influence. The hero of his early books is Private Investigator Nick Stefanos. Then, in later books the “salt and pepper” duo of Dimitri Karras and Marcus Clay – a Greek and an African American crime fighting duo. He has also taken a turn in scriptwriting, including for the highly acclaimed HBO crime series, The Wire. He as also writer and co-producer for the The Pacific, the Second World War mini series also on HBO. Also in 2010, Pelecanos joined the crew of the HBO New Orleans drama Treme as a writer. He then worked on the acclaimed TV crime series Bosch.
10. PHILLIP KERR
The German author sends his German crime-fighting hero, Bernie Gunther, to Athens in his 2018 book, Greeks Bearing Gifts. Set in 1957, Bernie travels to the Greek capital to investigate an insurance claim from a fellow German for sunken ship. The ship once belonged to a Greek Jew who was sent to Auschwitz. Bernie is convinced the sinking of the ship was no accident but an act of revenge.