I thought I’d take a moment to pretend that someone asked me that question. The best book you’re not reading is actually a series of books: The Red Riding Quartet by David Peace. These books—Nineteen Seventy-Four, Nineteen Seventy-Seven, Nineteen Eighty, and Nineteen Eighty-Three (coming soon!)—showcase crime writing at its finest. They tell the true-crime story of a serial killer tormenting Yorkshire in the 1970s and 1980s. And let me tell you, they’re not for the faint of heart. I read these books in big, white-knuckled gulps—they’re dark, grisly, violent, and shocking. But what makes them so enjoyable is Peace’s signature writing style. He’s a very methodical writer and you don’t even notice as he pulls you fully into his characters’ psyches. It’s not always a pretty place, but damn is it fun.
And guess what? There are movies coming! The BBC and IFC teamed up to make three films based on the four books. Red Riding: 1974, directed by Julian Jarrold (Brideshead Revisited); Red Riding: 1980, , directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire); and Red Riding: 1983, directed by Anand Tucker (Shopgirl). They come out this fall.
Peace, sadly, isn’t so well-known here. (We also published the first book in his Tokyo trilogy, Tokyo Year Zero which is just as good as the Quartet but takes place in post-WWII Tokyo). But he’s beloved in his native UK. Ian Rankin has called him “the future of crime fiction” and The Times calls him “a writer of immense talent and power.” I think it’s only a matter of time before this amazing writer takes off over here. Certain Yanks are already taking note. George Pelecanos has said he’s “transforming the genre with passion and style.” So what are you waiting for? Get reading!
*ZACHARY WAGMAN has been an editor at Vintage Books since 2006. Before that, he was an assistant at Knopf. Before that, he went to NYU and before that he grew up in New Jersey.*