I'm mixing up the science fiction with a taste of my other favorite genre, the crime novel. I recently read The Glass Key by the always awesome Dashiell Hammett (1931) [and isn't this the best cover ever? It is the 1972 Vintage Books edition and it rocks]. Hammett is one of my favorite crime writers, and rumor has it that this was Hammett's favorite of his own works.
The main character in The Glass Key is Ned Beaumont. He isn't a detective or a cop, he is a gambler who happens to be best friends with Paul Madvig, a mobster turned politician who is working to get "his" senator and the rest of his party elected to office so that he can run the town through the system instead of around it. Just because Ned isn't a detective doesn't mean he isn't involved in solving any mysteries, however. The senator's son is mysteriously murdered, and everyone in town thinks Paul did it because the guy was making time with his underage daughter. But Paul doesn't want anyone to think he did it because he is angling for the senator's sexy daughter. Ned just wants to get the money his bookie (who mysteriously left town all of a sudden the night of the murder) owes him. So who really killed the senator's son? Why does Ned get beat up so much? Can Ned and Paul's seriously strong friendship (Ned's main character traits are few words and ultra-loyalty) handle all the accusations, love triangles, and double-crossing that takes place in this book?
Read it and find out. Seriously. You will love this book. I'll even loan my copy to you if you ask.