It's easy to give a mediocre book a three or four star rating and move on. I do it all the time. I don't want to tank anybody's average. A truer test of how much I like an author is whether I repeatedly trade cash for his or her books. In my library of paperback crime, here are the writers who have the most shelf space:
Six books: James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler
I can't imagine I'd get much argument if I said these three were the holy trinity of American crime.
Five books: George Pelecanos, Massimo Carlotto
I'm not sure quite why I keep buying Massimo Carlotto. One of his protagonists is disgusting and the other is dull. But his matter-of-fact tales of perversion, corruption and treachery hooked me so hard I once read three of his books back-to-back-to-back.
Four books: Duane Swierczynski, Sjowall & Walloo, Gene Kerrigan
I'd buy more Gene Kerrigan books if he'd write more! The Rage is a breathtakingly intimate study of low-level gangster violence. And the Midnight Choir is epic story-weaving on the level of The Wire, with the most devastating ending of any book I've ever read.
Three books: Joe R. Lansdale, George V. Higgins, Richard Stark, Dennis Lehane, Paul Auster
I would almost certainly have more Dennis Lehane books if they hadn't all been made into movies. He's a good writer. I just know how most of his stories are going to end.
[Ed. - For more ideas on what to read, check on my Amazon list 11 Crime Writing Cornerstones.]