The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
Yes, the world is a more “politically correct” place than it was in 1973, the year this seminal heist novel came out. But I think Godey (pen name of Morton Freedgood) got a kick out of going inside the heads of his characters and revealing the racism whirring along like a gerbil on a running wheel. Race was more directly political then (as opposed to politically correct), what with the Panthers and other movements. As a result the hijacked subway car is not a melting pot but a patchwork quilt of clashing identities, all of them waiting for the Man to do his thing. 1973 was also before New York was cleaned up and gentrified/Disneyfied/corporatized, and the ethnic anger suits the atmosphere of sleaze and violence. ’70s noir lived in (or under) these NYC streets and not the freeways of L.A. It was an environment that had less glamour and more human and urban blight. Another distinguishing feature was the emphasis on institutional decay, of systems falling apart (the weary cop taking the place of the private dick). It’s a genre that’s easier to recognize on film, but in the field of fiction I think this has to be considered a central text.