Reccomend me a noir!

So, I was thinking the other day about how much I’d like to read a story about a cynical, alchoholic, hard boiled detective character who gets entangled in something or another. Preferable something with a great sense of twisted or dark humor, and maybe some campyness in there to boot. Anything like that out there?

James M. Cain: Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Tiffany Thayer: 13 Men, 13 Women.

Have you read The Maltese Falcon yet? Sounds like it would fit your bill.

Andrew Vachss’s mysteries are tres noir!

Two words: Raymond Chandler

I second Raymond Chandler and add more Dashiell Hammet.

I’ll third Raymond Chandler, second Dash Hammett, and add Jim Thompson. Pop. 1280 was especially good, IMO.

Raymond Chandler all the way! Dashiel Hammett is fine, but he’s more two-fisted macho detective, whereas Chandler is more clever alcoholic cynic detective. The Big Sleep is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

Did Chandler invent the stereotype of the “cynical, alchoholic, hard boiled detective character”? Obviously there were detective stories before Marlowe came along, but I’m not sure if they had the same focus.

I need to go pick me up another Chandler novel. I just finished reading the World-Fantasy-Award-Winning Thraxas, a “Blindingly funny” (according to the book jacket) pulp detective story set in a fantasy universe, and it wasn’t worthy to suck Raymond Chandler’s toe lint.


Hammett, Chandler and Jim Thompson are all wonderful and worth reading. I find:

  • Hammett to be more hard-boiled (a la Hemingway, few words, let’s you fill in the blanks - really wondeful if you get into their vibe)

  • Chandler to be more descriptive (perhaps Fitzgerald to Hammett’s Hemingway; Chandler is certainly the more technically accomplished writer)

  • Thompson - just plan twisted; if you follow him into his mind, it will mess with you (try The Killer Inside Me - brilliant stuff).

there are plenty others - Chester Himes, David Goodis and other pulp writers. On the sci-fi front, I recommend Neuromancer by Gibson and Gun, with Occasional Music by Lethem - both are wonderful hard-boiled noir.

All those suggested so far.

If you’d like a slightly more modern one, try Lawrence Block’s When the Sacred Ginmill Closes.

Hmmm. The Maltese Falcon, and The Big Sleep have both been made into movies right. Has the translation for both of these been faithfull enough that I can watch the movies instead? Reading the book in almost laways better than watching the movie, but in some cases both are just as good. I’ll probably end up picking The Big Sleep up at my library in any case.

The Postman Always Rings Twice sounds good, but then while I was reading the reader reviews some bastard had to spoil a part of the ending for me. Asshole. Someone needs to flame critics that do this in the pit. Unfortunately, my writing skills just wouldn’t do the rant justice :mad: .

Pop 182 sounds good. I’ll keep an eye open for that too.

Thanks guys :smiley:

Both MALTESE FALCON and BIG SLEEP (the one with Bogart and Bacall, not the awful remake) are great movies in their own right. However, movies are different from books. Changers were made in the plot. In the book version of THE BIG SLEEP, for instance, the murderer of Sean O’Reagan was the Lauren Bacall character. That obviously wouldn’t do for the movie, which is very confusing and inconsistent about that murder.

I loved the movie L.A. confidential. In fact I loved it so much that I planned to read the book. I founf out that it’s the third of a serie. Is James Ellroy any good? Will I be dissapointed with those books?

Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan The Barbarian, also wrote quite a lot of 2-fisted detective tales.

Get the paperback collections, used , at Amazon.

Jim Thompson is terrific; The Nothing Man was my favorite. He also wrote The Grifters, on which the movie with John Cusack and Anjelica Huston was based. His The Transgressors was good too. Actually they’re all good, except for the posthumously published The Rip-Off, which gets my vote for the “most appropriately titled” award.

Well, no luck with my librarie having any of these. I’ll stop by some used book stores tommorrow.

Is Elmore Leonard any good? He looks like he may have wrote some pretty good books along these lines.

I see that C K Dexter Haven already mentioned Lawrence Block’s When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, and I’ll recommend anything in that series. (Scudder does dry out after half a dozen books, but the only difference that makes is that he’s sober.) He has some other series characters with very different tones, but they’re all good. Here’s his Web page.

Of course Chandler and Hammett are fundamental. Though they may not have been first, they jointly perfected the private eye image: tough, cynical, capable of violence or even brutality, but still a sort-of-white knight who lives by his own rigid code of honour.

(BTW, Left Hand of Dorkness, Hammett did tend toward the two-fisted type, but take a look at, say, Red Harvest for one, where the Continental Op does take time out once in a while to consider what he’s doing and how he feels about it.)

Hammett was a Pinkerton detective, BTW.

I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane. The first in the Mike Hammer series.

Fast One by Paul Cain. Pure noir. You can get the .99 ebook from

Estilicon - James Ellroy is a wonderful writer and he writes noir. Therefore he is worth reading as part of exploring the genre. However, he tends to write in a somewhat less-accessible style than say, Hammett or Chandler. I am not sure how to put it, but there is something post-modern in his style that I find a little harder to get into. Just a little warning.

and JoeSki? Elmore Leonard rocks - when he is on, he writes some of the best dialogue going. However, I would argue - although it is a subtle point - that he doesn’t write noir, he writes crime fiction. What is the difference? I am not sure actually - maybe his characters are a little more fleshed out, or there is a little more shaggy dog to his story telling. His protagonists are typically hard on their luck guys who are still basically good, which is like noir, but they aren’t alchoholic, mono-syllabic ciphers. They come across as smart and talky.

Be warned: Leonard’s first crime stuff - e.g. 52 Pickup, Swag, Unknown Man No. 89 - all the way up thru LaBrava and Stick - is really great. Then he got in this “gee, aren’t I funny?” period with Maximum Bob, Freaky Deaky and a few others. A bit too Carl Hiaasen for my tastes and nowhere near hard boiled. With Get Shorty and Out of Sight, he finds a nice balace - great dialogue and a natural humor. Tishomingo Blues isn’t bad, either.

Read him and enjoy.