causeiloveto said: I have very briefly read/skimmed some of your pieces on here and I just want to say that they're fantastic. :3 The way you control/use tone is quite refreshing. Can you recommend any excellent novels for someone who hasn't read much Noir, but wants to?
Thank-you for your kind words. I’m really just playing around, trying to approximate the tone of an earlier era while I blow off steam. And there has been a great deal of steam to blow off recently.
I actually read a great deal more hardboiled fiction than noir, though these distinct categories are frequently collapsed into one (I suppose my username is guilty of doing just that). I have sketched the differences previously, and I think there is gold to be mined in both hardboiled and noir.
Raymond Chandler is the master of hardboiled fiction, and his rough-but-righteous private detective Philip Marlowe set the gold standard for hardboiled fiction. I’d say start with his first novel, The Big Sleep, and go from there. I’m also partial to John D. MacDonald’s beach bum-philosopher and unlicensed private eye Travis McGee. Each McGee novel can be read by itself, but the series starts with The Deep Blue Good-by. MacDonald also wrote standalone novels that are also excellent.
James M. Cain is to noir what Chandler is to hardboiled. Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice are quintessential noir: a corrupt man willingly led astray, bringing about his own destruction. Elmore Leonard (Out of Sight, Rum Punch) writes grimly ironic noir, and James Ellroy (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere) tells concisely sprawling, gritty noir epics usually centered on the LA police department. I think Ellroy’s telegraphically terse prose with his flawed characters makes for a great blend of hardboiled and noir.
But I think the best combination probably comes from Dorothy B. Hughes, one of the few notable women in the midcentury hardboiled/noir school. She uses hardboiled characters in noir plots to brilliant effect. Hughes’ In a Lonely Place is a great place to start.
And readers, as always, feel free to chime in with recommendations.