I know it's not for everyone.  It's not even for me sometimes. But when I want noir, I want great noir, whether it's a movie or a book.  

For example, "Out of the Past" with Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, and the amazing Jane Greer, with Jacques Tourneur directing.  Or "Gun Crazy" with John Dall and Peggy Cummins.  

Or Megan Abbott's "Bury Me Deep" or Queenpin" or Christa Faust's "Money Shot," or anything by the amazing Sam Reaves.

Nominations, anyone?  And what is noir, exactly, and what is it we like about it?  

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It's interesting to me that we think they're "fun" when real noir takes such a bleak view of the world. Pretty much everybody dies in a lot of the darkest noir stories, or at least they end badly. Look at "The Postman Only Rings Twice" or "Out of Nowhere," for example.

There's a great conversation going on here right now about Hitchcock. Is Hitchcock noir? If not, why not? What the hell is noir, anyway? Is it like porno -- we can't define it but we know it when we see it?
Try Alan Ladd and William Bendix in Raymond Chandler's 'The Blue Dahlia.' Or Orson Welles in 'The Lady from Shang-Hai' Or Welles 'The Stranger.'
Whoa -- how could I forget either "The Blue Dahlia" or "The Lady from Shanghai." Not so sure about "The Stranger." But "The Third Man" -- I''d call that noir.
I just discovered "Out of the Past" on TCM a few months ago. Well worth watching. "Money Shot" and "Bury Me Deep" are both exceptional as well. (Haven't seen "Gun Crazy."

"Kiss of Death" with Richard Widmark is first rate, and I can't think of a better noir than "The Friends of Eddie Coyle."
Oh, my God, Widmark. It's hard to think of a more indelible first role. And he was such a nice man (I got to work with him late in his career). "Gun Crazy" is insane. And George Higgins is definitely a noir writer even though I don't think he's usually classified that way.

Maybe I'm too hung up on this classification stuff.
I can't offhand remember any titles-but I love the old black and white noir movies. I guess part of what makes it noir is a dark edge to it.
Yes, the dark edge is, I guess, what we respond to. Absolutely everything is at stake, in an apparently morality-free universe. Black-and-white, whether it's film or print, seems to be the right approach, although "Chinatown" certainly counts as noir.

Early noir was mostly throwaway stuff -- popular genre novels and B movies. I think it was the French who saw something deeper, but then they like Jerry Lewis, too.
Not very fond of noir. I keep seeing those old films, and many were so predictable: poor slob falls for gorgeous blonde who sets him up to commit a crime, and then he's on that rapid downward slide to disaster and death. Such stories may occur in the real world, but fortunately not always. I prefer books that are neither too hopeless nor too cheerfully optimistic.
A lot of people don't like noir, and I think there are good reasons for it. Most really effective noir projects an unremittingly bleak view of the world and the people in it. I'm there's been lots of scholarship about the roots of all this -- World Wat II, maybe, and later the rise of atomic weapons, one of the usual suspects. But for me, good noir has a couple of things going for it: economy of storytelling, consistency of point of view, and -- I suppose -- the sense that all the usual bets are off. Good noir gives me the feeling I had when I first saw "Psycho" and Hitchcock killed Janet Leigh. Whoops, I'm not in story Kansas any more.

Also, noir provided some great roles for women, even if they were femmes fatales,

IK -- can you please e-mail me at thallinan@gmail.com about the Japan Times? I want to send you an ARC, too, and don't have an address.
I just read my first Megan Abbott book, Die a Little, and it knocked me out. Fantastic. Thanks for the other recommendations. I'd just been looking at Money Shot on the publisher's website and might buy it now. Sorry I can't add any more recommendations of my own just yet but will follow this to see what other people can recommend.
Hi, Mike -- I agree. Megan Abbott is the real deal. So is Christa Faust. Both of them have not only terrific storytelling skills but also pitch-perfect attitude. You might try Sam Reaves -- he's not quite noir, but close enough, and there doesn't seem to be anything he can't do. "Dooley's Back" was my first, and I just devoured it.
Noir: Bad things happen to bad people.


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