Tag Archives: noir fiction

10 Essential Neo-Noir Authors

From Flavorwire:

What is neo-noir fiction? It’s contemporary dark fiction. It was built on the backbone of classic noir and hardboiled fiction, but it’s evolved to be so much more than that. It is a genre-bending subgenre that includes edgy literary fiction, as well as fantasy, science fiction, and horror. It also touches on niche storytelling like magical realism, slipstream, transgressive, and the grotesque. There is a movement out there, right now, one that has been heating up over the last ten years…

Len Gutkin on The Cocktail Waitress, by James M. Cain

“The Terrifying Wish that Comes True: On Cain’s ‘The Cocktail Waitress'” from The Los angeles Review of Books:

James M. Cain tells fairy tales that end badly. For Cain, “the wish that comes true” comprises everything from spousal murder to criminally amassed wealth to incest to suppressed homosexual desire. As Freud knew, there’s nothing more shattering than getting what you really want, and Cain’s novels tend to end with the fulfillment of that ultimate secret wish — the protagonist’s death.

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‘Seeking moral realists’

But there are so few…from The Indian Express (Hat tip: Books Inq—The Epilogue)

In other words, looking for Sam Spade.

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New Thoughts on Raymond Chandler

From the Los Angeles Times article by Carolyn Kellogg. An excerpt with a cool line, emphasized:

Chandler is known for his novels, all featuring hard-boiled detective Philip Marlowe. Marlowe saw a city full of both beauty and betrayal, and to survive he followed his own moral code: He lied to cops, took beatings from bad guys and regularly got and/or rejected the most beautiful woman in the room. Chandler wrote with the bitterness of a brokenhearted romantic: tough yet ready to fall in love again. His prose was indelible. “It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window,” he wrote in 1940’s “Farewell, My Lovely,” his second novel.

It’s been years since I read him…may have to revisit his books one of these days.



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(Holly)wood Pulp: 15 Books That Helped Me Understand the City of Angels

By Duane Swierczynski who blogs at Secret Dead Blog—article found at Mulholland Books. In it, he states:

I’ve left out the obvious L.A. classics, both modern and vintage—James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels, Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole and Joe Pike thrillers, as well as Nathanael West, Horace McCoy, Raymond Chandler, and James M. Cain. I mean, you came here for the oddball stuff, right?


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Review—The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain

James M. Cain’s first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, is a short violent book that was “banned in Boston” for its sexual content. Written in 1934, the obscenity was extremely tame by today’s standards. I liked this, typical of the dialog: “I kissed her. Her eyes were shining up at me like two blue stars. It was like being in church.”

The title is metaphorical. There is no postman in it. It’s more a reference to the fact that something will always come back to those who commit evil. One way or another, there’s no escape. The story moves fast with tough dialog and a murder being planned. The lover’s, Frank, the drifter, and Cora, the Greek’s sexy wife, are into it with no turning back. I kept picturing Lana Turner or Jessica Lange, “a woman ready for anything,” as I read it. That’s the trouble with seeing the movies before reading the book, even though it’s been years since I saw them. But it didn’t destroy the pleasure of the book—gritty, sultry, excellent writing.

On the back of the book, Cain is quoted: “I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man…has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent.” Good advice on writing.

Cain helped set the standard for noir fiction. I highly recommend it.



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‘Criminal Independents’

From Literary Kicks, a piece about pulp fiction from independent publishers:

Back when reading was the most popular form of entertainment, scores of pulps competed to feed the demands of a fiction-hungry populace. Outside the literary establishment, the pulps provided a place for up-and-coming writers to hone their skills, eventually giving birth to some of the most enduring offshoots of American lit. Among them, perhaps the most emulated around the world is the great tradition of the American crime novel.

The genre writers like Hammett and Chandler created and defined in the pulps of the 30’s and 40’s has become one of the most universally adored American exports. While the pulps that gave birth to American crime have been extinct for decades, the tradition has been kept alive by hundreds of independent publishers.

Over the next few months, we’ll introduce some of these indie crime presses and highlight some of their most innovative titles. We hope you’ll give them a chance. There’s no better way to keep fiction alive.

Check out their recommendations.

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Book Titles

From Muholland Books, Talking Titles by Eric Beetner. In my book—soon to be published?—I argued with myself for months over the title, in the end settling on my working title as more descriptive than any other. But then my book isn’t noir fiction, which one could argue requires more “bite.” The introduction:

It’s either one step above or one step below judging a book by its cover, but say what you will – titles matter. They matter a whole lot in the noir fiction world since back when the stands used to be filled with the salacious come-ons of pulp fiction femme fatales in lace brassieres and a bold-type title announced the goings on inside, and they matter just as much today.

The old titles didn’t hold much back – Say It With Bullets, Dig Me A Grave, Kiss My Fist – and they succeeded in convincing people to lay out a dime for the tale that went with it. Quite often the book inside the lurid cover couldn’t deliver on the promise and therefore the pulps are littered with titles that are better than the 30 – 40,000 words that followed….

Check out the rest for some great titles—maybe to even read.

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Thoughts on Author James M. Cain

From book critic David L. Ulin at the Los Angeles Times—Reading Life: Revisiting ‘Mildred Pierce.‘ A portion:

Of all the classic noir writers, perhaps none has been as tarnished by the brush of genre as James M. Cain. That’s because Cain — born in Baltimore in 1892, a protégé of H.L. Mencken and, briefly, managing editor of The New Yorker — was not a great hard-boiled novelist but a great novelist period, whose vision of 1930s Southern California is as acute and resonant as anything ever written about that time and place.

His first novel, “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” published when he was 42, is said to have inspired Albert Camus’ “The Stranger”; his second, “Double Indemnity,” is among the finest of all American novels, regardless of genre or style….

Ulin obviously likes Cain, an author I need to explore. After all, I’ve seen all the movies made from his books.


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