Post by stephen on Apr 30, 2019 13:26:28 GMT
Noir is perhaps my favorite genre of literature -- certainly, it's the milieu I like to work in the most in my own writing. It's easy to satirize and parody (for my money, the best Calvin & Hobbes strips were the Tracer Bullet riffs), but so damned hard to get right, but there are writers out there who can make it seem so effortless and operatic. So I wanna talk about them. I wanna talk about not just the undisputed heavyweights in the medium (Chandler, Hammett, Thompson), but also about the newer, lesser-known voices in the hard-boiled world. This is the place where we'll jaw about the best stories about dames, schemes, double-crosses and big scores.
I'll kick it off.
James Ellroy: For my money, this is the best noir writer of all time. Yeah, Ray and Dash and Jim are the forerunners of it all, but Ellroy's poisoned pen outstrips them all because he understands the seedy soul that infuses noir and knows that it needs to make the reader feel like bugs are scurrying underneath his skin, and that the only way to stop them is to keep reading. His L.A. Quartet is flawless from start to finish. The Black Dahlia, his most autobiographical fictive work, perfectly captures the mantra of obsession better than any writer I've ever encountered. The Big Nowhere is his first truly expansive novel, and while it's probably my least favorite of the four, it's only because the other three operate on such a high plane and improve upon the foundation set by this book. L.A. Confidential is truly sprawling and epic in a way few books are, and I've spoken of the mastery of its adaptation elsewhere. And then there's White Jazz, the slimmest, toughest and most rewarding novel of them all to read, as it puts you in the rapidly degenerating headspace of the second most crooked cop in literature (as he squares off against the first).
I've also praised Ellroy's Underworld U.S.A. trilogy as being the pinnacle of historical literature, and it obviously shares some noir sensibilities considering its creator. Ellroy's more minor novels (Brown's Requiem, Clandestine, the Lloyd Hopkins books) are all great reads as well and come highly recommended, but the world of 1946-'58 evoked in Ellroy's quartet is arguably the most immersive world-building of a bygone era, not just in location but in spirit.