RARA-AVIS: Crime Novels

From: Karin Montin ( kmontin@sympatico.ca)
Date: 11 Oct 2006

I borrowed the first volume from the library and read all but the Woolrich. This is an excellent collection.

I still didn't really like The Postman Always Rings Twice, but let's not go into that again.

Of the others, I liked The Big Clock the least. It was ambitiously told from about six different characters' points of view in alternating chapters. Their tone didn't vary a whole lot, though. And the motive for the murder seems somewhat flimsy, especially now. I guess they sometimes are, aren't they?

My favourite was Thieves Like Us, which is about three guys who escape from prison and start robbing banks together. Each of them has a different goal in mind, but none of them really imagines himself ever doing anything but robbing. One of the guys falls in love with a 14-year-old (much more mature than he is), whom he calls his Little Soldier, and they start travelling together. She thinks he has given up thieving, but she is sadly mistaken. It's very moving and very well written.

Nightmare Alley is great, as miker and others have already said. It's about a young man who starts out doing sleight of hand in a "ten-in-one" show, rises to performing at private parties, then sets his eyes on a really big con. Along the way he loses any scruples he might ever have had and starts drinking heavily. I kept wondering how much lower he could go. And of course I had known from the beginning, but ...

I also really liked They Shoot Horses, Don't They? I've never seen the movie.

I'll have to go back to the Woolrich one of these days. Volume 2 is also on the horizon.


On 09 Mar 2004 Marc Seals wrote: In addition to the excellent suggestions of Hammett and Chandler (which is chock full of the kind of humor that you seem to like), a good introduction would be _CRIME NOVELS: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s_ (Library of America, 1997). It contains James Cain's _The Postman Always Rings Twice_, Horace McCoy's _They Shoot Horses, Don't They?_, Edward Anderson's
_Thieves Like Us, Kenneth Fearing's _The Big Clock_, William Lindsay Gresham's _Nightmare Alley_, and Cornell Woolrich's _I Married a Dead Man_.

The companion volume is _CRIME NOVELS: American Noir of the 1950s_ (Library of America, 1997). It contains Patricia Highsmith's _The Talented Mr. Ripley_, David Goodis's _Down There_, Jim Thompson's _The Killer Inside Me_, Charles Willeford's _Pick-Up_, and Chester Himes's _The Real Cool Killers_.

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