Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Best noir novel (was Red Right Hand)

From: Sean Shapiro (
Date: 04 Mar 2009

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    I'll second Brian's nomination for 'Build My Gallows High'. It's astonishingly lyrical and yet somehow direct and hardboiled at the same time. Perfectly constructred. Beautiful writing. (The movie is also a stunner.)

    It was the book that popped into my head when I saw the words 'best' and 'noir' so close together.

    I'll have to get back to you on number two after I've had a think.

    Sean Shapiro

    ________________________________ From: Brian Thornton <> To: Sent: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 6:34:04 PM Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Best noir novel (was Red Right Hand)


    We've had this discussion over and over again, and we've recently dissected a couple of these books, but there's a reason why they keep popping up in the canon.

    If anyone asked me what the best noir novel EVER was, I'd have to go with THE MALTESE FALCON. If "noir" can double for "nihilism" to you, "nihil"
    (German for "nothing") is what you've got at the end of this book. Spade survives, but he doesn't survive untouched, and the body count among the rest of the cast of characters is considerable.

    Several others presented for your consideration, Mark, in no particular order:

    THE LONG GOODBYE, by Raymond Chandler.

    Why he bothered to try to write another Marlowe novel after this is beyond me. It's really the end of Marlowe's story.

    THE LAST GOOD KISS by James Crumley.

    BUILD MY GALLOWS HIGH by Geoffrey Holmes (pseudonym for successful Hollywood screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring, who later converted this novel into the screenplay for the highly successful 40s film noir OUT OF THE PAST, starring Robert Mitchum).

    THE KILLER INSIDE ME by Jim Thompson

    THE PHANTOM LADY by William Irish (Cornell Woolrich)

    LITTLE CAESAR by W.R. Burnett

    DETOUR by Martin Goldsmith

    There are MANY others.

    All the Best-


    On Tue, Mar 3, 2009 at 6:42 AM, Mark D. Nevins <nevins_mark@>wrote:

    > As a relative newbie I'll have to read more noir to cast my vote, because
    > right now DOUBLE INDEMNITY stands alone--I can't think of another to put
    > next to it. The novel is so lean and tight, and while I had seen the film
    > several times NOTHING could have prepared me for that ending. Stunning,
    > terrifying-- nothing like it anywhere I've ever seen, and in the hands of
    > almost any other writer that ending would have been corny rather than
    > utterly blood-chilling.
    > I also liked POSTMAN ALWAYS, but I don't think it's even close to
    > For modern candidates, I'd put forward Aleas's SONGS OF INNOCENCE. I liked
    > the two Blake books a lot, even though I think each had flaws--some
    > inconsistencies, I thought, in character, and a bit of flabbiness in each
    > case that, rather than being a major flaw in and of itself, served to remind
    > me of how hard it must be to pull off what Cain and Hammett seem to do so
    > effortlessly. I guess SONGS OF INNOCENCE is not a classic noir, but it has
    > an ending for the ages.
    > Mark Nevins

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