The interest in the origins of "noir" has never been greater. Invented in Depression America, elevated to art in post-war France, it has been reinvented as the entertainment form for the new millennium. B&W illustrations.
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Penzler Pick, December 1999: It took the French, with their word for "dark," to give an identity to an important mystery sub-genre. Something more than hard-boiled, noir--whether in film, book, or television--must also speak to a sense of existential nihilism, where betrayal is how romance best expresses itself and fear is only another name for foreplay. But while we all now know what noir is, when it was starting to coalesce as a coherent style back in the 1940s and early 1950s, it was more spontaneous, less self-conscious. It was wholly representative of a world then at war, not just with visible enemies, but with unseen ones as well.
Editors Gorman, Server, and Greenberg have brought together a fine galaxy of contributors (among them, William F. Nolan, James Sallis, Mike Ripley, Bill Pronzini, Gary Lovisi, Max Allan Collins, and many more) to cover the waterfront in all areas of noir artistry. Even Stephen King weighs in with a tribute to Jim Thompson, wonderfully titled "Warning! Warning! Hitchhikers May Be Escaped Lunatics!" (Thompson fans will get the joke.) Charles Willeford, Chester Himes, Patricia Highsmith, Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, Orson Welles, John D. MacDonald, Leigh Brackett, Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Gunn, Joe Friday, Lew Archer, and Lawrence Block--they're all here, and more, of course. It's 386 pages deep in noir references, lore, and opinions. But of special interest to book collectors are the chapters on the old publishers and imprints: Lion Books, Gold Medal, and others. There are conversations too, among them a rare chat with cult favorite Peter Rabe (who died in 1990), an interview with the always lively and urbane Donald E. Westlake, and a talk with Abraham Polonsky (screenplay writer, director, and blacklistee). Even kid stuff is not exempt from the bleak world of noir. Ron Goulart explores comic book noir, and, as a well-respected expert in the field of comics and cartoon strips, leads us back to such forgotten figures as "Steel Sterling," "Madam Satan," and "Johnny Dynamite."
If you've ever enjoyed a book by James Ellroy, Jim Thompson, or Richard Stark, or any movie with Veronica Lake or Lizabeth Scott, this book is not to be missed. --Otto PenzlerFrom Library Journal:
Not intended to be read sequentially or for leisure, this anthology is a formative lay reader's reference on all things noir. The mixed format includes such varied material as interviews with Fritz Lang, discussions of the scores of classic and obscure films, and a look at comic book noir. Additionally, the editors (editors and authors in the mystery and pop culture fields), provide contextual insight into the lives and works of authors like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Although the book is accessible and rich in its informative value, it fails in its attempt to provide a historical and cultural context for the works it approaches. One might notice, for example, that the impact the Holocaust had on the theme of hollow despair at the center of noir goes unmentioned. Recommended only for larger film collections.?Jacob Siegel, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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