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Adult Book Lists: Classic Noir

[Printable book list]


The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories

Black Mask was the crime magazine that launched the hard boiled genre. It gave writers like Erle Stanley Gardner, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett their first break and set the stage for modern crime fiction. This over 1,000 page tome collects the best and darkest stories as well as original artworks and bios for every author. A great place to jump into the world of noir or for noir fantaics to find some of their all time favorites.

The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps

With over 45 stories and two novels form the best crime magazines of the 30s, 40s, and 50s this massive volume can teach you all about the fine art of murder and stop a bullet! This volume has a little something form virtually all the masters of grime and crime.


James M. Cain
The Postman Always Rings Twice

An amoral drifter. A beautiful but bored wife. A husband in the way. these are the ingredients for a horrible and inescapable crime. Banned in Boston, this 1934 novel scandalized a nation and heralded a bold new talent in crime fiction.


Raymond Chandler
The Big Sleep

Philip Marlowe is hired by a dying millionaire to stop the blackmail of his daughter. The case takes Marlowe head long into the world of gambling, illegal pornography, and murder. This is one of Marlowe's best cases and Marlowe is indisputably one of the greatest detectives of all time. Chandler is the obvious heir to Dashiell Hammett's crime throne and this is a great place to jump into his dark and thrilling world.


David Goodis
Streets of No Return

Whitey is a bum and he knows it. He wasn't always a bum, but he'd prefer to drink about it than to think about it. But he'll have to think and think quick as the race riots that are tearing apart the city pull him and a face from the past into deep, dark trouble in the city's ugliest corners.


Dashiell Hammett
The Continental Op

A collection of seven of Hammett's best Continetal Op stories. The Continetal Op is a detective for the Continetal Detective Agency (closely modeled after the real life Pinkerton agency Hammett worked for). He's short, stocky, resourceful, and relentless. He's the prototype for virtually every tough-guy, no-nonsense private detective that came later and he's still one of the best.


Dashiell Hammett
The Novels of Dashiell Hammett

The novels of what is widely considered the best of all noir writers and the inventor of the modern detective story.
Red Harvest: Hammett's Continetal Op wages a one man war against the worst town he's ever been to. Turning corrupt cops and gangsters against each other, he plays a deadly game that pays off in blood.
The Dain Curse: The Continetal op is back trying to save the mystery of a family curse before it takes the life of a young woman.
The Maltese Falcon: The all-time classic Sam Spade mystery. Can Sam find the falcon that people are so willing to kill and die for before he's another one of its victims?
The Glass Key: Loyalty is dangerous for criminals. Ned Beaumont finds out the hard way when he does everything he can to save his crooked boss in the middle of a gang war.
The Thin Man: Former private detective Nick Charles and his socialite wife Nora are living the high life when they are brought into a case of a particularly odd death.


Edited by Bill Pronzini
Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories

Another killer anthology of some of the best two fisted crime tales. This one has over 80 years' worth of stories with a great chunk being classic noir.


Chester Himes
The Big Gold Dream

Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are the two toughest detectives in Harlem. Are they tough enough to survive a war between murderers and prostitutes against corrupt politicians and racist detectives? Himes' duo is one of crime fiction's best pairs and hugely daring for standing up against racism in the 50s and 60s.


Patricia Highsmith
The Talented Mr. Ripley

Ripley was meant to be an errand boy. Go to Italy and return prodigal son Dickie Greenleaf back home, but once he enters Dickie's world he finds he likes everything about him and his life. He decides he wants his life to be exactly like Dickie's, and what's wrong with a little murder to get your dreams? The start of the excellent Ripley series and one of the excellent Highsmith's grestest creations.


John Macdonald
The Deep Blue Goodbye

Travis Mcgee isn't a cop or even a licensed PI, he's a salvage consultant. He finds lost property for half the value, but when a WW II treasure goes missing the cost of recovery could be far more than the reward. This is the first in the 21 novel series of Travis McGee books. John Macdonald was the first to introduce Florida as a setting for noir and many contemporary authors have since followed suit. He was a prolific author writing from the 50s all the way into the 80s, so he was able to survey decades of our nation's darker side.


Ross Macdonald
The Doomsters

Lew Archer has a junkie for a client and a murder of a Senator and his wife that have a legion of skeletons in their closet. The further the case goes the more Lew thinks that maybe the whole family is cursed and maybe that it's justice well served. Too bad he still has to solve the case. Lew Archer started as a very thinly veiled Philip Marlowe clone that grew into a completely unique character. This book was the turning point. Archer is just as tough as other PIs, but he isn't just cynical and jaded. He cares as much about why a crime happened as much as who did it. It makes for some truly special novels.


Mickey Spillane
The Mike Hammer Collection Volume 1

Mike Hammer was a different sort of hero. Unlike the witty, cynical, and violent when necessary heroes of Hammett or Chandler, Hammer is a blunt instrument. He ushered in a period of antihero detectives that not only used violence but enjoyed it. I, the Jury: When Mike's old friend is murdered he'll do anything to get the killer, but the killer is closer they he could ever know. My Gun is Quick: Hammer rips apart the city trying to solve the 'accidental' death of a prostitute that no one wants solved. Vengeance is Mine!:An old war buddy is found dead next to a passed out hammer. The police call it suicide, but Hammer wants vengeance.


Jim Thompson
The Getaway

It was going to be a simple robbery, but after a cross and a double cross, two deadly lovers are on the run, an even deadlier psychopath is on their trail, and damnation is their only destination. A blistering, grim look at the all-American love affair with violence from the heir to Hammett and Chandler's crime throne.


Cornell Woolrich
The Black Angel

After her husband's mistress is murdered, Alberta decides she'll do anything to clear her husband's name and free him. Anything. She tracks down four suspects and becomes anything they want to get close and trap them. A classic femme fatale story with an unforgettable heroine.


Edited by James Ellroy
The Best American Noir of the Century

This collection has a century's worth of great noir stories that will take you from the beginning of the genre, through the wave of authors inspired to push things forward into the modern day. A great read for anyone looking for classic noir or to find some more modern authors.

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