Read The Best American Noir of the Century by James Ellroy Otto Penzler Online


A magisterial anthology of American noir writing in the 20th century by the best-selling author of the LA Quartet: The Black Dahlia. The Big Nowhere , LA Confidential and White Jazz. In his intoduction to The Best American Noir of the Century, James Ellroy writes, "noir is the most scrutinised offshoot of the hard-boiled school of fiction. It's the long drop off the shortA magisterial anthology of American noir writing in the 20th century by the best-selling author of the LA Quartet: The Black Dahlia. The Big Nowhere , LA Confidential and White Jazz. In his intoduction to The Best American Noir of the Century, James Ellroy writes, "noir is the most scrutinised offshoot of the hard-boiled school of fiction. It's the long drop off the short pier and the wrong man and the wrong woman in perfect misalliance. It's the nightmare of flawed souls with big dreams and the precise how and why of the all-time sure thing that goes bad." Offering the best examples of literary sure things gone bad, this collection ensures that nowhere else can readers find a darker, more thorough distillation of American noir fiction.James Ellroy and Otto Penzler, series editor of the annual The Best American Mystery Stories, mined one hundred years of writing - 1910-2010 - to find this treasure trove of thirty-nine stories. From noir's twenties-era infancy come gems like James M. Cain's "Pastorale," and its post-war heyday boasts giants like Mickey Spillane and Evan Hunter. Packing an undeniable punch, diverse contemporary incarnations include Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane, Patricia Highsmith and William Gay, with many page-turners appearing in the last decade....

Title : The Best American Noir of the Century
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ISBN : 9780099538257
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 615 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Best American Noir of the Century Reviews

  • James Thane
    2019-05-05 22:51

    James Ellroy and Otto Penzler have collected in this volume a large number of very dark crime stories spanning the years from 1910 to 2010. Included are stories by a number of very familiar writers like Mickey Spillane, Gil Brewer, James M. Cain, Jim Thompson, James Ellroy, Lawrence Block, and Elmore Leonard. There are also works by a number of lesser-known writers, but the stories are uniformly good and most of them won awards of one kind or another.My personal favorites are probably James Crumley's "Hot Springs;" Leonard's "When the Women Come Out to Dance;" and James Lee Burke's, "Texas City, 1947." But fans of noir fiction will find a lot of stories here that will keep them staying up late at night to read "just one more."

  • Lou
    2019-04-23 23:34

    Spurs by Tod RobbinsA circus story from 1930s a tale of a small man, part of the freak show side the circus, with a big heart for a beautiful horseback rider. A match not possibly made in heaven as the bride to be has other plans for her new husband. Her heart is cold for him but warm for wealth, she plots and advises of her plans to a different person she wishes to be married to in the future also a performer in their circus. The small man turns out to be harder to crack than she thought and she finds the tables have turned. You can only think that she is to blame in the end due to her own evil plan.Very good story filled with wonderful characters and setting with a noir theme. I loved how he twisted the story with the bizarre.This story was the basis for a classic noir film Freaks in 1932.Pastorale by James M. CainTraditional noir story in the style of which the author James Cain is known for.Most of his stories involve a man and woman in love and deceit.In this story, his first published story, he has a woman who wants out of a marriage and plots with her lover a deadly end to her husbands life. They get help from an ex-con her lover knows, which was not a good idea.The secret must not get out on who is the killer.Misfits, affairs and murder written by one of the master writers of noir literature James M. Cain.Gun crazy by Mackinlay KantorStory of Young boys and fascination with guns at young ages of six upwards. One boy grows up to be a gun crazy gunslinger and bank robber Nelson Tare. He also becomes a stunt shooter and teams up with a female counterpart and together in love they rob from banks and arson the run a wanted duo. One lesson they learn is that their love of the gun went too far and left them with a grim ending. Nice noir story that tells how a group of friends are on one occasion children and then another adults changed, some law abiding citizens and one other a ruthless wanted man.A good read of the collection.This was the basis for a movie of the same name and the screenplay was written by this author also.Nothing To Worry About by Day KeeneNoir killing off the wife story. A assistant attorney sees his heavy drinking wife as an obstacle for him making to the top as a senator.This short story walks you through the killing of her in pitch darkness of a room. Theres only one thing there is something to worry about. A good one to read."The art of killing, the three Ms, means, method, motive had changed little in the known history of man. To take a life, one still had to shoot, knife, drown, strike, strangle, or poison the party of the unwanted part.And, as with the most basic refinements to the art of living, the first known method of murder used- that of striking the party to be removed with whatever object came first to hand-was still the most difficult of detection, providing of course that the party who did the striking could maintain a reasonable plea of being elsewhere at the time."The Homecoming by Dorothy B. HughesThis author was the first female to fall squarely in the hard-boiled school.This is a short tight psychological and visceral story.Jealousy, love and murder.One man Benny finds a friend Jim, since college days, a threat he is noticed and Benny is not. He went off to war and received medals where our murderer did his service on the home ground. While the Jim the top man was away in war he and Nan got on well and he loved her. Jim returns and enters the welcoming arms of Nan. Benny hates Jim for taking his woman and everything about him, murder is running in his veins.The story takes you through Benny's removal of Jim but accidents do happen in the cause of things.Nice little treat it opens with a great sentence."It was a dark night, a small-wind night, the night on which evil things could happen, might happen."Also in the story.."He no longer feared the sound and shadow behind him.There was no terror as bad as the hurt in his head and his heart.As he moved on without direction he saw through the mist the pinprick of green in the night. He knew then where he was going, where he must go. The tears ran down his cheeks into his mouth. They tasted like blood."The Lady Says Die! By Mike SpillaneTwo rival businessmen friends. One guy who wants everything the other has his eyes on ends up died, suicide. The living one becomes suspected but he's far from plunging the man to his death. He only guilty of playing with the dead mans ego. Another good little noir story from an author who is more known for penning novels than short stories.The Gesture by Gil Brewer A husband and wife live in a remote location. They have a guest staying over and the husband becomes extremely jealous of this younger man to the extent that he plans to kill him. He stumbles upon letter written by the guest that addresses their married life that reflection from a third party changes his whole intentions.Surprising twist to this noir short.The Last Spin by Evan HunterA shocking little noir short of two young gang members round a table settling a score with a smith and wesson .38 police special.The modus operandi is Russian Roulette.A good story i was hoping they quit the spinning and made friends. Who will it bulket fall on? Tigo or Danny?"Danny slapped the cylinder with his left hand. The cylinder whirled, whirled, and then stopped. Slowly, Danny put the gun to his head. He wanted to close his eyes, but he didnt dare. Tigo, the enemy, was watching him. He returned Tigo's stare, and then over the roar of his blood he heard the empty click. Hastily, he put the gun down on the table."Forever After by Jim ThompsonAnother wife in an affair and killing off the husband story. This one about double indemnity. Jim Thompson characters and writing, similar story to that of James m cain's works.Poor woman he does add his own turn of events to the tale.Great little Thompson noir treat.The Dripping by David MorrellBefore he published First Blood and Creepers he published this. This was his first published story, a story of suspense and horror.A man returns home to find dire circumstances, blood and more blood. Something tells you he is treading familiar ground deja vu.A real good short story, a pleasant surprise of macabre of the most twisted kind."Perhaps he is still in the house, waiting for me.To the hollow sickness in my stomach now comes fear, hot, pulsing, and i am frantic before i realize what i am doing- grabbing the spare cane my mother always keeps by her bed, flicking on the light in her room, throwing open the closet door and striking in with the cane. Viciously, sounds coming from my throat, the can flailing among the faded dresses.No one. Under the bed. No one. Behind the door. No one."

  • Jeanne
    2019-05-03 23:55

    Other reviews of this collection often debated if all the stories selected for this book can truly be called “noir”. Since I struggle to even pronounce “noir” correctly, I will avoid that debate completely. These stories were dark and gritty and could I read no more than one or two a week often accompanied by a glass of wine for the nerves. Everyone will have their own favorites and their own dogs. I jumped around throughout the collection rather than reading in chronicnoligcal order but I found myself struggling through later selections (post 2000) with the exception of the final story, Lorenzo Carcaterra’s “Missing the Morning Bus” which still has me a bit creeped out even as I write this review. I have walked away with a list of new authors and books added to my “to read” list. I ended with a four star overall rating but I highly recommend that anyone interested in this genre (however you define it) pick up this collection and find your own favorites.

  • Joe Murray
    2019-05-16 02:37

    When a book boasts the monumental declaration, The Best American Noir of the Century, it damn well better stand up to scrutiny—all prodigious 752 pages of it. And so it was with relish that I tucked into this meaty and bloody feast from arguably the finest literary writers of noir America has ever produced, hoping for some tasty morsels. The Best American Noir of the Century is a colossal collection of 39 short stories dating from as far back as 1923, right up to 2007, and selected by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler, neither of whom need an introduction to any noir/crime aficionado. They are all there in this anthology, the greats synonymous with noir: James M. Cain to James Lee Burke, alongside Dorothy B. Hughes and Joyce Carol Oates—each giving us their different web-like spin on the dark worlds they weave so proficiently. In his introduction, Ellroy writes: “Noir is the most scrutinized offshoot of the hard-boiled school of fiction. It’s the long drop off the short pier and the wrong man and the wrong woman in perfect misalliance. It’s the nightmare of flawed souls with big dreams and the precise how and why of the all-time sure thing that goes bad.” And that’s noir in a nutshell: flawed souls and sure things going bad, usually in the shape of a PI spinning too many plates for his own good, or a hard-working detective keeping his cards too close to his chest and ending up bad. Surprisingly though, The Best American Noir of the Century has few if any PIs and detectives gracing the pages. Penzler gives reasoning, of sorts, behind this salient omission by drawing a clear line in his definition of noir, explaining in the foreword that he considers private detective fiction and noir fiction to have “mutually exclusive philosophical premises.” Not every noir fan will agree with that premise. No doubt that was the argument for excluding such greats as Dashiell Hammett, the father of hardboiled noir, as well as Raymond Chandler, the king of gunshots in dark and smoky rooms. To their credit, however, Penzler and Ellroy have included stories and writers not normally associated with noir—or at least noir in its purest form. David Morrell’s “The Dripping” is an intense horror story, and the proficient Harlan Ellison gives us the terrifically titled, “Mefisto in Onyx,” a science fiction tale, which, in fact is more a novella than a short story. Most of the 39 tales in this collection appeared originally in magazines and pulps such as Manhunt and Black Mask, but also in the more literary American Mercury, Southern Review, and Omni. This compilation intelligently provides brief bios about each author before delving into their contributions. It is interesting to see how the genre has evolved over the long dark years of noir, and The Best American Noir of the Century acts as a de facto stepping-stone in explaining its evolution. Spoilt for choice is an understatement when trying to pick a favorite story from all the gems on offer. The selection is uniformly impressive. Brendan DuBois’ brilliant “A Ticket Out,” James W. Hall’s “Crack,” Stephen Greenleaf’s, “Iris,” Evan Hunter’s totally absorbing “The Last Spin,” F. X. Toole (Jerry Boyd) delivers another knockout punch with “Midnight Emissions,” and Ed Gorman’s, “Out There in the Darkness”—all top my own list for originality and terrific writing. But each reader will have their own and for entirely different reasons. These are gritty, dark stories with leading characters full of flaws with little redemption waiting for them in their future. Everything about The Best American Noir of the Century oozes class, and not just from the authors and editors. The publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is to be commended for pulling out all the stops and not skimping on the costs on this edition, giving us a beautifully designed book with a translucent cover. Once the cover is removed, it reveals a classic noir scene of bloody interrogation being noted by an observing scribe. Well worth its impressive weight in gold, it would be a crime not to have this seminal masterpiece in your collection.

  • Mariana
    2019-05-11 21:58

    En esta antología conformada por diez relatos, encontramos las plumas de los autores estadounidenses más reconocidos dentro del género negro. Cada una de las historias contenidas en este libro, nos presentan personajes sórdidos, corrompidos, perseguidos por el pasado y dispuestos a matar con tal de obtener una venganza, dinero o incluso amor.La calidad de todos los relatos es buena, sin embargo, para mi existieron tres que sobresalieron: "Lenta, lentamente al viento" de Patricia Highsmith, "Infiel" de Joyce Carol Oates y "Como un hueso en la garganta" de Lawrence Block.Reseña completa:

  • Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
    2019-05-17 01:00

    This book is wrongly named. It claims to contain the best American noir of the century - but which century is that? The collection covers the years 1923 to 2007, which is 84 years from two different centuries. Also, a lot of the best American noir is found in novel form. So this book should really have been called 'The Best American Noir Short Stories from an 84-year period' except that doesn't have the same ring, does it?Ah well. This will be another of those story-by-story reviews that I keep updating until I finish the book in question. So here goes. Todd Robbins - 'Spurs': Apparently this is the story that inspired the movie 'Freaks', which I haven't seen and would like too. Anyway, this is a dark little tale that is told in an initially whimsical style that, together with the French travelling-entertainers setting reminded me of Paul Gallico's Love Of Seven Dolls - but boy, did this story ever choose to travel down a much, much darker route. There's a great scene where all the freaks are at a party, and each of them is preening, thinking he or she is the superfreak, the one that draws the crowds in at their shows, and then someone gets mad at someone else and all their seething resentment of each other erupts in one big brawl. No community among freaks, then, and why should there be, they're all dependent upon what little income they can generate from the straights, so they're naturally pitted against each other. That's hellish. Even more hellish is the fate that awaits the character that you initially fancy will come out of this pretty well. Very dark and effective stuff. James M. Cain - 'Pastorale': Very different from the urban noir he would become famous for, but this little rural sonata transforms quite rapidly into a funeral march that's as grim and bitter as anything he wrote later on. The tone of voice is a bit of a surprise - I've read Ring Lardner and I never really warmed up to that sort of hick-dialect storytelling - but for once it goes really well with the story of a backwoods loser who just doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut. It's a nice curiosity, but Cain would go on to do better stuff. Steve Fisher - 'You'll Always Remember Me': This is a tale about a very young psychopath. It's effective, but that animal cruelty scene really got under my skin. Your mileage will vary of course, but I work with abandoned and injured kittens a lot and even as a piece of fiction that one particular scene just made me feel sick. Other than that, this story is nothing especially new and not exceptionally well-written. Jim Thompson could have really run with this material, if he didn't happen to run it into the ground. --------------------

  • Abhinav
    2019-04-25 05:02

    I read this compilation as part of the 387 Short Story Challenge - one story a day for the past month or so. There are about 30 out of these 35 stories I really liked, but only a handful of them make the amazing grade.So after much thought, I'm not going to be tempted into rating it five stars. Given how dark & depressing these stories can be, I'm not gonna take this up even for selective reading anytime soon. That being said, this is not to be missed at any cost by fans of crime fiction & noir.

  • Aaron Poorman
    2019-04-24 02:57

    I'm back from my blogging hiatus now that another semester has passed. How long this return will last before I'm pulled entirely back into my studies I can't be sure. Still, it is nice to have time for reading for fun again. The Best American Noir of the Century is a collection compiled by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler. It's a massive book with nearly forty stories, and stretches as far back as 1923 (Tom Robbins' "Spurs" and as recently as 2007 (Lorenzo Carcaterra's "Missing The Morning Bus") for it's material. When a collection claims to be the best of the year, I approach it with what can only be described as modest expectations. If the time period expands to larger proportions, such as decades or more my skepticism and hopes rise in rather unequal amounts. Usually in favor of the former, seeing as I am a bit cynical, even around the holidays. Luckily I was pleasantly surprised again and again while reading these stories.Noir, in literary terms can seem at times to be simple and complex when it comes to classification. It started as a sub-genre within mystery fiction which has since broadened its scope and as such has grown to include a wider array of writing. Perhaps the easiest way to explain noir to those unfamiliar with it, might be to say the stories are well, black. From the settings to the plot lines and characters there is a ever present sense of darkness. Murder happens more often than not in noir fiction. There are ill-fated love affairs, of standard and triangle the variety. There are heists gone right, or wrong, and sometimes there are just psychopaths - who kill, just to kill. What makes almost any character interesting in any genre, is the depth and complexity of their flaws. That, for me, is what makes noir so fun to read. The protagonists aren't who you'd always expect. They are as flawed as anyone and might be called bad guys depending on how one chooses to look at it. Personally I've always been drawn to anti-heroes and so with this collection I found a lot to appreciate.I've read countless collections and anthologies throughout the years - but never, and I mean never, have I been introduced to so many interesting authors as I have with this. Many of those authors are well-known and so I knew of them going in, but still hadn't read any of their work. This short list includes James Ellroy, who helped compile the volume and is regarded as one of America's finest crime writers. ( L.A. Confidential, The Black Dalia ) Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley) is another prime example. I'd been intending to check her out ever since I read and reviewed Thieves of Manhattan - the story she wrote in this case was actually inspired by a Ronald Regan quote, scary right? "Slowly, Slowly in the Wind" is just so memorable and creepy that I had to reference it by name. ( it is also the title to a short story collection by Highsmith) Lastly among these well known but, new to me writers was Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island) You may have noticed by now that all the larger works I've mentioned were made into films, some with greater success than others. But that brings up another intriguing fact about this collection in that many of the stories included have been made into films themselves. Oftentimes re-branded with new names such as the aforementioned opener "Spurs" which was adapted way back in the black and white era into the film Freaks (1932). An example of one story that kept the original title when it was adapted would be MacKinly Kantor's Gun Crazy (1950). I plan on trying to track down a number of these movies sometime "Spurs" with it's midget, murder, anti-hero was one of my favorites from the lot. As for what was my absolute favorite story, right now, I am leaning toward Tom Franklin's "Poachers". I'll leave the details to those curious enough to actually check out the book, as it is one of the longer works included. But what I will say that setting, and the characters are just fantastic. I've always thought there was something extra unsettling about the south, this story and a few others selected only prove that point.I'm tempted to give more plot specifics to certain stories, but I think that to any serious reader there is something terribly exciting about not being told everything. There is something special in discovering these kinds of stories, and writers on your own so I will leave that reward for you. To readers looking for something new I strongly recommend giving this a try. Nearly every story is a gem. Maybe not emeralds or sapphires but surely obsidian - black, flawed and still beautiful. Stories of covetous, murderous dreamers who aim for stars because anything less would be inhuman ; or perhaps un-American. The genre, and American talent, could scarcely be better represented than they are in The Best American Noir of the Century.* Complete version w/ song can be read and heard on my blog

  • Ed
    2019-04-26 23:57

    Some short stories are better than others in this collection but James Lee Burke's "Texas City, 1947" is by itself, worth the price of the book. Billy Bob is a young Cajun boy growing up in very tough family circumstances in 1947 South Texas. His teacher is a wonderfully drawn Catholic Nun who becomes a kind of surrogate mother. The boy's name is Billy Bob but it could just as well be Dave, as in Dave Robicheaux. All the characters gut wrenching emotions jump off the pages like a punch in the throat and leave you with tears in your eyes! This unforgettable short story reminds you why you love reading fiction.

  • Michael
    2019-04-30 20:34

    It is hard to review a collection of short stories (do you rate based on the average ratings of all the stories or how you felt of the book as a whole?). This collection of Noir short stories, is well worth reading for all Noir and Hard-Boiled fans. Full of grittiness, vengeance, murder and macabre; I loved every minute of this book.Individual Breakdown of the Short StoriesSpurs by Tod Robbins (1923) -- 3/5Pastorale by James M. Cain (1928) -- 4/5You'll Always Remember Me by Steve Fisher (1938) -- 5/5Gun Crazy by Mackinlay Kantor (1940) -- 4/5Nothing to Worry About by Day Keene (1945) -- 5/5The Homecoming by Dorothy B. Hughes (1946) -- 3/5Man in the Dark by Howard Browne (1952) -- 5/5The Lady Says Die! by Mickey Spillane (1953) -- 4/5Professional Man by David Goodis (1953) -- 5/5The Gesture by Gil Brewer (1956) -- 3/5The Last Spin by Evan Hunter (1956) -- 4/5Forever After by Jim Thompson (1960) -- 3/5For the Rest of Her Life by Cornell Woulrich (1968) -- 4/5The Dripping by David Morrell (1972) -- 4/5Slowly, Slowly in the Wind by Patricia Highsmith (1979) -- 5/5Iris by Stephen Greenleaf (1984) -- 4/5A Ticket Out by Brendan Dubois (1987) -- 4/5Since I Don't Have You by James Ellroy (1988) -- 4/5Texas City, 1947 by James Lee Burke (1991) -- 3/5Mefisto in Onyx by Harlan Ellison (1993) -- 4/5Out There in the Darkness by Ed Gorman (1995) -- 4/5Hot Springs by James Crumley (1996) -- 4/5The Weekend by Jeffery Deaver (1996) -- 4/5Like a Bone in the Throat by Lawrence Block (1998) -- 5/5Crack by James W. Hall (1999) -- 4/5Running Out of Dog by Dennis Lehane (1999) -- 3/5The Paperhanger by William Gay (2000) -- 3/5Midnight Emissions by F. X. Toole (2001) -- 4/5When the Women come Out to Dance by Elmore Leonard (2002) -- 4/5Controlled Burn by Scott Wolven (2002) -- 3/5What She Offered by Thomas H. Cook (2005) -- 4/5Her Lord and Master by Andrew Klavan (2005) -- 4/5Stab by Chris Adrian (2006) -- 3/5The Hoarder by Bradford Morrow (2006) -- 3/5Missing the Morning Bus by Lorenzo Carcaterra (2007) --3/5

  • Audra (Unabridged Chick)
    2019-04-22 00:38

    Did... I feel "repulsed and titillated" while reading this, as James Ellroy claimed I would?: YES.  Forget horror, noir is the best way to get a chill up one's spine! Did... I find myself crushing on all the wrong people?: YES.  There's something so deadly sexy about a good femme fatale! Did... I feel very grateful that I had this as an e-book edition?: YES, mostly.  At 731 pages, I wouldn't have been able to carry a hard copy around on my commute, but this is the kind of book that begs to be held and thumbed through. Review: A solid collection of noir short stories, picked by Otto Penzler, introduced by James Ellroy.  In his 'Foreward', Penzler defines 'noir'; by his definition, private eyes such as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe do not belong in the noir genre, and as such, both Hammett and Chandler aren't included in this collection.  (I disagree with Penzler's definition but I guess he knows more than me!)  Still, for anyone interested in noir, this is a perfect place to start.The stories are ordered chronologically by publication date, beginning in 1923 and ending in 2007.  It's a nice way to read through the collection and see how the genre has developed and changed.  Each story is prefaced with a bio about the author; I was amazed at how many of these authors or stories have a Hollywood connection.Some of the highlights include the opening story, 'Spurs', which was the basis for the film Freaks; 'The Homecoming' by Dorothy B. Hughes, one of the first female writers of noir; 'Faithless', a piece by Joyce Carol Oates that manages to be creepy and literary and really, really good; and 'What She Offered' by Thomas H. Cook.

  • Nicolas
    2019-05-18 21:54

    Favourite Stories:Tod Robbins "Spurs" - Dark and funnySteve Fisher "You'll Always Remember Me" - Salinger-esqueDay Keene "Nothing to Worry About" - Dark and funnyHoward Browne "Man in the Dark" - Classic NoirDavid Goodis "Professional Man" - Good endingCharles Beaumont "The Hunger" - CreepyEvan Hunter "The Last Spin" - CuteCornell Woolrich "For the Rest of Her Life" - Really darkDavid Morell "The Dripping" - Really creepyPatricia Highsmith "Slowly, Slowly in the Wind" - Dark and funnyJames Lee Burke "Texas City, 1947" - Good endingEd Gorman "Out There in the Darkness" - Scary and suspensefulJeffery Deaver "The Weekender" - Good endingTom Franklin "Poachers" - Great imageryChristopher Coake "All Through the House" - Cool reverse chronological storyAndrew Klavan "Her Lord and Master" - Dark, funny, and kinky"See, when the police find a corpse in Texas, their first question ain't who done it, it's what did the dead do to deserve it."- 'Midnight Emissions' by F.X. Toole

  • Row Torrance
    2019-05-16 01:41

    Por supuesto que hubo cuentos que me encantaron más que otros, definitivamente la intriga, la venganza y la ambición son temas centrales en esta antología... De los mejores en mi opinión: Infiel, El Profesional, Con un hueso en la garganta... de 10!!

  • Warren Stalley
    2019-05-07 20:32

    The Best American Noir of the Century collects together a wide range of crime authors from the U.S. and is a great way to find interesting writers who you may not have come across before. Each story is preceded by a brief yet informative introduction to the author. All the pieces were interesting in one way or another but some of my personal favourites were as follows:Nothing To Worry About – Day KeeneA teenage boy thinks he’s got away with murder but his homicidal tendencies may yet give him away. A slice of crime fiction from the Nineteen Forties era.Man In The Dark – Howard BrowneA distraught husband tries to piece together the mystery of his wife’s disappearance and find out just who is the dead body in his wife’s burnt out car wreck? An engrossing mystery story from an author who was new to me.The Lady Says Die! – Mickey SpillaneA wall street dealer tells the story of his friends’ demise to a police detective in a short but powerful piece of work from the legendary Mr Spillane. This is no Mike Hammer but still a solid enticing story.Professional Man – David GoodisFreddy Lamb is a lift attendant by day and hitman by night. He works for the owner of The Yellow Cat nightclub Herman Charn but his boss has eyes for Freddy’s girlfriend Pearl. This can only lead to trouble for the professional man. A riveting and emotional story plus a stand out piece in this collection from one of the truly great noir writers David Goodis.The Last Spin – Evan HunterTwo rival gang members try to settle a dispute over a tense game of Russian roulette in this powerful and harrowing tale that really delivers a punch. A true American classic.Slowly, Slowly In The Wind – Patricia HighsmithA retired businessman moves to the country for the sake of his health but ends up fighting with a local land owner in this impressive and chilling tale from a superb author.Iris – Stephen GreenleafA travelling businessman thinks he’s picking up a quirky hitchhiker called Iris but ends up holding the baby and a whole lot more in this engrossing and hypnotic piece with a killer ending. Bleak just like good noir should be.A Ticket Out – Brendan DuboisBrad and Monroe two teenage boys dream of going to college and escaping/leaving their small town of Boston Falls. But the need for money and a dangerous robbery leave one of the boys scarred for life in this moving, evocative story.Since I Don’t Have You – James EllroyA fixer who works for both Howard Hughes and gangster Mickey Cohen is tasked with tracking down a mysterious girl who both his bosses want back. But who is smarter the dame with the brains or the fixer in the mix? Written in a highly stylised way this is a tough talking and gripping crime piece from a well known author.Texas City, 1947 - James Lee BurkeA young boy and his siblings suffer poverty and cruelty from their father’s girlfriend in this evocative and moving story that squeezes the heart and stays with you long after finishing. Truly memorable.Mefisto In Onyx – Harlan EllisonA man with psychic powers finds himself face to face with a death row serial killer but did the prisoner really commit the hideous crimes? A lengthy mystery story but worth sticking with for the killer payoff. Out There in the Darkness - Ed GormanFour friends who have a regular poker night capture an intruder and suffer the consequences of rough justice in this gripping, involving story from the modern age of crime.Hot Springs - James CrumleyBenbow and Mona Sue, a couple on the run hide out in a mountain lodge at Hidden Springs Canyon. Even with a familiar noir plot the talented writer James Crumley creates a rich and colourful tale that heads to a dark and graphic conclusion.The Weekender - Jeffery DeaverOn the run from a drugstore armed robbery two criminals Jack Prescot and Joe Roy Toth hideout in a remote town called Winchester. They have a hostage Randall Weller who tries to plea for his freedom and life in a compelling story with a true noir kick in the guts ending. Great work from a well known author.Like a Bone in the Throat - Lawrence BlockWilliam Croydon, a killer on death row strikes up an unlikely friendship with Paul Dandridge, the brother of a young woman Croydon murdered. But who is kidding who in this riveting slice of gritty crime drama with a twisted ending.Crack - James W. HallA University teacher living near Bilbao, Spain discovers a crack in the wall between his home and his neighbours, so begins a downward spiral of voyeurism, obsession and doom as he spies on the young girl next door. A short yet hypnotic piece that stays long in the memory.Running Out of Dog - Dennis LehaneIn the small Southern town of Eden a dangerous equation of people exists – Elgin, his partner Shelley Briggs, his girlfriend Jewel Lut, her husband Perkin Lut and Elgin’s odd friend Blue. What follows is a mixture of friendship, love, lust and madness superbly told by Dennis Lehane. You can feel the dust at the back of your throat with this story, another stand out piece in this collection.Midnight Emissions - F. X. TooleA masculine story of promising heavyweight boxer Kenny Coyle and the trainers and business people around him. Full of sweat, grit and greed this is a lengthy developed story full of realistic details yet still noir at its core.When the Women come Out to Dance - Elmore LeonardLourdes is hired as a personal maid to Mrs Mahmood, soon after they’re talking about murder. Events lead to a dark conclusion in this classic smooth piece of storytelling from one of the masters of crime fiction.Controlled Burn - Scott WolvenBill Allen is hiding out after an armed robbery that went wrong. While working at a remote woodlot he goes on a job to burn some fields then disappears on the run again in a poetic reflection of one man’s troubled life on the run.What She Offered - Thomas H. CookAn author meets Victoria, a strange woman in a bar with an offer that’s both unusual and enticing to him in this original story.Her Lord and Master - Andrew KlavanSusan and Jim are having a masochistic relationship that leads them to dark things in this original yet highly controversial and thought provoking story.Stab - Chris AdrianSomeone is murdering small animals in the quiet neighbourhood of Severna Forest. Calvin, a young boy who mourns the loss of his identical twin discovers who is behind the stabbings but can he stop them? A truly haunting tale of the loss of childhood innocence and mortality.The Hoarder - Bradford MorrowIn Bayside Park a young man gets a job at a rundown miniature golf course. As he begins spying on the players he becomes obsessed with Penny, his brother’s girlfriend which leads to a heart of darkness in this hypnotic and poetic story of desire.Missing the Morning Bus - Lorenzo CarcaterraA husband uses his weekly poker evening to try to find out which of his card buddies is responsible for the death of his wife in this friendship story with a surprising twist in the tale.To summarise you may not like all the stories contained within The Best American Noir of the Century but you’re sure to find something that will spark your interest among the wide variety of authors featured in the book. Enjoy.

  • Jeff Lanter
    2019-04-20 04:49

    It can be hard to find good noir and for me anyway, noir scratches a reading itch that no other story can touch. There's something about a flawed character meeting their doomed fate that speaks to this overly pragmatic and cynical person. Life all too often feels like a noir setting and I think that is why I relish noir so much (well that and it probably confirms my world view to a certain extent too).This huge collection is full of noir stories going back quite a ways in the 1900's. It is impressive how for the most part, even the old stories don't feel too outdated or quaint. Some stories are depressing as heck, some are really dark and discouraging, a few are genuinely unsettling too. There is a nice variety in the stories and I'm sure it had to be hard to find stories that didn't involve some a private eye or a guy hunting a femme fatale for this collection. That isn't to say there aren't some of those here but it never becomes too much. Beyond that, I don't know what else I can say about this because it is a great read for the small audience who wants. If you like noir or are curious to read noir, this is one of the only collections I am aware of you can pick up and get a lot of noir for a fair price. I would also recommend Criminal, Fatale, and The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker as excellent noir graphic novel companion pieces to this if you haven't not already read them or thirst for more gritty realism in your reading habit.

  • J.R.
    2019-04-30 02:39

    If you’re already a fan of the genre, you’ll be pleased with this magnificent edition. If you don’t know what noir is, then this is a splendid introduction.In fact, if you’re a novice, the editors James Ellroy and Otto Penzler each provide a brief introduction offering their interpretations of the term. Penzler contends noir is a “…prodigiously overused term to describe a certain type of film or literary work” which is actually “…virtually impossible to define, but everyone thinks they know it when they see it.” Ellroy, naturally, offers his own distinct views on the subject. Incidentally, a fine example of his dark prose is included in the volume.Examples range from a 1923 tale by Tod Robbins to a 2007 story by Lorenzo Carcaterra. A majority of the stories were published in vintage pulps, though a surprising number also made prominent literary magazines. Each story is preceded by a brief biographical sketch on the writer, the date when the story originally appeared and where.All the big names are here, including a few you might not have considered noir writers.Each reader will find his own favorites. Some of mine included James W. Hall’s brilliant “Crack;” James Lee Burke’s “Texas City, 1947;” Patricia Highsmith’s “Slowly, Slowly in the Wind;” Evan Hunter’s “The Last Spin;” James M. Cain’s “Pastorale;” Joyce Carol Oates’ “Faithless,” and Elmore Leonard’s “When the Women Come Out to Dance.”But there’s lots more to enjoy and recommend. It’s a superb collection.

  • Judi
    2019-05-10 04:40

    Since this is a rather thick book (800 pages) of short stories, I suspect that I'll be reading it for awhile. But it is worth the read, especially if you really want to learn what the Noir genre is. Guy Savage reviewed this book for MostlyFiction ( and one of things he points out is to read Otto Penzler's introduction for a better understanding of the delineations under the umbrella of crime fiction, especially when it comes to the term "Noir." This is good advice BUT I'd add that its really important to then read these stories in sequential order to have an even better understanding. I admit that I was under educated in this area and reading these stories, I feel that I should go back through MostlyFiction and reevaluate each time that I have used the term Noir as a tag. And then maybe add it to some that fit this genre but I hadn't realized it.

  • Jeremy Good
    2019-05-01 04:47

    Like most anthologies, it's a bit hit and miss. Most intriguing was the editorial take on noir, a bit idiosyncratic perhaps challenging traditional notions of noir. Maybe half the collection started around the 90s and took us into the new millenium. So we seem to have here an ambitious attempt to keep noir relevant today and I guess it always has been, even in "pre-noir" times?!If I had to define "noir" just based on reading this anthology, it would be this: Hopeless or hapless people living hopeless or hapless lives inevitably ruined by crime or defying taboos (or in just two or three cases, lives painfully redeemed, but only by virtue of a very twisted twist). After a while, it became like reading a mystery, only instead of finding out whodunit, the trick was to find out just how depraved or destroyed a life or lives could become.

  • Mary
    2019-05-03 01:36

    I still find great joy in 'discovering' writers I have never heard of who have managed to make their way into the canon despite all odds, such as the fellow who tried for forty years (FORTY YEARS!) to get published, and when at last he made it, his work became part of the Oscar inner circle as well. The little bios before each piece help place the writers in context. All in all a terrific collection edited by an author I discovered "backwards" -- I saw L.A. Confidential and fell in love, and now can't wait to read Elroy. The opening parody of noir that still worked as noir was superb. By the way, I am not always so full of praise. Not by a long shot.

  • Bryan Alexander
    2019-04-23 22:37

    A delightful romp though literary noir. The selection ranges through the 20th century, emphasizing the later decades more than the earlier. Stories cover a lot of ground within the introduction's fairly specific genre definition. Tales work with other domains and genres, including crime, mystery, sex, science fiction, and horror. Interesting to see so much rural, rather than urban noir. We often associate the genre with hard-bitten city streets.

  • Carrie
    2019-05-18 23:57

    If I was a horror fan I might have enjoyed these. As a noir far, however, it was a disappointment. Of these stories only one or two of them felt like noir. Most of them felt like horror. SOme of it better than others, and cetianly creepy and atmospheric, but overall, a disappointment. I ultimately gave up halfway through the book because I wanted to read a collection of noir stories and frankly, that's not what I got.

  • Juan Araizaga
    2019-05-01 01:53

    Seis días y 330 páginas después. Un compilado de cuentos de género negro, su particularidad es que todos son autores americanos. La antología es generada por el maestro Ellroy, hay tres cuentos que me encantaron: un profesional, lenta lentamente al viento y como un hueso en la garganta; esos cuentos son lo mejor. Los demás dejan que desear (incluso el de Ellroy que se leyó en el gran desierto). Me es complicado reseñar cuentos pero habrá reseña.Me dejó con ganas de más (por su alto precio).

  • Sarah Delacueva
    2019-04-20 01:51

    I enjoy noir film, so I thought I would like these stories, but just couldn't get into it. What I did read was pretty uneven. A couple I read were good, and others I just didn't enjoy at all. Eventually I put it down and never found my way back...

  • Nithin
    2019-04-28 20:51

    Detective stories occupy a space between horror fiction & fantasy books in literature world. Noir is that part of detective stories which guarantees more than action, with a flawed hero, witty dialogues & cynical characters all around. Since raymond chandler's books I have been hooked on to noir & its really rare to find good crime fiction that does more that tell you a story, as seen in this collection even paper-thin plot can be elevated to new heights with elements of noir included into the story. An affair gone bad, a love gone sour all these soap opera emotions can be polished & rendered as a masterpiece when done well in noir & this collection gives a glimpse of the same.Spurs - A story about a dwarf in circus having his eyes on the lady beyond his means. A story clearly from the start hints to end disastrously & does so in a manner that is both grim & comical.. This short story reads more like a fairy tale from Grimm's books with a darker edge to it, nice way to start. - 3/5Pastorale - This is about a affair turned into a crime, a template most followed in this book, the writing had an edge to it & made it feel like a gory urban legend of a crime plot gone bad, which isn't bad - 3/5You''ll always remember me - A character so vile & smart, you can't help but hate him. A gut punch of a story featuring an young cold blooded killer bleak from start to finish & helped take this collection to a head-start. - 4.5/5Gun crazy - Its about Nelson tare, an antihero, who is the best with the gun. A bank robber who is able to outsmart his pursuers but with a secret hidden only to him. Starting from his childhood to his emergence as a gangster the story succeeds in tugging your emotional strings. - 3.5/5Nothing to worry about - This one features an adulterer who is doing all he can to take the wife, who he has begun to hate, out of picture & settle with his mistress, but realizes he has underestimated the intentions of both his mistress & wife, not anything to write home about, pretty much a paint by numbers noir. - 2/5The Homecoming - A Story about unrequited love taking its toll on all the three peoples involved, a love triangle about a love that never was, a strong entry in this collection purely because of the way it deals with heartbreak on a paper thin plot. - 4/5Man in the dark - A very clever entry in this collection where plot zigs & zags like an automobile driven by a madman. Author does well to hide his tricks till the end, as the wild ride just gets better with every page of this novella. - 4.5/5The lady says die - A wealthy businessman plots an unbelievably ridiculous plan to destroy the life of his fellow competitor & a friend. The story seems well over the top & plausibility of it may be a bit hard to digest but goes on to show a man hopelessly in love can easily be fooled, a classic noir principle. - 4/5Professional man - The best of the collection for me, a story so dark & writing so sharp it just makes you want more & more. Freddy,as a character so cool you can visualize his mention smoking a cigarette wearing a leather jacket on a bike, David goodis has been a find for me from this collection & can't wait to read more of his works - 5/5The Gesture - A perfect short story relying on an unreliable narrator who is also a rich & suspicious husband living in an idyllic island with his pretty wife, which is being documented by a photographer from a magazine.A short, easy read & clever in right areas to stand above rest in this collection. - 4.5/5The last spin - Very human story about to boys from rival gangs bonding over unlikeliest of situations, hard to digest as every page strips the boys of their "tough guy" persona. Among the best in this collection. - 5/5Forever after - Another entry related to affair but a twist so sinister only "Jim thompson" would've written it. The plan goes horribly wrong & author takes it into next level in last few paragraphs to make it one of the best entries in this collection. - 5/5For the rest of her life - A soap opera story of a woman married to a sadistic husband, turns noir as she seeks help from a fellow stranger. A longer story that could have done away with few pages. In the end, this is noir to the bone as cat & mouse games between husband & wife reaches its peak as it keeps you on edge & care about the outcome. - 4/5The Dripping - A psychological noir, that seems to get more & more surreal until it unleashes its stash of horror & gore in abundance. About a family reunion gone crazy. A mixture of horror & suspense elements thrown in in good, equal measures. - 3.5/5Slowly, Slowly in the wind - A feud between two land owners gone bad. Plot just escalates quickly, a short read which is also predictable, feels like wrongly categorized as a noir in this collection. - 2/5Iris - A detective thriller featuring characters fleshed out is always a pleasure to read. As the stubborn detective takes on a baby selling mafia single-handedly, with thrills & sympathetic characters around to keep it interesting, reads like a template of a detective thriller. - 3.5/5A ticket out - Story about two kids trying to get out of their poor upbringing by any means necessary. In a small town where the 2 boys depend on each other with dreams of making it big by any means possible. A heartfelt entry that is bound to stay with you for long about broken dreams & failures. - 5/5Since I don't have you - A fast paced story by James ellroy, with plenty of references to real life characters & razor sharp dialogue. A short story that carries the unmistakable signature of being penned by one & only James ellroy, in other authors pen, this story of 2 influential men seeking out a femme fatale with main character in crossfire would have been good, but ellroy takes it into next level, not to be missed, - 4.5/5Texas city - Another tough to read entry about a family of kids dealing with their loony step mother suffering her atrocities. Its as depressing as the plot makes it seem. Beautifully written & stays with you like an open wound. - 5/5Mefisto in onyx - Probably the most well known short story by Harlan ellison who blends both supernatural horror & neo noir elements masterfully in this thriller. Its about a person who can look into folks minds who is up against a killer who looks like a combination of all serial killers you have heard of, not to be missed at all. An unique story that has high hopes & delivers it well, - 5/5Out there in the darkness - A vigilante team of the neighborhood gone rogue. The cat & mouse games between a group of good-intentioned but an overeager vigilante group up against a violent gang looking for revenge, a tale of how a fateful poker night of raging hormones can lead men astray. - 4/5Hot springs - A classic down on luck football coach, in a dead end town sees a ray of hope in a talented kid, whose father is no fan of football. As the coach in search of his ticket out goes to deeds each worse than previous & loses control over situation. - 3.5/5The Weekender - This one is about a hostage & a criminal on the run. As each one keeps sizing up other in plan to escape each other & a tight plot keeps the one-on-one going. A psychological thriller with enough of mind games around to keep you guessing - 5/5Like a bone in the throat - Another psychological thriller that involves a despicably evil serial killer, who plays the victim card as he seeks release from his prison cell. The character of the killer is so well written, knowing the nature of the killer you will be hard-pressed to sympathize with character despite the knowledge of his crimes. A short story just goes to show revenge, redemption are not far from one another. - 4.5/5Crack - An erotic story about a voyeur, who delights at being found an opportunity to observe his next door neighbors unnoticed. As his whole life he keeps building on his fantasy until it consumes him whole. - 3.5/5Running out of dog - A tar black story from Dennis lehane, with all elements of neo-noir, a dispassioned character, a dead end town, affair, unrequited love, a dimwitted character, it has it all as we seem em spiral towards the horrifying conclusion as we see love, friendship & men break into pieces. A story so devoid of hope, it sickens you to the core. 4.5/5The paperhanger - Its not about the crime, but the ill-natured intentions of criminal & the ever lasting effect it has on his victim's life. A story that gives us a behind the scenes look into a missing child case& social class disparity, revealing inch by inch the intentions & effects of a crime committed in surgeon like dispassioned manner - 4/5Midnight emissions - A short story that reads more like a handbook for "How to understand boxing for dummies". About a boxer who tries to play his sponsoring mob boss & coach who fails to see through his charade. A bit slow paced due to long pages about boxing & boxer's mindsets. But writing is good enough to keep you from being bored. - 3.5/5When the women come out to dance - A weak entry in this collection, a story about a wealthy woman & her assistant conspiring together which lacks any notion of suspense, being painfully predictable & futile attempt at noir. - 1/5Controlled born - A slice of life noir about a criminal in hiding, who is conflicted between his made up identity & real one. Its well told story with old & rugged characters where you can feel the heat from pages as you go on. Noir at its introspective best & follows a show not tell rule to the core. - 4/5What she offered - A cynical outlook on life by main characters who have lacked any interest in life an author & his fan, spending time together. The story of these lost souls looks painfully real as they battle their demons in their fateful night - 3.5/5Her lord and master - Painfully manipulative story which starts from a murder with the murdered known & backtracks to reveal the manipulative means by which it was all planned. Will take some time to trust a woman after this. - 3/5Stab - A beautiful coming of age noir of a child mourning the loss of his brother teamed up with a sadistic partner with a fetish to stab any living thing. The story is both fucked up & heartwarming. A very unique gem in these collection which offers something completely different - 4.5/5The hoarder - A dysfunctional family at the core who deals with a sociopathic family member who manipulates his way through the family. Has much darker undertones with a darker finish to the tale. With a antagonist who I absolutely hated to the very end. - 5/5Missing the morning bus - A relatively weak entry to close off the book about a suspicious husband who tries to zero in on his devoted wife's secret lover. As the plot twists,as the six friends are introduced one by one & by the end the reveal was weak & conclusion more so. 1/5

  • Christopher Wilsher
    2019-04-30 21:53

    I’m working my way through Penzler and Ellroy’s “The Best American Noir of The Century,” and what do I find but the short story “Gun Crazy” (published in 1940).I recently wrote about the film noir “Gun Crazy” and I had a hazy recollection that it was based on a short story. The story is similar to the film. The main difference is that Laurie Annie Starr (named Antoinette McReady A/K/A Ruth Riley in the story) plays a very minor role compared to the movie.And this points up the main weakness of the story. Nellie Tare becomes a bank robbing outlaw. He’s captured and escapes, gets recaptured and escapes again. During this crime spree he never shoots anybody although he has ample opportunity. Even though he’s “gun crazy” he doesn’t want to hurt anybody. The problem is, we’re not given any reason as to why Nellie becomes a criminal in the first place. Sure, he got in trouble when he was a kid, but he seems to have straightened out. How does meeting up with “Antoinette McReady” cause him to go bad? The story doesn’t explain.But in the movie, we see that “gun crazy” is intimately mixed up with “sex crazy.” Nellie’s obsession with guns is of a piece with his obsession with Laurie, and he goes bad because Laurie, a sociopath, is able to manipulate these twin obsessions.Thus, the problem with a short story as a medium for noir. It’s simply too short, especially when compared with a novel, film or TV series. In noir you have an everyman with a weakness. Greed, lust, stupidity, and anger management issues are examples. Even a talented writer will need a couple of thousand words or so, just to establish the protagonist. The next step is that the main character makes a mistake and gets pulled into a world with which he is not familiar. He makes additional mistakes as he tries to get out of the situation, but instead he gets pulled in further. A talented writer can make it appear that maybe the protagonist will get away with it after all. And then the hammer falls.This is simply too much plot for a short story.Another story in the volume is “Slowly, Slowly in The Wind” by Patricia Highsmith. Highsmith was, of course, a grand doyenne of crime fiction, having written such novels as “Strangers on A Train” and the Ripley series. “Slowly, Slowly in The Wind” is noir. The protagonist is an everyman with a flaw (anger management). He dislikes his neighbor and when his neighbor’s son begins dating his daughter, it’s too much and in a fit of rage he kills his neighbor, substituting the body for a scarecrow (I suspect it was this macabre twist that drew Highsmith to the story). The body is discovered by some kids on Halloween and the protagonist commits suicide to prevent his inevitable arrest and conviction for murder.The problems with the story is that there is a lot of telling instead of showing and much of the telling is awkward and rushed. This is very unlike Highsmith, who is usually very subtle in her story telling. In a Highsmith novel, a character’s true nature and the consequences of his actions are revealed slowly and methodically and it’s not until it’s too late that you realize that you’re rooting for a sociopath (or at least a very mixed up individual).The problem was that Highsmith had too much plot for a short story; it would’ve been better as a novella, say 25-30,000 words where she would’ve had time to develop the story.Back to “Gun Crazy.” The author was MacKinlay Kantor. Kantor wrote for the pulps in the late twenties and early thirties and then for the “slicks.” In 1956 he won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel “Andersonville.” He also wrote the screenplay for “Gun Crazy.”

  • Williwaw
    2019-04-20 01:46

    Based upon the foreword, the intro, and the first story, I could already tell that I was going to enjoy this book immensely. The line-up of familiar "noir" authors is truly impressive. So, I'm going to award three stars in advance, and then adjust later. This is such a long book (731 pp.) that I may never read the whole thing, and I may never take a "cover to cover" approach. It seems better, perhaps, to dip in from time to time and review each story. The opening story is "Spurs," by Tod Robbins. I was not familiar with Robbins, but I was excited to read the story after the brief intro by the editors, which explains that this tale is the source for Tod Browning's (now cult) film, Freaks. The story was solid, colorful, and brutal. It concerns a carnival dwarf and how he woos an Amazonian bareback rider -- a larger than life woman who you'd think could dominate him with ease (indeed, she says: "crack his skull between . . . finger and thumb, like a hickory nut!"). Things turn out quite the opposite, as the rider becomes the ridden (hence "Spurs") in this ironic and terrifying tale. It's not much like the film, except for the dwarf and his love for the rider. "Pastorale," by James M. Cain, is the story of a botched murder. A dim-witted philanderer decides to dispatch his lover's husband, so he fools a violent and even more dim-witted fellow into serving as an accomplice in exchange for a non-existent cache of cash. While the murder itself goes off without a hitch, all subsequent activity is a gruesome comedy of errors, and both dim-wits get their just deserts. The plot is simple, but Cain's execution is fabulous. The story is written in small-town vernacular by a town resident."You'll Always Remember Me," by Steve Fisher, is a story written from the first-person perspective of a psychopathic juvenile delinquent named Martin. He's feeling badly about the upcoming execution of his girlfriend's brother, who has been convicted for killing his own father. Slowly, we catch on that the detective who was assigned the case still suspects that Martin was the real culprit. In the meantime, Martin, who attends a military school (the only place that will take him in exchange for his father's money), has increasingly hostile feelings toward a bugle boy and eventually stumbles upon an opportunity to push him out of a high window. The detective is successful in getting a confession out of Martin, and staying the execution of the girlfriend's brother. But Martin can't, to his painful frustration, convince anyone that he murdered the bugle-boy. "Gun Crazy," by Mackinlay Cantor, is the source for the eponymous, classic film noir. Although I did see the film, I don't remember it so well now, so I can't compare the story to it. But the story is quite interesting. It's about a kid named Nelson who, from his earliest days, is obsessed with guns. When he grows up, he has a contest with a female sharp-shooter who works for a carnival, and wins it. The two go off together on a crime spree (mostly bank robberies, as I recall). [I'm pretty sure that the film tracks the plot this far, but then ends far more tragically than the story.] Eventually, Nelson and his woman come back to Nelson's hometown while still on the most-wanted lists. The narrator and his pal, the town sheriff, eventually trap Nelson. What's interesting is the method, which is based upon insight gleaned from a childhood incident involving a rabbit hunt. I won't spoil the surprise for you."Nothing to Worry About," by Day Keene, is the first disappointing story in this book. It concerns a D.A. who hates his wife. He's coming home on a plane from out of town, and he's about to execute a plot to murder his wife so he can live in peace with his girlfriend. Needless to say, everything goes wrong and the ending is brutally twisted. But I could see exactly where this story was headed, and it seemed far too contrived and convoluted to be at all convincing. Nice try, Mr. Keene."The Homecoming, by Dorothy B. Hughes transported me with its brilliant writing. Hughes is most famous for her novel, In a Lonely Place, which was adapted (with a significantly altered plot) for a great Humphrey Bogart film. Anyway, the premise of "Homecoming" is simple. A mentally disturbed fellow has a handgun in his pocket, and he's on his way to confront his former girlfriend and usurper of her attentions. The usurper, known as "Korea Jim," has come home a war hero. Benny, our existential, mentally disturbed anti-hero, is thinking how unfair life has been to him. After all, he "could have been" hero, too, but didn't get the chance to go to war. It's just not fair that Korea Jim can come back home and immediately pull the carpet out from under the fixtures of his life! So Benny, numb with sadness and tortured by jealousy, is on his way to interrupt a date between Korea Jim and the ex-girlfriend. He's fingering his gun and thinking how yellow KJ is gonna be when he sees the gun. Anyway, I won't spoil the ending. I'll just say that Hughes can make a simple idea sing because she's such a great writer."Man in the Dark," by Howard Browne, is a well-plotted mystery involving the disappearance of the first-person narrator's wife. All evidence points to the conclusion that she died in a fireball after her car rolled down a steep hill outside Hollywood. But the twisted conclusion reveals a far more complicated state of affairs. From information provided in the intro, I discovered that I had the issue of Fantastic magazine from 1952, in which this story first appeared. Originally credited to Roy Huggins based on an unfulfilled commission, Browne wrote the story himself because the cover had already gone to the printer! Great last-minute effort by Browne, the editor of the magazine."The Lady Says Die," by Mickey Spillane, is an entertaining, if somewhat unbelievable tale. A police inspector meets a friend at the "club." (I keep wondering what happened to these so-called "clubs" that appear so commonly in literature. I guess we still have "country clubs," but they don't seem to function like an old-time "club" where people showed up at will to socialize and drink in an exclusive and comfy environment.) Anyway, the inspector seems to have suspicions that Duncan, his friend, was responsible for the death of a rake -- a financial genius who had recently leaped from a window. We learn from Duncan that it was, indeed, a set-up, but not the kind that could lead to a successful prosecution. A well-told story, despite its incredibility. "Professional Man," by David Goodis, is perhaps the bleakest story I've ever read. The main consolation for the reader is Goodis's colorful portrait of the Philadelphia underworld: full of strip clubs, rooming houses, dark alleys, ruthless crime bosses and motely hit men. The story concerns one Freddy Lamb, a "professional" hit man whose weapon of choice is the switch blade. He poses as an elevator attendant by day. One night, he gets the toughest assignment of his life, and carries it out so professionally that he's going to ride that elevator all the way down to hell. "The Hunger," by Charles Beaumont, is a story that I enjoyed most the first time I read it. It seemed somewhat disjointed this time around. Perhaps it was my mood; perhaps Beaumont intended this. Anyway, it's a fascinating story about an "inexperienced" woman who seeks out and embraces terror."The Gesture," by Gil Brewer takes us to an island, where a crazy man has imprisoned his wife. A journalist comes visiting, and the nut is plotting the journalists demise. Things turn out differently.Very short, but evocative!"The Last Spin" by Evan Hunter turns up the bleak-ometer and out-bleaks the tale by Goodis. This is a minimalistic story about two gang members who are settling an argument between the gangs with a game of Russian roulette. Again, very short and well executed. Hunter wrote many books under the name of Ed McBain. He rose to fame with his novel, "The Blackboard Jungle" (adapted for film). He also wrote the screenplay for Hitchcock's "The Birds." "Forever After," by Jim Thompson, represents Thompson well. I know, because I've read a few Thompson novels. A woman plots the murder of her husband and ends up in Hell. Really!

  • Óscar Brox
    2019-05-15 04:54

    A pesar de su frenética actividad editorial, la literatura negra tiene motivos para quejarse. Secuestrado por el impacto de corto alcance de fenómenos actuales, el noir ha dejado en un rincón a algunos de sus autores mayores; por ejemplo, a un David Goodis cuya obra traducida se quedó apalancada a principios de los 90. Una antología como American Noir, que publica Navona en edición de tapa dura, sirve para poner a disposición del lector autores y textos que, en algunos casos, se presentan por primera vez en castellano; también, para trazar una historia mínima de las sucesivas modulaciones del género, de todas esas voces literarias que han construido el imaginario noir a lo largo del siglo XX. Un recorrido apasionante que, de un relato al siguiente, muestra el colmillo de cada autor, su mirada oscura sobre la realidad y la turbulencia moral con la que construía esta última.Por sus características, una antología no puede evitar que el lector reorganice su material según sus afinidades estéticas. En American Noir conviven lo obvio y lo obtuso, lo sutil y lo degradante. Poco de lo compilado por James Ellroy y Otto Penzler responde a un trabajo rutinario, pues muestra, en ocasiones con auténtica fiereza, lo mejor de cada autor. Lo mejor o, sencillamente, lo más constitutivo de cada uno de ellos. Si James M. Cain explora, con tintes grotescamente humorísticos, un triángulo amoroso dinamitado por las flaquezas morales de sus protagonistas, Mickey Spillane narra, con evidente misoginia, el vengativo relato de un desgraciado que desea hundir a toda costa a su mayor enemigo. Jim Thompson aprovecha las pocas páginas para urdir una narración experimental absolutamente desquiciada, pura pesadilla, que deforma un argumento tipo de la novela criminal (mujer que, ayudada por su amante, desea acabar con su marido) para convertirlo en una fuga psicológica hacia ninguna parte. Y Joyce Carol Oates se separa de la literatura negra para desgajar de la tradición del gótico americano un cuento de silencios y heridas que surcan el retrato de dos hermanas y su violento entorno familiar. Mientras, James Ellroy se acerca al universo de L.A. Confidential para narrar las desventuras de uno de los tantos personajes que engordaban el paisaje de su fresco californiano.De entre todos los nombres reclutados, cada autor destaca por la huella de su personalidad literaria, patente incluso en el relato más breve. Sin embargo, es justo reconocer que en American Noir al menos dos o tres nombres rayan por encima de sus compañeros de edición. Es el caso de David Goodis, el titán menos conocido, y su relato Un profesional. Ahí, encapsulado en unas pocas páginas, se despliega un sentimiento de desolación prácticamente inabarcable, como un agujero negro que absorbe lo mejor de la condición humana para expulsar la visión más oscura y terrible. O, lo que es lo mismo, la historia de un asesino a sueldo de una organización que elige el deber antes que el amor, matar antes que sentir, en una historia que Goodis maneja con tanta delicadeza que su conclusión, no por esperada, resulta menos escalofriante. Pura desesperanza arrancada a golpe de literatura negra. En esas mismas coordenadas, Lawrence Block entrega Como un hueso en la garganta, tétrica historia de una venganza al borde de la locura. En ella Block cuenta el diálogo entre un asesino y el hermano de una de sus víctimas, la imposibilidad de permanecer en paz con el pasado y el perdón de las atrocidades cometidas. Cada párrafo retuerce, hasta la asfixia, el conflicto moral de sus protagonistas, de manera fría y cruel, mientras acumula odio y violencia a la espera de explotarlos en sus últimos pasajes. Relato casi político, con la reinserción y el perdón como fondo, Block disecciona sin piedad el comportamiento humano hasta situarlo en eso que no se puede ocultar, su respuesta más instintiva, lo que nos iguala: la pura violencia.Más allá de los retruécanos morales, American Noir constituye también una oportunidad para descubrir a grandes narradores, dueños del suspense y la radiografía de personajes. Como Patricia Highsmith, que hace de su relato una exploración pausada de un temperamento, mezcla de odio y envidia, que conduce inevitablemente a su protagonista hasta el asesinato. O Dennis Lehane, que abandona el escenario de Boston para contar una historia, casi un aprendizaje sentimental, en el que los lodos del pasado abocan a sus personajes al final más negro, incapaces de aceptar que, a menudo, las cosas nunca salen como uno desea. Porque, en efecto, la antología de Penzler y Ellroy se puede leer como un recorrido histórico, pero también como una guía de la tortuosa moralidad que cada autor abordó o puso en liza. Como esa lista de vicios y pecados que intentamos fintar como podemos, que nos arrastra hacia la tentación del mal, incapaces de huir de ese callejón sin retorno en el que nuestra naturaleza oculta queda expuesta.Cualquier lector amante del relato criminal debería acercarse a American Noir con la seguridad de que tiene en sus manos un sendero de miguitas de pan que le conducirá hasta lo mejor del género. Gran compilación, a ratos enorme, el esfuerzo de sus editores nos sirve para exigir, aunque tal vez no esté de moda, un poco más de atención hacia los gigantes de un estilo que ha sabido y sabe reflejar las pequeñas grandes miserias de nuestro tiempo. Porque Thompson, Goodis o Block, con sus respectivas distancias, experimentaron de tal manera con el noir que hasta su obra menos lograda consigue arrancar un bofetón, una mueca de terror, ante la visión negrísima de aquello que nos rodeaba. Nunca está de más volver a sentir ese escalofrío, volver a reconocernos entre los turbios renglones que pueblan esta brillante recopilación criminal.Publicado en Détour

  • Kelly Fugate
    2019-05-18 20:40

    If the editors are to be trusted, and these are the best samples of noir through the years, then noir died in the early 1980s, with three noteworthy exceptions: Harlan Ellison, Ed Gorman, and Lawrence Block. Painstakingly, the book slogs along for another 450 pages and 20 plus years ugh and seems to be a stag club.I adore Cornell Woolrich's noir fiction (he'd been famous for Rear Window). It's difficult to find his work in print at libraries yet one of his short stories is among this collection. And then I stayed, not being a casual reader, diligently cover to cover. I suggest you don't do this.I do suggest you enjoy the work of the only female author included, Patricia Highsmith.Some of the earlier stories are 5-stars, when averaged with the later no stars, is how I rated this collection.

  • Nick Black
    2019-05-05 01:38

    gah, quite a slog. the most well-written story is a joyce carol oates effort that doesn't really fit in with the theme, and furthermore shows everything else up. the harlan ellison story is lots of fun. tons and tons of filler, though. as editor, i'm surprised james ellroy let his half-hearted affair show up.

  • Dane
    2019-05-08 04:33

    The stories in this book, I would personally classify more as horror, and the explanation in the foreword that noir isn't detective stories (it is to me) make me feel like I don't think I quite understand what noir is. Even after reading this whole thing.