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The Best American Noir of the Century by…
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The Best American Noir of the Century (2010)

by James Ellroy (Editor), Otto Penzler (Editor)

Other authors: Chris Adrian (Contributor), Charles Beaumont (Contributor), Lawrence Block (Contributor), Gil Brewer (Contributor), Howard Browne (Contributor)33 more, James Lee Burke (Contributor), James M. Cain (Contributor), Lorenzo Carcaterra (Contributor), Christopher Coake (Contributor), Thomas H. Cook (Contributor), James Crumley (Contributor), Jeffery Deaver (Contributor), Brendan Dubois (Contributor), Harlan Ellison (Contributor), Steve Fisher (Contributor), Tom Franklin (Contributor), William Gay (Contributor), David Goodis (Contributor), Ed Gorman (Contributor), Stephen Greenleaf (Contributor), James W. Hall (Contributor), Patricia Highsmith (Contributor), Dorothy B. Hughes (Contributor), Evan Hunter (Contributor), MacKinlay Kantor (Contributor), Day Keene (Contributor), Andrew Klavan (Contributor), Dennis Lehane (Contributor), Elmore Leonard (Contributor), David Morrell (Contributor), Bradford Morrow (Contributor), Joyce Carol Oates (Contributor), Tod Robbins (Contributor), Mickey Spillane (Contributor), Jim Thompson (Contributor), F. X. Toole (Contributor), Scott Wolven (Contributor), Cornell Woolrich (Contributor)

Series: Best American (20th Century)

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This giant compilation of noir stories was put together by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler. At 752 pages and thirty-nine stories this book is a veritable who’s who in noir fiction. Authors from Jim Thompson, James M Cain, Patricia Highsmith and Joyce Carol Oates are all included as are many authors that I knew nothing or very little about. I love noir so I enjoyed pretty much every story but it was a fairly dark and at times depressing read. Of course everyone’s taste varies but there were a few stories that really stood out for me.

The chilling Iris (1984) by Stephen Greenleaf about baby stealing and selling, the dark Nothing to Worry About (1945) by Day Keene in which a man plots to murder his wife, and the clever and convoluted Man in the Dark (1952) by Howard Browne all grabbed my attention and didn’t let go. These authors aren’t very well known but they all had a history of writing pulp fiction and then becoming successful television and film script writers. Another story that I wouldn’t want to read when I was home alone was Out There In the Dark by Ed Gorman. These stories are not just by authors from the past, some of today’s leading mystery writers such as James Lee Burke and Tom Franklin are also included in this book.

This is a wonderful collection of stories by various authors that all used a dark plot, tone and theme to illustrate seriously flawed people who are put in morally questionable situations through greed, lust, jealousy and alienation. Noir is a hard genre to define but this collection leans toward the dark and oppressive, twisting both it’s characters and it’s reader into knots but giving us plenty to relish. This is a great collection for both established fans of noir and for those looking for an introduction to this genre. ( )
2 vote DeltaQueen50 | Nov 16, 2017 |
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 Stories
Spurs by Tod Robbins (1923) -- 3/5
Pastorale by James M. Cain (1928) -- 4/5
You'll Always Remember Me by Steve Fisher (1938) -- 5/5
Gun Crazy by Mackinlay Kantor (1940) -- 4/5
Nothing to Worry About by Day Keene (1945) -- 5/5
The Homecoming by Dorothy B. Hughes (1946) -- 3/5
Man in the Dark by Howard Browne (1952) -- 5/5
The Lady Says Die! by Mickey Spillane (1953) -- 4/5
Professional Man by David Goodis (1953) -- 5/5
The Gesture by Gil Brewer (1956) -- 3/5
The Last Spin by Evan Hunter (1956) -- 4/5
Forever After by Jim Thompson (1960) -- 3/5
For the Rest of Her Life by Cornell Woulrich (1968) -- 4/5
The Dripping by David Morrell (1972) -- 4/5
Slowly, Slowly in the Wind by Patricia Highsmith (1979) -- 5/5
Iris by Stephen Greenleaf (1984) -- 4/5
A Ticket Out by Brendan Dubois (1987) -- 4/5
Since I Don't Have You by James Ellroy (1988) -- 4/5
Texas City, 1947 by James Lee Burke (1991) -- 3/5
Mefisto in Onyx by Harlan Ellison (1993) -- 4/5
Out There in the Darkness by Ed Gorman (1995) -- 4/5
Hot Springs by James Crumley (1996) -- 4/5
The Weekend by Jeffery Deaver (1996) -- 4/5
Like a Bone in the Throat by Lawrence Block (1998) -- 5/5
Crack by James W. Hall (1999) -- 4/5
Running Out of Dog by Dennis Lehane (1999) -- 3/5
The Paperhanger by William Gay (2000) -- 3/5
Midnight Emissions by F. X. Toole (2001) -- 4/5
When the Women come Out to Dance by Elmore Leonard (2002) -- 4/5
Controlled Burn by Scott Wolven (2002) -- 3/5
What She Offered by Thomas H. Cook (2005) -- 4/5
Her Lord and Master by Andrew Klavan (2005) -- 4/5
Stab by Chris Adrian (2006) -- 3/5
The Hoarder by Bradford Morrow (2006) -- 3/5
Missing the Morning Bus by Lorenzo Carcaterra (2007) --3/5 ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 21, 2014 |
Noir mysteries from the early 1900s through 2009. Some were good. Some were OK. Some weren't even noir. ( )
  EdGoldberg | Jan 5, 2014 |
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. ( )
  unabridgedchick | Oct 14, 2010 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ellroy, JamesEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Penzler, OttoEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Adrian, ChrisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beaumont, CharlesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Block, LawrenceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brewer, GilContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Browne, HowardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burke, James LeeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cain, James M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carcaterra, LorenzoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coake, ChristopherContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cook, Thomas H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Crumley, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Deaver, JefferyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dubois, BrendanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ellison, HarlanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fisher, SteveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Franklin, TomContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gay, WilliamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goodis, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gorman, EdContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greenleaf, StephenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hall, James W.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Highsmith, PatriciaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hughes, Dorothy B.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hunter, EvanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kantor, MacKinlayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keene, DayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Klavan, AndrewContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lehane, DennisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Leonard, ElmoreContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morrell, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morrow, BradfordContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oates, Joyce CarolContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Robbins, TodContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Spillane, MickeyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thompson, JimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Toole, F. X.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wolven, ScottContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Woolrich, CornellContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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The French word noir (which means "black") was first connected to the word film by a French critic in 1946, and has subsequently become a prodigiously overused term to describe a certain type of film or literary work. (Foreword)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547577443, Paperback)

“Well worth its impressive weight in gold, it would be a crime not to have this seminal masterpiece in your collection.”—New York Journal of Books

In his introduction to The Best American Noir of the Century, James 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.” 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 mined writings of the past century 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 postwar heyday boasts giants like Mickey Spillane and Evan Hunter. Packing an undeniable punch, diverse contemporary incarnations include Elmore Leonard, Patricia Highsmith, Joyce Carol Oates, Dennis Lehane, and William Gay, with many page-turners appearing from the past decade.

“Delightfully devilish . . . A strange trek through the years that includes stories from household names in the hard-boiled genre to lesser-known authors who nonetheless can hold their own with the legends.”—Associated Press



James Ellroy is the author of the Underworld U.S.A. trilogy—American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood’s a Rover—and the L.A. Quartet novels, The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz. His most recent book is The Hillicker Curse, a memoir.

Otto Penzler is the founder of the Mysterious Bookshop and Mysterious Press, has won two Edgar Allan Poe Awards (most recently for The Lineup), and is series editor of The Best American Mystery Stories.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:06 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

From the Publisher: James Ellroy and Otto Penzler mined the past century 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 postwar heyday boasts giants like Mickey Spillane and Evan Hunter. Packing an undeniable punch, diverse contemporary incarnations include Elmore Leonard, Patricia Highsmith, Joyce Carol Oates, Dennis Lehane, and William Gay, with many page-turners appearing from the past decade.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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