Thursday 5 October 2017

Three Great Noir Novels You (Probably) Haven't (Ever) Read (In a Long Time)

I'll try to explain. I've just published a new novel called THE MAN WHO DIED and it marks a great change of direction for me. It is, as my previous five novels have been, a noir story. Kind of. It is also a black comedy, and that is something that happened out of necessity.

After writing five very dark novels ranging from the icy North of The Mine to the dystopia of The Healer I felt I had given all I had in that direction, at least for the time being. Thus, I found myself at a crossroads. I needed to ask myself an honest question, the only question a writer in this particular situation ultimately can ask himself: what do you want to write. The answer can be found in a further question: what do you love. In my case, noir and comedies.

What followed was pure fun. I watched and re-watched new and old (favorite) movies – both comedies and noir – and got back to the books that got me started in this writing life. I re-read Elmore Leonard and Lawrence Block, both great writers and, I suspect, great influences. I also went through my library and remembered the excitement and enjoyment of discovery and the sheer fun of reading some of those novels that me decide I would be a writer. Along the way, I came across some more or less unknown noir/pulp gems and – excluding comedies this time – would like to present a selection of three books.

The Name Of The Game Is Death by Dan J. Marlowe
A stone-cold pulp classic. The first-person narrator is Earl Drake, a professional robber,
dangerous man and a highly self-aware outsider. Let Drake tell it himself: "On the day they sentenced Olly Barnes to fifteen years, I quit the human race. I never went back to my job and I've never done a legitimate day's work since. I bought a gun .. and was surprised to learn how easy it is knock off gas stations. The money piled up and I bought a second-hand car and drove .. back to Winick, the guy who railroaded Olli Barnes. I rang his doorbell one night and shot him in the face, four times .. 'That's for Olly,' I told him. But he didn't hear me. He was dead before he hit the floor. Winick was the first. He wasn't the last."

The Woman Chaser by Charles Willeford
Somebody somewhere described some of Willeford's books as psycho-pulp. The Hoke Moseley novels (Miami Blues and others) are perhaps more in the way of traditional crime novels, but this one – The Woman Chaser – certainly fits in the psycho-pulp department. The main character is a man named Richard Hudson. He sells used cars, but wants to make a movie. Needless to say, there are complications. Willeford was an exceptional writer. He wrote mostly crime, some of it very good, some of it strange, but always interesting, and he experimented. In the canon, The Woman Chaser is a brilliant little noir novel.

The Confession by Domenic Stansberry
This was my first Stansberry. About as noir as you can get. The Confession is the story of Jake Danser, a forensic psychologist. His mistress (he has a wife and a family, naturally) is murdered and he is a suspect. A great, dark, twisting puzzle of a story that also won an Edgar. Most of Stansberry's stories (all those that I've read) take place in San Francisco. If you've ever been there, these books bring it back, fully alive. Stansberry writes wonderfully and with such a strong sense of place.

The Man Who Died by Antti  Tuomainen. (Orenda Books)
A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.

Buy it from SHOTS A-Store

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