The Blog of Author Robert K. Lewis

Post #2: You need to read these guys.

I had no idea what my first real post should be after the intro post of yesterday. I was laying in bed this morning, a huge headache ripping my head to shreds, and it came to me: why not start off with a list of my favorite noir writers?

So, here we go (not in any particular order):

Raymond Chandler. Any list has to start with this man. He elevated what had been considered pulp to an art. His prose style was sharp, lean, his detective the moral compass for the story. His writing went far to define the elements everyone has come to think of as Noir. If you were to start somewhere with his work, I would say The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, and his incredible essay on writing, which can be found in The Simple Art of Murder.

Dashiel Hammett. This man gave us one of the most legendary Noir detective novels: The Maltese Falcon. You can’t read Noir without reading this novel. And of course, if it weren’t for this novel, we wouldn’t have Bogie. You can’t go wrong with The Thin Man or one of Hammett’s greatest works: Red Harvest.

Frank Kane. Not well known outside of the people who really read magazines like Manhunt, this guy created one of my favorite all time detectives: Johnny Liddell. Liddell books always had the three B’s: bullets, broads, and broken noses. You can start anywhere with Kane’s work and be happy, though most, if not all of Kane’s work is out of print and it can difficult to find. There’s Hearse Class Male, Esprit De Corpse, and Slay Ride. And dig the totally hot covers!

Donald Westlake/Richard Stark. Westlake and his alter ego Richard Stark gave us one of the most incredible anti-hero protags in Noir: Parker, the man of dubious morals. Stark’s writing is off the charts; his ability to plot, write dialog, and create a mood is really a text book on great fiction writing. You can read any Westlake/Stark novel and be okay, but here’s a few to get you started: The Hunter, The Outfit, or The Mourner.

Ross Macdonald. No list would be complete without Madonald on it. His creation, Lew Archer, is one of the all-time great detectives. Archer is the moral witness to a world gone dark and crazy. He’s tough, and always ready to do whatever needs to be done to right the scales of justice. Give The Drowning Pool, The Chill, or The Doomsters a shot. Trust me, you won’t go wrong.

Of course, if you just want to dip only your gun muzzle into the water and get a good intro to Noir and tough detectives doing tough things, where a dame with great gams can drop a dime on you without batting a lash, try a collection of short stories such as The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, or American Pulp.

Get busy readin’, or get busy dyin’.

7 responses

  1. Calista Taylor

    Thanks for the informative post! Will have to scope out those authors and add them to my reading list.

    10/11/2009 at 9:10 pm

  2. rkl

    You won't be disappointed, trust me. Even though it's not steampunk. 😉

    10/11/2009 at 10:53 pm

  3. Calista Taylor

    I'm off to the library tomorrow, list in hand. 🙂 I just need to carve out some reading time.

    10/11/2009 at 11:16 pm

  4. jmartinlibrarian

    Noir. I'm in. Give me a jaded, tough talking anti-hero any day of the week. Nice coverage of seminal authors.

    10/12/2009 at 1:33 am

  5. Jemi Fraser

    You've listed some of my dad's fave authors! I haven't read all of these, but did read Chandler years and years ago. Loved him.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging!

    10/12/2009 at 7:35 pm

  6. rkl

    Thank you! You gotta love a genre where the hero has a glass in one hand, and a gun in the other!

    10/12/2009 at 10:25 pm

  7. Matt Sinclair

    Can't argue with these writers. My sister-in-law has been feeding me Ross Macdonald books the past couple of years — after she got me hooked on John Connolly, which is a whole other discussion.

    10/13/2009 at 5:59 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s