The best hardboiled noir detective mystery novels & stories

Who am I?

Among other things, I'm an existentialist. A well-constructed mystery novel is an existential puzzle given to the reader to solve at his/her leisure, and the noir sub-genre has the further subtext that the protagonistand the reader—are doomed in some way even if the solution is nailed. Romance novels are drivel and have no basis in reality, but noir and other types of mystery fiction reflect the way that the world works: you may solve this puzzle problem, but then you are left to a vast world that is rife with puzzles but without a coherent plot. The detective trudges on, achieves a kind of satisfaction, and then is thrust into the next crisis.


I wrote...

Backlot Requiem: A Rick Walker Mystery

By G.E. Nordell,

Book cover of Backlot Requiem: A Rick Walker Mystery

What is my book about?

In the style of Raymond Chandler, a tale of 1950s Los Angeles and Hollywood: When a long-buried body is discovered at National Pictures Studios, private investigator Rick Walker is called in to identify it. His investigation leads to a thirty-year-old murder case, a dying film director and his wild daughters, a legendary film star of the Silent Era, local gangsters, and a very discreet love affair.

The books I picked & why

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The Best American Noir of the Century

By James Ellroy (editor), Otto Penzler (editor),

Book cover of The Best American Noir of the Century

Why this book?

A treasure trove of noir short fiction, an impressive anthology of  American greed, crime, and comeuppance by some of the genre’s greatest authors including Mickey Spillane, Evan Hunter, Elmore Leonard, Patricia Highsmith, Joyce Carol Oates, Dennis Lehane, Cornell Woolrich, and editor Ellroy. The 39 selected stories are a feast of excellence, a wide-ranging buffet of tasty tales from 1923 to 2007makes me drool just thinking about a re-read.

The Best American Noir of the Century

By James Ellroy (editor), Otto Penzler (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Best American Noir of the Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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 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…


Red Harvest

By Dashiell Hammett,

Book cover of Red Harvest

Why this book?

The plot grabs you and will not let go. An operative of the Continental Detective Agency is sent to a small town to meet with the editor of the local newspaper; when he arrives, the editor has been murdered the night before. The detective's investigations stir up rivalries between two criminal gangs, leading to a full-out gang war. The plot is intense and has been adapted to film three times, in three film genres: as samurai classic Yojimbo [1961] by Akira Kurosawa, as 'spaghetti Western' A Fistful of Dollars [1964] directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood, and as Last Man Standing [1996] directed by Walter Hill and starring Bruce Willis. The plot has also been used in part in several other major feature films.

Red Harvest

By Dashiell Hammett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Red Harvest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Detective-story master Dashiell Hammett gives us yet another unforgettable read in Red Harvest: When the last honest citizen of Poisonville was murdered, the Continental Op stayed on to punish the guilty--even if that meant taking on an entire town. Red Harvest is more than a superb crime novel: it is a classic exploration of corruption and violence in the American grain.


The Postman Always Rings Twice

By James M. Cain,

Book cover of The Postman Always Rings Twice

Why this book?

Watching bad people self-destruct is hard work, but author Cain makes sure that the bad people get what they deserve. A drifter takes a job at a roadside diner that is run by an old man and his beautiful and unhappy wife; the two youngsters begin a dangerous affair and then plot to kill the husband so that the girl inherits the property. But matters do not turn out as they planned. The novel has been adapted for film at least seven times, with the favorite being the 1946 movie starring Lana Turner.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

By James M. Cain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Postman Always Rings Twice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Nobody has ever quite pulled it off the way Cain does, not Hemingway, and not even Raymond Chandler' Tom Wolfe

'It is no accident that movies based on three [of Cain's novels] helped to define the genre known as film noir' NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS

'The most starkly elemental thing that has been written for years' EVENING STANDARD

The torrid story of Frank Chambers, the amoral drifter, Cora, the sullen and brooding wife, and Nick Papadakis, the amiable but inconvenient husband, has become a classic of its kind, and established Cain as a major novelist with a spare and…


The Big Sleep

By Raymond Chandler,

Book cover of The Big Sleep

Why this book?

Even when you know how this tale ends, following the events in this author's snappy prose is a compelling delight. A complex tale related by private investigator Philip Marlowe, who is hired by a dying oil millionaire to rescue his wild younger daughter from a blackmail scheme. Other cast members include the second daughter, her missing husband, a bookseller who openly deals in pornography, gangster Eddie Mars and his missing wife, a dead—or murdered?—chauffeur, and many others. The novel has been adapted several times, the best being the 1946 movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and the 1978 movie starring Robert Mitchum. 

The Big Sleep

By Raymond Chandler,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Big Sleep as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Raymond Chandler's first three novels, published here in one volume, established his reputation as an unsurpassed master of hard-boiled detective fiction.

The Big Sleep, Chandler's first novel, introduces Philip Marlowe, a private detective inhabiting the seamy side of Los Angeles in the 1930s, as he takes on a case involving a paralysed California millionaire, two psychotic daughters, blackmail and murder.

In Farewell, My Lovely, Marlowe deals with the gambling circuit, a murder he stumbles upon, and three very beautiful but potentially deadly women.

In The High Window, Marlowe searches the California underworld for a priceless gold coin and finds himself…


The Best of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective

By Jerry L. Schneider,

Book cover of The Best of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective

Why this book?

Detective Turner is serious, author Bellem is not. Eleven short stories in 8-page comic format from the monthly pulp magazine Hollywood Detective; humorist S.J. Perelman describes Dan Turner as "the apotheosis of all private detectives"; the Dan Turner stories are the flip side of Chandler and Hammett, with delightful use of real and imagined slang: guns are 'roscoes,' a woman is a 'doll,' 'cutie, 'frail,' or ‘dame.'

The Best of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective

By Jerry L. Schneider,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Best of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Included in most issues of "Hollywood Detective" pulp magazine was an eight-page Dan Turner comic. Eleven of those comics are reprinted in this "Best of" trade paperback (comic book sized pages).


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in hard boiled, private investigators, and love triangle?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about hard boiled, private investigators, and love triangle.

Hard Boiled Explore 34 books about hard boiled
Private Investigators Explore 203 books about private investigators
Love Triangle Explore 50 books about love triangle

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Talented Mr. Ripley, Deal Breaker, and Killing Floor if you like this list.