The best hardboiled noir detective mystery novels & stories

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Best American Noir of the Century

G.E. Nordell Why did I love 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.

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…


Book cover of Red Harvest

G.E. Nordell Why did I love 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.

By Dashiell Hammett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors 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.


Book cover of The Postman Always Rings Twice

G.E. Nordell Why did I love 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.

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…


Book cover of The Big Sleep

G.E. Nordell Why did I love 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. 

By Raymond Chandler,

Why should I read it?

18 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…


Book cover of The Best of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective

G.E. Nordell Why did I love 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.'

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).


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Split Decision

By David Perlmutter,

Book cover of Split Decision

David Perlmutter Author Of The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a freelance writer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, specializing in media history and speculative fiction. I have been enchanted by animation since childhood and followed many series avidly through adulthood. My viewing inspired my MA thesis on the history of animation, out of which grew two books on the history and theory of animation on television, America 'Toons In: A History of Television Animation (available from McFarland and Co.) and The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows (available from Rowman and Littlefield). Hopefully, others will follow.

David's book list on understanding the history of animation

What is my book about?

Jefferson Ball, the mightiest female dog in a universe of the same, is, despite her anti-heroic behavior, intent on keeping her legacy as an athlete and adventurer intact. So, when female teenage robot Jody Ryder inadvertently angers her by smashing her high school records, Jefferson is intent on proving her superiority by outmuscling the robot in a not-so-fair fight. Not wanting to seem like a coward, and eager to end her enemy's trash talking, Jody agrees.

However, they have been lured to fight each other by circumstances beyond their control. Which are intent on destroying them if they don't destroy each other in combat first...

5 book lists we think you will like!

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