The best noir books that are great films

Who am I?

As a writer of thrillers whose debut novel was considered Noir, I’ve always been fascinated by tales of characters that are not always the most likeable. Noir fiction is characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity. Similar to its successful films, I love when you feel for an anti-hero. That despite their questionable motives, the author or director manages to make you root for them in the end.


I wrote...

Stalker Stalked

By Lee Matthew Goldberg,

Book cover of Stalker Stalked

What is my book about?

Lexi Mazur is a depressed, alcoholic, pill-popper whose only joy has become her reality TV shows, often fantasizing that the people on TV are a part of her world. After her boyfriend Steve leaves her, she fixates on the show Socialites and its star Magnolia Artois, following every facet of the girl’s life on social media in the hopes of befriending and becoming more like her. 

But stalking isn’t new to Lexi. She ultimately won over her ex Steve by following and manipulating every minute detail about him so he’d fall for her. In fact, she landed her other ex-boyfriend Jeremy in the same way. Being a pharma rep, she’s used to manipulation to get doctors to buy her drugs, along with the perk of saving pills for herself. But what happens when the stalker gets stalked? 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Getaway

Lee Matthew Goldberg Why did I love this book?

The Getaway by Jim Thompson and the film directed by Sam Peckinpah is a gritty slice of noir and the classic story of a bank heist gone wrong. It’s a beautifully pulpy showcase for the twisted marriage of Doc and Carol, played by Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw with perfection in the film. It plunges you into the very core of moral ambiguity and the ending of the book is unexpected, sublime, and a sledgehammer to the head. A great first book and film to introduce a reader to noir styles.

By Jim Thompson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This work presents a new and important paradigm modification in psychology that attempts to incorporate ideas from quantum physics and postmodern culture. The author feels that the current diagnostic model of the mental health establishment is too entwined with political and economic factors to represent a valid method for healing psychological problems. The predominant model is too linear, reductionist, normative, and based upon an abnormal view of behavior. Exacerbating this problem is our highly accelerated present-day lifestyle in which new processes and interactions are constantly emerging. The postmodern self is evolving into a manipulative, situational self with no authentic core…


Book cover of L.A. Confidential

Lee Matthew Goldberg Why did I love this book?

A classic, L.A. Confidential is set in 1951 where the police are as corrupt as the criminals. There are a huge amount of characters and subplots, but in the end, it all connects. The film with Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, and Kim Basinger in her Oscar-winning performance, is pure noir bliss. It captures the vibe of post-war LA where Los Angeles is just as much as of a character in the book. Do yourself a favor and crack open the book and watch the film. 

By James Ellroy,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked L.A. Confidential as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Christmas 1951, Los Angeles: a city where the police are as corrupt as the criminals. Six prisoners are beaten senseless in their cells by cops crazed on alcohol. For the three LAPD detectives involved, it will expose the guilty secrets on which they have built their corrupt and violent careers. The novel takes these cops on a sprawling epic of brutal violence and the murderous seedy side of Hollywood. One of the best (and longest) crime novels ever written, it is the heart of Ellroy's four-novel masterpiece, the LA Quartet, and an example of crime writing at its most powerful.


Book cover of The Grifters

Lee Matthew Goldberg Why did I love this book?

Another Jim Thompson classic, The Grifters is about a trio of con artists trying to move up from being small-time crooks. They add love and a mother/son relationship into the mix which only makes things worse. The film directed by Stephen Frears is a master-class in acting from Anjelica Huston, Annette Bening, and John Cusak. The scene at the end couldn’t be more shocking as a way to wrap up a noir film. Money is paramount in the world of the grifters, everything else secondary. What could be more noir than that?

By Jim Thompson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Roy Dillon is young, good-looking and devastatingly charming. He's also a completely amoral con man. Lily, his mother, works for the mob. Moira Langtry, Roy's mistress, is always looking for the main chance, and so is Carol Roberg, the nurse brought in to look after Roy when a bad choice of mark means he has an unfortunate encounter with a baseball bat and a bad case of internal bleeding. Together they make up a perverse quadrangle of love and greed in a coruscating novel of corruption.


Book cover of Devil in a Blue Dress

Lee Matthew Goldberg Why did I love this book?

Another book and film that takes place in LA after World War II, Devil in a Blue Dress focuses on a Black war veteran named Easy fired from his job and hired to locate a girl. Easy is the perfect definition of an anti-hero played by Denzel Washington in the film. He’s been put through the wringer in his life, so you understand his motivations for misbehaving when it’s called for. A love letter to jazz music while equally being a treaty on race, discrimination, sexism, and oppression. 

By Walter Mosley,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Devil in a Blue Dress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Devil in a Blue Dress honors the tradition of the classic American detective novel by bestowing on it a vivid social canvas and the freshest new voice in crime writing in years, mixing the hard-boiled poetry of Raymond Chandler with the racial realism of Richard Wright to explosive effect.


Book cover of The Long Goodbye

Lee Matthew Goldberg Why did I love this book?

No noir list can be complete without including Raymond Chandler and his unsung hero detective Philip Marlowe. Tough-as-nails, the very definition of gritty, melancholic, and makes you want to pour a glass along with him. The film is also Robert Altman in peak form. This is later-stage Marlowe so he’s grown tougher and sadder, but more honorable as well. All of Chandler’s books are amazing, but this one is likely his best. 

By Raymond Chandler,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Long Goodbye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ed Bishop stars as Philip Marlowe in a powerful and atmospheric full-cast dramatisation of Raymond Chandler's classic noir novel. The first time Marlowe sets eyes on Terry Lennox, he is lying drunk in the passenger seat of a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith. The next time, he's on Skid Row. After they share a few Gimlets, Marlowe thinks he seems like a nice guy, but he's had a hard life - his white hair and scarred face testify to that. Or could it be marriage to Sylvia Lennox that has turned him prematurely grey? Although beautiful and rich, she plays the field…


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Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

Book cover of Radio Free Olympia

Jeffrey Dunn Author Of Radio Free Olympia

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’ve always been a child of the woods. I preferred to leave my home and wade a creek or explore a hillside. Nothing compared to the sight of a black snake or the feel of a mud puppy. School was a torture until an English teacher introduced me to Richard Brautigan and then read my first serious story to the class. Since then, this dyslexic nature lover has become a dream fisher and history miner with a Ph.D. in English Literature and Cultural Studies. Retired from forty-one years of teaching, I now write and publish cultural fiction.

Jeffrey's book list on where imagination and nature run free

What is my book about?

Embark on a riveting journey into Washington State’s untamed Olympic Peninsula, where the threads of folklore legends and historical icons are woven into a complex ecological tapestry.

Follow the enigmatic Petr as he fearlessly employs his pirate radio transmitter to broadcast the forgotten and untamed voices that echo through the wilderness. Venture deeper and encounter Baie, the founder of Wildsisters, a cranberry-infused roadhouse that offers solace to lost and wayward women. When a newborn is kidnapped, Baie and her community must unite to recover what has been stolen. Yet, their quest for justice extends beyond the realm of human characters—it must also be served for the fragile flora, the diverse fauna, and the very essence of the natural world.

Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

What is this book about?

Unleash the Power of the Wilderness in Radio Free Olympia


Discover the captivating allure of Washington's untamed Olympic Peninsula in Radio Free Olympia, an extraordinary literary masterpiece that immerses readers in a mesmerizing realm of visionaries, folklore legends, and historical icons. With an enchanting blend of magical realism and cultural fiction, the brilliant wordsmith Jeffrey Dunn artfully intertwines multiple narratives, crafting an intricate ecological tapestry that resonates deeply within the soul.


Embark on a riveting journey alongside the enigmatic Petr, a foundling whose path leads him deep into the heart of the majestic mountain rainforest. Armed with nothing but a…


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