The best offbeat noir books you need to read

Who am I?

So why have I chosen noir? I’m glad you asked. Ever since I picked up my first Raymond Chandler book—The Lady in the Lake—I have been a fan of the genre, so much so that I write in it almost exclusively. I watch all the old movies on Noir Alley every Saturday night—or whenever I can find one on TV. And while I tend to gravitate to the works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammet, and Erle Stanley Gardner, I'm always on the hunt for new authors. I also very much enjoy when someone takes the genre in a new direction, which is why I created this list.


I wrote...

Night Mayer: Legend of the Skinwalker

By Paul W. Papa,

Book cover of Night Mayer: Legend of the Skinwalker

What is my book about?

It was a case P. M. Mayer never should have taken—a rich developer found dead, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But when a fancy man in a fancy suit strolls into your bar, and lays five Cs on the table, it isn't scratch you can just walk away from. Now it's up to P. M. Mayer to dig deeper and find out who—or what—really sent the man to the big sleep. Only to do that, he must head down a dark road and face an ancient creature so gruesome, so terrifying, that the mere mention of its name is forbidden. In Las Vegas, the paranormal rules the night, and those who dare to enter don't always make it out alive.

The books I picked & why

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In Plain Sight

By Dan Willis,

Book cover of In Plain Sight

Why this book?

I love books that mash up genres and Dan Will has done just that with this first offering in his Arcane Casebook series. His hero, Alexander Lockerby, is a man after my own heart—a noir detective through and through. Only this fedora-wearing gumshoe has a little extra zing up his sleevemagic. He’s a runewright, and while I have to admit I didn’t know what that was when I began the book, it became perfectly clear by the end. I won’t ruin it for you, but suffice it to say, it’s aces with the noir genre—a man gifted with certain talents, but not ones enough to gain him the easy life. This story starts out simple, but takes little time to grab you by the collar and slap you across the kisser. And the good news? There are eight more to keep it company. 

In Plain Sight

By Dan Willis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Plain Sight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was 1933 and the magic…

…brought a plague to the Big Apple.

Will Alex be able to stop a madman?

At 31-years old, Alex has limited powers, but a knack for unraveling a mystery. The first clue leads him to a thief, but it doesn’t stop there. When people started dying, it becomes clear that it wasn’t an ordinary spell. Could it have something to do with the book?

A legendary and ancient tome could be the key.

But can he find it?

When an unfortunate incident gets him in hot water with both the police and New York’s…


Southern Bound

By Stuart Jaffe,

Book cover of Southern Bound

Why this book?

Have you ever read a book and said to yourself, dang, I wish I’d have thought of that? Well that’s just what happened when I found this book. Jaffe’s gumshoe, Marshall Drummond, is a detective straight from the 1940s. The only problem? It’s not 1940 and Drummond is, well, dead—dead as a doornail. But like a true hardboiled detective, Drummond doesn’t let a little thing like the big sleep stop him. Instead, he haunts the office of Max Porter, making the man’s life far more interesting—and intriguing—than it otherwise would have ever been. Another great thing about this book is how Jaffe weaves history into the story—something I like to do in my own writing. Set in North Carolina, this book is just what it promises: fun, funny, suspenseful, and scary!   

Southern Bound

By Stuart Jaffe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?



"Southern Bound gets it right! A great blend of ghosts and gumshoes. If you like haunting mysteries you'll love Southern Bound!" - Edgar-nominated author, Joel Goldman

When Max Porter discovers his office is haunted by the ghost of a 1940s detective, he does the only sensible thing ... he starts a detective agency!

Thrust neck-deep into a world of old mysteries and dangerous enemies, he will face ghosts, witches, and curses. He will discover a world in which survival might be the easiest challenge. And he will do anything necessary to keep his wife and his life from falling away.…


The Lemon Man

By Keith Bruton,

Book cover of The Lemon Man

Why this book?

When most people think of noir, they think of a cynical fedora-wearing, trenchcoated detective wisecracking his way through a mystery, and while that is part of the genre, it isn’t the whole of it. Noir can be funny, but that humor needs to be dark, and cynicism is a definite component. All of that is included in this book and it’s delivered with an Irish twist. Bruton’s hitman, Patrick Callen, who rides a bike through the streets of Dublin, is a man who likes lists: To-Do List: Kill Henry O’Neil, Meet the Bronze Man, Buy Food, Sleep with Olivia, Bike Shop, Visit Ma. But when he finds a baby on the job, it interrupts both his list and his life. A hitman and a baby—if that doesn’t make you want to read the book, nothing will.

The Lemon Man

By Keith Bruton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

TASKS:
1. Buy Food. 2. Visit Ma. 3. Kill Henry O’Neil

The Lemon Man is Patrick Callen, a bicycle-riding hitman with mild O.C.D. in Dublin, Ireland whose carefully ordered life is totally upended when he becomes the accidental caretaker of a baby boy. Now he’s got to balance his daily to-do list of errands and murders-for-hire with his unexpected domesticity, which impacts him and his work in ways he never expected…and that could get him killed.

Praise for THE LEMON MAN:

A Deadly Pleasures Magazine Top 10 Paperback of 2022: "If you are a fan of quirky characters, you will…


But Not Forgotten: A Clint Wolf Novel

By B.J. Bourg,

Book cover of But Not Forgotten: A Clint Wolf Novel

Why this book?

I have to admit, this book is a bit of a personal indulgence. I’ve always been fascinated by the swamps of Louisiana and the mysteries that hide in those murky waters. Add a human arm in the mouth of an alligator and you’ve definitely gotten my attention. Some day I’m going to write a book that is set there—I just haven’t figured out a storyline yet—but when I do, I hope it’s half as good as BJ Bourg’s first book in his Clint Wolf series. I know it’s a cliché, but this book really did grab me from the start and, I guarantee, the end of the first chapter will haunt you, just as it haunts Clint Wolf.   

But Not Forgotten: A Clint Wolf Novel

By B.J. Bourg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked But Not Forgotten as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Embattled former detective Clint Wolf is the newly appointed police chief for Mechant Loup, a small swampy town in southeast Louisiana. Usually a quiet town, the tranquility of the place is shattered when a human arm is found in the jowls of an alligator. Once it’s determined the arm belongs to a reputable business owner, the race is on to find the man and figure out what happened to him. Little does Clint know that solving the case could unearth a plot so evil it would go down as the worst event in Louisiana history . . . and he…


The Case of the Velvet Claws

By Erle Stanley Gardner,

Book cover of The Case of the Velvet Claws

Why this book?

My last book may seem like an odd choice, but, as they say, there is a method to my madness. Erle Stanly Gardner created a character in the form of Perry Mason that became a television icon in the late 50s with more than 270 episodes. However, simply put, the man on the television is nothing like the man in the books. So, if you want to know the real Perry Mason, you need to start with the first book in Gardner’s series:The Case of the Velvet Claws. This book is noir at it’s finest, by a master of the craft, with a femme fatal that defines the term. This is my favorite of all the Gardner books because it delivers a hardboiled punch—one that’s not easy to forget.   

The Case of the Velvet Claws

By Erle Stanley Gardner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Criminal lawyer and bestselling mystery author Erle Stanley Gardner wrote nearly 150 novels that have sold 300 million copies worldwide. Now, the American Bar Association is bringing back his most famous and enduring novels-featuring criminal defense lawyer and sleuth Perry Mason-in striking trade paperback editions. Married Eva Griffin has been caught with a prominent congressman, and is ready to pay the editor of a sleazy tabloid hush money to protect the politician. But first Perry Mason tracks down the publisher of the blackmailing tabloid and discovers a shocking secret, which eventually leads to Mason being accused of murder. This is…


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