The Continental Op


Dashiell Hammett - 1930
    The Continental Op was his great first contribution to the genre and these seven stories, which first appeared in the magazine Black Mask, are the best examples of Hammett's early writing, in which his formidable literary and moral imagination is already operating at full strength. The Continental Op is the dispassionate fat man working for the Continental Detective Agency, modelled on the Pinkerton Agency, whose only interest is in doing his job in a world of violence, passion, desperate action and great excitement.The tenth clew.--The golden horseshoe.--The house in Turk Street.--The girl with the silver eyes.--The whosis kid.--The main death.--The farewell murder.

Black Wings Has My Angel


Elliott Chaze - 1953
    The one book Black Lizard never published, it's the dream-like tale of a man after a jailbreak, who meets up with the woman of his dreams... and his nightmares. Phenomenal work of the period, ranking with the best efforts of Thompson, Woolrich, Goodis et al.

Shoot the Piano Player


David Goodis - 1990
    Now he bangs out honky-tonk for drunks in a dive in Philadelphia. But then two people walk into Eddie's life--the first promising Eddie a future, the other dragging him back into a treacherous past.Shoot the Piano Player is a bittersweet and nerve-racking exploration of different kinds of loyalty: the kind a man owes his family, no matter how bad that family is; the kind a man owes a woman; and, ultimately, the loyalty he owes himself. The result is a moody thriller that, like the best hard-boiled fiction, carries a moral depth charge.

A Hell of a Woman


Jim Thompson - 2014
    Working door-to-door one day, trying to eke money out of folk with even less of it than he has, Dolly crosses paths with a beautiful young woman named Mona Farrell. Mona's being forced by her aunt to do things she doesn't like, with men she doesn't know--she wants out, any way she can get it. And to a man who wants nothing of what he has, Mona sure looks like something he actually does.Soon Dolly and Mona find themselves involved in a scheme of robbery, murder and mayhem that makes Dolly's blood run cold. As Dolly's plans begin to unravel, his mind soon follows.In A HELL OF A WOMAN, Jim Thompson offers another arresting portrait of a deviant mind, in an ambitious crime novel that ranks among his best work.

Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s


Robert Polito - 1997
    The eleven novels in The Library of America’s adventurous two-volume collection taps deep roots in the American literary imagination, exploring themes of crime, guilt, deception, obsessive passion, murder, and the disintegrating psyche. With visionary and often subversive force they create a dark and violent mythology out of the most commonplace elements of modern life.James M. Cain’s pioneering novel of murder and adultery along the California highway, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934), shocked contemporaries with its laconic toughness and fierce sexuality.Horace McCoy’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1935) uses truncated rhythms and a unique narrative structure to turn its account of a Hollywood dance marathon into an unforgettable evocation of social chaos and personal desperation.In Thieves Like Us (1937), Edward Anderson vividly brings to life the dusty roads and back-country hideouts where a fugitive band of Oklahoma outlaws plays out its destiny.The Big Clock (1946), an ingenious novel of pursuit and evasion by the poet Kenneth Fearing, is set by contrast in the dense and neurotic inner world of a giant publishing corporation under the thumb of a warped and ultimately murderous chief executive.William Lindsay Gresham’s controversial Nightmare Alley (1946), a ferocious psychological portrait of a charismatic carnival hustler, creates an unforgettable atmosphere of duplicity, corruption, and self-destruction.I Married a Dead Man (1948), a tale of switched identity set in the anxious suburbs, is perhaps the most striking novel of Cornell Woolrich, who found in the techniques of the gothic thriller the means to express an overpowering sense of personal doom.Disturbing, poetic, anarchic, punctuated by terrifying bursts of rage and paranoia and powerfully evocative of the lost and desperate sidestreets of American life, these are underground classics now made widely and permanently available.

The Moving Target


Ross Macdonald - 1949
    There's the sun-worshipping holy man whom Sampson once gave his very own mountain; the fading actress with sidelines in astrology and S&M. Now one of Sampson's friends may have arranged his kidnapping.As Lew Archer follows the clues from the canyon sanctuaries of the megarich to jazz joints where you get beaten up between sets, The Moving Target blends sex, greed, and family hatred into an explosively readable crime novel.

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye


Horace McCoy - 1996
    A Phi Beta Kappa scholar succeds in turning himself into a vicious and completely immoral criminal - a man whose contempt for law, order, and human life drives him relentlessly into a career of unrelieved evil. He escapes from a chain gang to join a pack of gangsters and a millionaire?s daughter falls in love with him, but eventually his past overtakes him. Kiss Tomorrrow Goodbye is McCoy?s most ambitious work and the basis for one of the great gangster movies, starring James Cagney.

The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce and Selected Stories


James M. Cain - 1934
    Cain’s indelible hallmarks.The Postman Always Rings Twice, Cain’s first novel–the subject of an obscenity trial in Boston, the inspiration for Camus’s The Stranger–is the fever-pitched tale of a drifter who stumbles into a job, into an erotic obsession, and into a murder. Double Indemnity–which followed Postman so quickly, Cain’s readers hardly had a chance to catch their breath–is a tersely narrated story of blind passion, duplicity, and, of course, murder. Mildred Pierce, a work of acute psychological observation and devastating emotional violence, is the tale of a woman with a taste for shiftless men and an unreasoned devotion to her monstrous daughter. All three novels were immortalized in classic Hollywood films. Also included here are five masterful stories–“Pastorale,” “The Baby in the Icebox,” “Dead Man,” “Brush Fire,” “The Girl in the Storm”–that have been out of print for decades.

The Hot Spot


Charles Williams - 1953
    Merciless in its suspense, flawless in its grasp of the ways in which ordinary people hurtle over the edge, The Hot Spot is a superb example of fifties roman noir.

In a Lonely Place


Dorothy B. Hughes - 1947
    The suggestively named Dix Steele, a cynical vet with a chip on his shoulder about the opposite sex, is the LAPD's top suspect. Dix knows enough to watch his step, especially since his best friend is on the force, but when he meets the luscious Laurel Gray—a femme fatale with brains—something begins to crack. The basis for extraordinary performances by Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in the 1950 film version of the book, In a Lonely Place tightens the suspense with taut, hard-boiled prose and stunningly undoes the conventional noir plot.

The Last Good Kiss


James Crumley - 1988
    Sughrue, a Montana investigator who kills time by working at a topless bar. Hired to track down a derelict author, he ends up on the trail of a girl missing in Haight-Ashbury for a decade. The tense hunt becomes obsessive as Sughrue takes a haunting journey through the underbelly of America's sleaziest nightmares.

The Mike Hammer Collection, Volume III


Mickey Spillane - 2010
    "There's a kind of power about Mickey Spillane that no other writer can imitate" (New York Times), and it's in full force in this collection of three of his greatest Mike Hammer novels:The Girl Hunters Hammer's voluptuous, long-lost love is targeted by the mastermind assassin known as the Dragon.The Snake Protecting a runaway blonde, Hammer trades barbs and lead with crooked politicos, snarling hoods, and sex-hungry females.The Twisted Thing A kidnapping case links Hammer to a fourteen year-old mystery and the most venomous killer the private eye has ever faced.

The Big Clock


Kenneth Fearing - 2006
    in the heyday of Henry Luce. One day, before heading home to his wife in the suburbs, Stroud has a drink with Pauline, the beautiful girlfriend of his boss, Earl Janoth. Things happen. The next day Stroud escorts Pauline home, leaving her off at the corner just as Janoth returns from a trip. The day after that, Pauline is found murdered in her apartment.Janoth knows there was one witness to his entry into Pauline’s apartment on the night of the murder; he knows that man must have been the man Pauline was with before he got back; but he doesn’t know who he was. Janoth badly wants to get his hands on that man, and he picks one of his most trusted employees to track him down: George Stroud, who else?How does a man escape from himself? No book has ever dramatized that question to more perfect effect than The Big Clock, a masterpiece of American noir.

Knight's Gambit


William Faulkner - 1949
    Gavin Stevens, the wise student of crime and folkways of Mississippi's Yoknapatawpha county, plays the major role in these six stories of violence.

Fast One


Paul Cain - 1987
    Nothing more has been heard of him. Gerry Kells, the antihero of his shocking, brutal novel, is equally mysterious. A loner with a reputation but without a visible past, Kells simply appears, arranges the lives of the Los Angeles underworld, and then is heard no more.Only the strong prosper in the world of the depression. Seemingly amoral, Kells does prosper. He strikes to survive, kills without conscience, with­out time for conscience. But he never becomes a mere killing machine. His integrity, his humanity, abides in a code demanding that he pay for all services: those rendered for him, those rendered against him.Fast paced and very readable, the novel limns a true character who should take his place in our national literature, if only for his representation of the individual will to survive in one of the toughest times in American life.