Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s & 40s” as Want to Read:
Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s & 40s
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.35 of 5 stars 4.35  ·  rating details  ·  586 ratings  ·  49 reviews
The first collection in a two-volume set celebrating American crime fiction contains classic novels of the 1930s and 1940s, including 'The Postman Always Rings Twice', 'Thieves Like Us', 'Nightmare Alley', 'The Big Clock', 'They Shoot Horses, Don't They?', and 'I Married a Dead Man'.
Hardcover, Library of America #94, 990 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Library of America
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Crime Novels, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Crime Novels

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,288)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I guess I'm giving this thing three stars, because of the six novels in here three I found too dull to get through, and the other three just totally blew my brains out with awesome.

The three great ones served me that ever-helpful reminder about the importance of Balls in Fiction. There's always been some lame, cringing part of me that believes fiction needs to be careful, responsible, fact-checked, and intelligent, and preferably about boring, unhappy adults having subtle but poignant though not
Most immediately, I'll be reading Thieves Like Us, The Big Clock, Nightmare Alley, and I Married a Dead Man from this collection. Then I'll be rereading Postman and They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

UPDATE: I finished "Thieves Like Us." It was quite impressive, actually. Anderson's Depression-era crime novel follows three bank robbers (particularly the youngest one, Bowie) as they escape from jail and start a crime spree.

What's particularly fascinating about this novel is its relation to the "hardbo
Oct 05, 2015 Mizuki is currently reading it
Reviews on the stories I read so far:

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

The formal of the story is a bit strange but it is nothing you can't get used to. The description of estrangement and alienation among young American lower class people from the 1930s really does remind me of The Stranger. Although it is difficult to understand why the characters did what they did in the story. I get that the guy is indifferent to everything happens around him and the girl is depressed (given what she had been
Randolph Carter
What can you say about a book this good? For $25 you get 6, count 'em 6 of the very best classic American noir novels of all time: The Postman Always Rings Twice; They Shoot Horses, Don't They?; Thieves Like Us; The Big Clock; Nightmare Alley; and I Married a Dead Man. All this with a real cloth-bound hardcover, sewn in numbers, headbands, a beautiful book. Author notes, footnotes, chronology.

If you think noir is all about private dicks and dames, well think again, there isn't a detective prota
This is a wonderful book to own. I'm still reading it, but will update this as I get through the included novels. These novels are desperate, intense, depressed, wild, carnal; they are America in the Great Depression, an America where morals are always being tested by the threat of starvation. It's as if the whole country were the soccer team whose airplane crashed in the Andes, battling its own hunger and its instinct towards cannibalism. These novels are truly the heirs of 19th century Natural ...more
This one book covers a lot of awesome stuff, and it's hard to break it down. A damn good survey of noir fiction. And good enough quality so that Kevin Costner was in an awful remake of at least one of them (the Big Clock). So when that happens, you know you've got a classic on your hands.
Jared Colley
May 17, 2007 Jared Colley rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of Pulp Fiction and Hard Boiled Narratives
Shelves: fiction
This is a great collection of American Noir; it represents the genre at its best. Cain's novel, The Postman..., is simply my favorite of his work. There is something dark and existential about it; it makes sense that French crtitics would be the ones to name this type of narrative as "Noir". It's like if Camus were a product of the New Deal America or something. The other bright moment, for me, is K. Fearing's novel, The Big Clock. Unlike most pulp, this novel is outright hilarious; its mood and ...more
Bleak Mouse
Fascinating. And it includes forgotten or neglected noir greats like Horace McCoy, Edward Anderson, and Cornell Woolrich. Forget Hemingway, and read this stuff instead.
Zack Makepiece
Jan 02, 2008 Zack Makepiece rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
An embarrassment of riches - a perfect collection of short novels. And not just a clearing house of familiar genre classics either, as this was the only place for years that you could get Edward Anderson's Thieves Like Us, and remains as of this writing the only place William Gresham's Nightmare Alley is in print in its original prose form. Neither the Anderson nor the Gresham have seen many printings, so this is the easiest way to read them, even if you can get all the others cheap and in paper ...more
Amazing collection of great books.
May 24, 2012 Fraser added it
I'm not really finished, I'm more "finished." Bleakest 900 pages I've ever seen. In case you thought that the first half of the century was more religious than ours, read these and be swiftly, brutally disillusioned.
Sep 12, 2015 Randal rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Noir fans
Shelves: crime
This was my second crack at The Postman Always Rings Twice. An omnibus of Cain's writing passed around The Moscow Times when I was there turned me on to noir fiction but I had forgotten most of the details. It's every bit as great as I hazily recalled. If not the winner of a shootout to be the noir novel, it's certainly close enough to be plugged as an innocent bystander.

The other reason I picked this collection up was They Shoot Horses, Don't They?. In my teens I fell asleep during the movie wh
I'm a big fan of the Library of America and was intrigued to see this (and it's companion volume covering the '50's) title released. I found it interesting that an organization that is, by their own description, "dedicated to preserving America's best and most significant writing" would choose to explore a style that was often the province of low-budget serials. It seems that the novels contained in this book are not examples of "America's best ... writing", at least in the conventional sense. T ...more
I read this at least a couple years ago, so I can't go into great detail about it. I can say that it is a fantastic collection of crime classics. These are not detective novels. They are novels about people who commit crimes, why they did it, and how they deal with it. For the most part, the prose is clean and tight and easy to read. (Gresham's Nighmare Alley, the only exception, is stylistically complex, but in a good way. Nightmare Alley was made into a good film with Tyrone Power; also, just ...more
I'm particularly curious about Cornell Woolrich, whom I've never read.


I've been meaning to read "I Married a Dead Man" since 96 or something, because I watched "Mrs. Winterbourne" every time it appeared on cable for a month.

Wow. This is freaking fabulous. Woolrich manages to strike exactly the right note with Patrice, her longing for this family, and this life, her love for her son, and her terror. The slowly building paranoia is shown in three similar short chapters, that are a text book for
Emma Lynne
Picked it up because it contained "They Shoot Horses Don't They?" which was well worth the trip to the SFPL main library branch. I was on a "dark side of the Hollywood" kick after just re-reading "The Day of the Locust."
I held onto it because of "The Postman Always Rings Twice." Because of this, the collection gets three stars. I couldn't get into any of the other stories. "Thieves Like Us" became a movie that I rather enjoyed, but the written version just dragged on, to me. I tried the other st
I've been intrigued by "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" Since I was a kid, and the movie was nominated for some Academy Awards. The title intrigued me, but I knew nothing about it, except that it was about a dance marathon. I was excited to see it was included in this LOA title. It was an interesting, very quick look into the noir style, and well worth the search.
the gift
starts off with a bang- could read postman again and again- some structural innovation in they shoot…- thieves like us is a great movie too- absurdist crime in big clock also a good movie- bleak fall in nightmare- ends with moral but maybe unneeded depression in i married… all of these are good, some great, all tense and short, mostly, can easily see why experimental novelists are drawn to crime: everything, anything, can be driven by essential conflicts of crime. and that they are so good in a ...more
Vince Darcangelo

James M. Cain: "The Postman Always Rings Twice"

Horace McCoy: "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"

Kenneth Fearing: "The Big Clock"

William Lindsay Gresham: "Nightmare Alley"
Most of the novels in this collection are stellar, but Double Indemnity would have been a better choice than Postman, and I Married a Dead Man is an unfortunate selection.
Thieves Like Us is incredible, and I have never found an edition of either Nightmare Alley or The Big CLock, so. with those considerations this is an essential volume.
Funny that 'noir' was not really a genre back then, and its later use was applied to movies based on these books.
Much of this collection is more ensconced in melo
Jill Hutchinson
If you have any interest at all in the noir thrillers of the mid-20th century, this is the book for you. It contains six stories of such darkness and despair that you will be looking over your shoulder for the specter of death and misfortune sneaking up behind you. Each of these carefully selected short stories has been brought to the screen in various forms.........even if you have seen the films, it is worth your time to read the originals. These are the masterpieces of the genre and be warned ...more
As I read them:

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? *** - This dark story goes beyond cynicism to nihilism. The claustrophobic setting of the physically and mentally brutal dance marathon is an excellent setting to highlight the unfortunate lives of the participants. The desperate hopelessness of Gloria, and the other dancers, weigh on Robert and lead to his decision to perform the ultimate act of mercy and shoot Gloria. This kind of novel is not quite my thing, but one can’t read it without having i
Brian Koppin
every on ewas great
Brilliant, what isn't there to like: Cain, McCoy, Anderson, Fearing, Lindsay and Woolrich

I'm rereading The Postman Always Rings Twice, but I know I'll end up rereading all the others as well.
I picked this book up to read "They Shoot Horses, Don't They" because the title intrigued me. Glancing at the back cover, I noted the description of the novel, "a turbulent, experimental portrayal of marathon." What!? I decided to read it anyway, and despite the apparently thin premise, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They" is an edgy and surprisingly modern noir drama. I pictured Gloria Beatty, with her morbid cynicism, as a proto-SuicideGirl or 30s-era Lisbeth Salander.
Read this a couple years ago, but I'm reading the next in the series so I thought it was worth noting.

Thoroughly enjoyable, surprising, vicious little stories. There are some real gems in there. I sure can't read modern "crime novels," but somehow these ones stand up with a remarkable vibrancy. It's a collection so they're hit and miss and the high rating I gave them should take that into consideration, but as a whole it was a great read.
Currently grooving on these noir books of the 1930's. Recently finished Cain's Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity. This collection includes The Postman Always Rings Twice.
I'm through the first four stories, and Horace McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and Kenneth Fearing's The Big Clock have already earned it five stars. The Postman Always Rings Twice and Thieves Like Us are solid fours.
Jennifer Barbee
This is a great collection of some really great noir stories. Stand outs for me were of course Cain's POSTMAN..., THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY?, and the fantastically twisted NIGHTMARE ALLEY (which was also a terrific film starring Tyrone Power).
Irene B.
Mar 28, 2011 Irene B. is currently reading it
Some classics I have actually never read. Just read "The Postman Always Rings Twice". Love these American Library editions, compact with small font, great binding and place keeper. Yet have to be in the mood for these. Probably summertime.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 42 43 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Chandler: Stories and Early Novels
  • Crime Stories and Other Writings
  • David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s
  • The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce and Selected Stories
  • I Married a Dead Man
  • Main Street / Babbitt
  • Novels, 1936-1940
  • Complete Novels: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter / Reflections in a Golden Eye / The Ballad of the Sad Cafe / The Member of the Wedding / Clock Without Hands
  • The Grapes of Wrath and Other Writings, 1936-1941
  • Pierre, Israel Potter, The Piazza Tales, The Confidence-Man, Tales, Billy Budd
  • Novels, 1956-1964
  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, A Death in the Family, and Shorter Fiction
  • Nightmare Alley
  • The Big Clock
  • Novels and Stories, 1920-1922
  • Pick-Up
  • Historical Romances
Robert Polito (born 1951) is an American academic, critic and poet. He has been Director of the Writing Program at The New School since 1992. He received the National Book Critics Circle Award and an Edgar Award for Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson.
More about Robert Polito...
Savage Art: A  Biography of Jim Thompson Crime Novels : American Noir of the 1950s Hollywood & God Doubles American Noir: 11 Classic Crime Novels of the 1930s, 40s, & 50s

Share This Book