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The Best American Noir of the Century

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  636 ratings  ·  86 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 615 pages
Published November 1st 2010 by Windmill Books (first published October 5th 2010)
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James Thane
James Ellroy and Otto Penzler have collected in this volume a large number of very dark crime stories spanning the years from 1910 to 2010. Included are stories by a number of very familiar writers like Mickey Spillane, Gil Brewer, James M. Cain, Jim Thompson, James Ellroy, Lawrence Block, and Elmore Leonard. There are also works by a number of lesser-known writers, but the stories are uniformly good and most of them won awards of one kind or another.

My personal favorites are probably James Crum
Spurs by Tod Robbins
A circus story from 1930s a tale of a small man, part of the freak show side the circus, with a big heart for a beautiful horseback rider. A match not possibly made in heaven as the bride to be has other plans for her new husband. Her heart is cold for him but warm for wealth, she plots and advises of her plans to a different person she wishes to be married to in the future also a performer in their circus. The small man turns out to be harder to crack than she thought and sh
En esta antología conformada por diez relatos, encontramos las plumas de los autores estadounidenses más reconocidos dentro del género negro. Cada una de las historias contenidas en este libro, nos presentan personajes sórdidos, corrompidos, perseguidos por el pasado y dispuestos a matar con tal de obtener una venganza, dinero o incluso amor.

La calidad de todos los relatos es buena, sin embargo, para mi existieron tres que sobresalieron: "Lenta, lentamente al viento" de Patricia Highsmith, "Infi
Joe Murray
When a book boasts the monumental declaration, The Best American Noir of the Century, it damn well better stand up to scrutiny—all prodigious 752 pages of it. And so it was with relish that I tucked into this meaty and bloody feast from arguably the finest literary writers of noir America has ever produced, hoping for some tasty morsels. The Best American Noir of the Century is a colossal collection of 39 short stories dating from as far back as 1923, right up to 2007, and selected by James Ellr ...more
Other reviews of this collection often debated if all the stories selected for this book can truly be called “noir”. Since I struggle to even pronounce “noir” correctly, I will avoid that debate completely. These stories were dark and gritty and could I read no more than one or two a week often accompanied by a glass of wine for the nerves. Everyone will have their own favorites and their own dogs. I jumped around throughout the collection rather than reading in chronicnoligcal order but I found ...more
I read this compilation as part of the 387 Short Story Challenge - one story a day for the past month or so. There are about 30 out of these 35 stories I really liked, but only a handful of them make the amazing grade.

So after much thought, I'm not going to be tempted into rating it five stars. Given how dark & depressing these stories can be, I'm not gonna take this up even for selective reading anytime soon. That being said, this is not to be missed at any cost by fans of crime fiction &am
Impresionante, casi diría que imprescindible, antología de relatos de género negro americano. En España hay muy pocos relatos traducidos de autores americanos de género negro, dejando a un lado a Chandler y a Hammett, el resto de autores de línea hard-boiled apenas están traducidos. Es por eso lo imprescindible de esta antología, que recoge autores tan necesarios como Jim Thomson, del que solo hay dos relatos traducidos o David Goodis, Spillane, Ellroy, Block o Leonard, que creo que es la primer ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Sep 28, 2011 Jayaprakash Satyamurthy marked it as to-read
Shelves: crime, noir, short-stories
This book is wrongly named. It claims to contain the best American noir of the century - but which century is that? The collection covers the years 1923 to 2007, which is 84 years from two different centuries. Also, a lot of the best American noir is found in novel form. So this book should really have been called 'The Best American Noir Short Stories from an 84-year period' except that doesn't have the same ring, does it?

Ah well. This will be another of those story-by-story reviews that I keep
It is hard to review a collection of short stories (do you rate based on the average ratings of all the stories or how you felt of the book as a whole?). This collection of Noir short stories, is well worth reading for all Noir and Hard-Boiled fans. Full of grittiness, vengeance, murder and macabre; I loved every minute of this book.

Individual Breakdown of the Short Stories
Spurs by Tod Robbins (1923) -- 3/5
Pastorale by James M. Cain (1928) -- 4/5
You'll Always Remember Me by Steve Fisher (1938) -
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Did... I feel "repulsed and titillated" while reading this, as James Ellroy claimed I would?: YES. Forget horror, noir is the best way to get a chill up one's spine!

Did... I find myself crushing on all the wrong people?: YES. There's something so deadly sexy about a good femme fatale!

Did... I feel very grateful that I had this as an e-book edition?: YES, mostly. At 731 pages, I wouldn't have been able to carry a hard copy around on my commute, but this is the kind of book that begs to be held
William Johnson
Aug 02, 2014 William Johnson is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I will review this one as I go since I will be picking this one up over time.

1. "Spurs", Tod Robbins. **** out of ****, a brutally dark tale of circus freaks (even the 'normal' ones are freaks in their own way) and how pride is easily wounded and revenge for such damaged pride is cruel. Was the inspiration for the film "Freaks" in 1932.

2. "Pastorale" by James M. Cain. ** out of ****. I'm giving Cain an automatic two stars but nothing more because I read this po
Aaron Poorman
I'm back from my blogging hiatus now that another semester has passed. How long this return will last before I'm pulled entirely back into my studies I can't be sure. Still, it is nice to have time for reading for fun again. The Best American Noir of the Century is a collection compiled by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler. It's a massive book with nearly forty stories, and stretches as far back as 1923 (Tom Robbins' "Spurs" and as recently as 2007 (Lorenzo Carcaterra's "Missing The Morning Bus") fo ...more
If you’re already a fan of the genre, you’ll be pleased with this magnificent edition. If you don’t know what noir is, then this is a splendid introduction.

In fact, if you’re a novice, the editors James Ellroy and Otto Penzler each provide a brief introduction offering their interpretations of the term. Penzler contends noir is a “…prodigiously overused term to describe a certain type of film or literary work” which is actually “…virtually impossible to define, but everyone thinks they know it w
Favourite Stories:
Tod Robbins "Spurs" - Dark and funny
Steve Fisher "You'll Always Remember Me" - Salinger-esque
Day Keene "Nothing to Worry About" - Dark and funny
Howard Browne "Man in the Dark" - Classic Noir
David Goodis "Professional Man" - Good ending
Charles Beaumont "The Hunger" - Creepy
Evan Hunter "The Last Spin" - Cute
Cornell Woolrich "For the Rest of Her Life" - Really dark
David Morell "The Dripping" - Really creepy
Patricia Highsmith "Slowly, Slowly in the Wind" - Dark and funny
James Lee B
Since this is a rather thick book (800 pages) of short stories, I suspect that I'll be reading it for awhile. But it is worth the read, especially if you really want to learn what the Noir genre is. Guy Savage reviewed this book for MostlyFiction ( and one of things he points out is to read Otto Penzler's introduction for a better understanding of the delineations under the umbrella of crime fiction, especially when it comes to the term "Noir." This is go ...more
Jeremy Good

Like most anthologies, it's a bit hit and miss. Most intriguing was the editorial take on noir, a bit idiosyncratic perhaps challenging traditional notions of noir. Maybe half the collection started around the 90s and took us into the new millenium. So we seem to have here an ambitious attempt to keep noir relevant today and I guess it always has been, even in "pre-noir" times?!

If I had to define "noir" just based on reading this anthology, it would be this: Hopeless or hapless people living hop
Mary Keane
Oct 15, 2012 Mary Keane rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Avid noir fans and short story fans.
Recommended to Mary by: No one- it leapt off the library shelf into my hands.
I still find great joy in 'discovering' writers I have never heard of who have managed to make their way into the canon despite all odds, such as the fellow who tried for forty years (FORTY YEARS!) to get published, and when at last he made it, his work became part of the Oscar inner circle as well. The little bios before each piece help place the writers in context. All in all a terrific collection edited by an author I discovered "backwards" -- I saw L.A. Confidential and fell in love, and now ...more
Kevin Doyle
My first love is short stories. Even though I read a lot of novels, and have lately gotten into writing them, I always go back to short stories when possible. "Best American Noir of the Century" has some very good stories, some of which I was already familiar with, but some were new to me.

It begins with "Spurs" from 1923. The inspiration for the Tod Browning movie "Freaks," the story bears little resemblance to its film incarnation. Both are good in their own ways, just wildly different in terms
Warren Stalley
The Best American Noir of the Century collects together a wide range of crime authors from the U.S. and is a great way to find interesting writers who you may not have come across before. Each story is preceded by a brief yet informative introduction to the author. All the pieces were interesting in one way or another but some of my personal favourites were as follows:

Nothing To Worry About – Day Keene
A teenage boy thinks he’s got away with murder but his homicidal tendencies may yet give him aw
Óscar Brox
A pesar de su frenética actividad editorial, la literatura negra tiene motivos para quejarse. Secuestrado por el impacto de corto alcance de fenómenos actuales, el noir ha dejado en un rincón a algunos de sus autores mayores; por ejemplo, a un David Goodis cuya obra traducida se quedó apalancada a principios de los 90. Una antología como American Noir, que publica Navona en edición de tapa dura, sirve para poner a disposición del lector autores y textos que, en algunos casos, se presentan por pr ...more
The book contains short stories of Noir fiction, usually dark stories of crime. I was amazed at how good the stories were and how many really are classic literature. The book takes stories in chronological order from the beginning of the 20th century to the time the book was published in 2006. I think because of the proliferation of crime, true story magazines and magazines such as Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, the earlier stories tend to be better. While short stories as a form are enjoying a ...more
MSJ (Sarah)
Nov 10, 2014 MSJ (Sarah) marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
It's time to put the dying horse out to pasture, so to speak. I am momentarily putting this down for lack of interest as it has become a chore to read. I may pick it up again at a later time.

This anthology is titled "The Best American Noir of the Century" which is really quite subjective to the opinions of the editors, James Ellroy and Otto Penzler. Personally I think it should concentrate on the 1930-1950's, the Golden Age of Noir, but this collection includes more contemporary pieces than I h
David Press
Like most anthologies, some of these stories are great, others feh, with most falling in between. Elmore Leonard's "When the Women Come Out to Dance," knocked me out. Surprisingly, James Cain's "Pastorale" and Jim Thompson's "Forever After" seemed clumsy and boring. Joyce Carol Oates "Faithless" didn't do much for me either.

The editors make it clear that detective stories are not Noir stories, because the hard boiled detective walks down the mean streets, in a world with no moral justice, while
Stories with a real twist, with psychological noir, with pace and outstanding writing, that finished way too soon. The masters are the master for a good reason--they write stories that grab and hold and surprise. Only one or two were too hard for me to read, the others were superb and qualify for a re-read! I knew the names of all the authors of the stories that turned out to be favorites, but had not known of these shorts. Happy discovery.
What is noir? A simple question, not necessarily a simple answer. This book serves as the best definition I could imagine. "Noir" sounds intimidating, too dark for mainstream, or at least so it would seem. I challenge any reader to give this collection a try, I pretty much guarantee you'll find at least a few stories that'll touch you in a way you didn't know you'd like...

One tip: skip the James Ellroy entry. It's the low point of the whole, and fits in as well as Andrew Dice Clay at a church so
Jason Horton
God, this was dark. Re-introduced me to some old favourites - Spillane, Highsmith, Ellroy - and gave me my first taste of some writers I will be reading a lot more of - James Crumley for starters...

There are SO many amazing stories in this volume.
Dan Murphy
A compilation of the "best" American noir short stories over the past 100 years, this book left me unconvinced that some of these authors / stories were timeless. Sure you've got the titillating animal mutilations, sexual bondage, revenge in sang-froid, and doomed trysts present throughout, but some of these stories were really poorly written. Others were amazing. I guess I just question the editors' tastes in part. On the plus side, it came as a revelation to me that a not insignificant number ...more
I have to thank a friend who kept insisting I should read this. I'm not a huge fan of Ellroy other than watching him be a wild-assed interviewee on tv, but this is a nice collection he co-edited with Otto Penzler who edits anthologies at the rate that Joyce Carol Oates drops novels from her withered buttocks. For starters, this book contains the rare short story "Spurs" which the movie "Freaks" was based on. Plus the short story "Gun Crazy" that the fine noir film was based on. It also has some ...more
I had never read much for pleasure. When I have, it's usually the old classics, I'm not much for modern fiction. But this book looked interesting at the library, and I fell in love with noir. I was already a fan of film noir, but these stories are just so compelling and so twisty, I could not put the book down. 39 stories (maybe forty, I lost count) spanning from 1923-2007 and I enjoyed every one of them. Some of the more modern ones were not my favorites, as they are written with a lot of foul ...more
Lawrence FitzGerald
A collection of short fiction from 1923 to 2007 advertised as noir...sure, why not?

I kind of picked and chose my way through it. I gave everything at least a chance and bailed when I didn't think I was doing the author justice by continuing.

The first sixty years are kind of hit or miss. The next twenty had a lot more of the good stuff. The highlights were Ellroy, Thomas H Cook, James Crumley, Tom Franklin, James W Hall, Dennis Lehane, William Gay, F X Toole, Elmore Leonard, Scott Wolven, Andrew
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James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His L.A. Quartet novels—The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz—were international best sellers. His novel American Tabloid was Time magazine’s Best Book (fiction) of 1995; his memoir, My Dark Places, was a Time Best Book of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book for 1996. His novel The Cold Six Thousand was a New York ...more
More about James Ellroy...
The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet, #1) L.A. Confidential (L.A. Quartet, #3) American Tabloid (Underworld USA, #1) The Big Nowhere (L.A. Quartet, #2) White Jazz (L.A. Quartet, #4)

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“Like art, love, and pornography, noir is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. For the purposes of the book and my longtime working understanding and definition of it, noir stories are bleak, existential, alienated, pessimistic tales about losers--people who are so morally challenged that they cannot help but bring about their own ruin.” 7 likes
“Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself - and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That's what real love amounts to - letting a person be what he really is.” 0 likes
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