Lou's Reviews > The Best American Noir of the Century

The Best American Noir of the Century by James Ellroy
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's review
Mar 24, 2012

bookshelves: april-2012, noir, mystery-thriller, short-stories
Read from May 13, 2012 to December 23, 2016

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 she finds the tables have turned.
You can only think that she is to blame in the end due to her own evil plan.

Very good story filled with wonderful characters and setting with a noir theme. I loved how he twisted the story with the bizarre.

This story was the basis for a classic noir film Freaks in 1932.

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Pastorale by James M. Cain

Traditional noir story in the style of which the author James Cain is known for.
Most of his stories involve a man and woman in love and deceit.
In this story, his first published story, he has a woman who wants out of a marriage and plots with her lover a deadly end to her husbands life. They get help from an ex-con her lover knows, which was not a good idea.
The secret must not get out on who is the killer.
Misfits, affairs and murder written by one of the master writers of noir literature James M. Cain.

Gun crazy by Mackinlay Kantor

Story of Young boys and fascination with guns at young ages of six upwards. One boy grows up to be a gun crazy gunslinger and bank robber Nelson Tare.
He also becomes a stunt shooter and teams up with a female counterpart and together in love they rob from banks and arson the run a wanted duo.
One lesson they learn is that their love of the gun went too far and left them with a grim ending.
Nice noir story that tells how a group of friends are on one occasion children and then another adults changed, some law abiding citizens and one other a ruthless wanted man.
A good read of the collection.
This was the basis for a movie of the same name and the screenplay was written by this author also.

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Nothing To Worry About by Day Keene

Noir killing off the wife story. A assistant attorney sees his heavy drinking wife as an obstacle for him making to the top as a senator.
This short story walks you through the killing of her in pitch darkness of a room. Theres only one thing there is something to worry about. A good one to read.

"The art of killing, the three Ms, means, method, motive had changed little in the known history of man. To take a life, one still had to shoot, knife, drown, strike, strangle, or poison the party of the unwanted part.
And, as with the most basic refinements to the art of living, the first known method of murder used- that of striking the party to be removed with whatever object came first to hand-was still the most difficult of detection, providing of course that the party who did the striking could maintain a reasonable plea of being elsewhere at the time."

The Homecoming by Dorothy B. Hughes

This author was the first female to fall squarely in the hard-boiled school.
This is a short tight psychological and visceral story.
Jealousy, love and murder.
One man Benny finds a friend Jim, since college days, a threat he is noticed and Benny is not. He went off to war and received medals where our murderer did his service on the home ground. While the Jim the top man was away in war he and Nan got on well and he loved her. Jim returns and enters the welcoming arms of Nan. Benny hates Jim for taking his woman and everything about him, murder is running in his veins.
The story takes you through Benny's removal of Jim but accidents do happen in the cause of things.

Nice little treat it opens with a great sentence.
"It was a dark night, a small-wind night, the night on which evil things could happen, might happen."

Also in the story..
"He no longer feared the sound and shadow behind him.
There was no terror as bad as the hurt in his head and his heart.
As he moved on without direction he saw through the mist the pinprick of green in the night. He knew then where he was going, where he must go. The tears ran down his cheeks into his mouth. They tasted like blood."

The Lady Says Die! By Mike Spillane
Two rival businessmen friends. One guy who wants everything the other has his eyes on ends up died, suicide. The living one becomes suspected but he's far from plunging the man to his death. He only guilty of playing with the dead mans ego.

Another good little noir story from an author who is more known for penning novels than short stories.

The Gesture by Gil Brewer

A husband and wife live in a remote location. They have a guest staying over and the husband becomes extremely jealous of this younger man to the extent that he plans to kill him. He stumbles upon letter written by the guest that addresses their married life that reflection from a third party changes his whole intentions.

Surprising twist to this noir short.

The Last Spin by Evan Hunter

A shocking little noir short of two young gang members round a table settling a score with a smith and wesson .38 police special.
The modus operandi is Russian Roulette.
A good story i was hoping they quit the spinning and made friends. Who will it bulket fall on? Tigo or Danny?

"Danny slapped the cylinder with his left hand. The cylinder whirled, whirled, and then stopped. Slowly, Danny put the gun to his head. He wanted to close his eyes, but he didnt dare. Tigo, the enemy, was watching him. He returned Tigo's stare, and then over the roar of his blood he heard the empty click. Hastily, he put the gun down on the table."

Forever After by Jim Thompson

Another wife in an affair and killing off the husband story. This one about double indemnity. Jim Thompson characters and writing, similar story to that of James m cain's works.
Poor woman he does add his own turn of events to the tale.
Great little Thompson noir treat.

The Dripping by David Morrell

Before he published First Blood and Creepers he published this. This was his first published story, a story of suspense and horror.
A man returns home to find dire circumstances, blood and more blood. Something tells you he is treading familiar ground deja vu.
A real good short story, a pleasant surprise of macabre of the most twisted kind.

"Perhaps he is still in the house, waiting for me.
To the hollow sickness in my stomach now comes fear, hot, pulsing, and i am frantic before i realize what i am doing- grabbing the spare cane my mother always keeps by her bed, flicking on the light in her room, throwing open the closet door and striking in with the cane. Viciously, sounds coming from my throat, the can flailing among the faded dresses.
No one. Under the bed. No one. Behind the door. No one."
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Reading Progress

06/03/2012 page 25
08/10/2012 page 20
3.0% "Liking this one thus far descriptive and hooks you in." 1 comment
12/23/2016 marked as: read
12/23/2016 marked as: currently-reading
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Michael Some great stories in this collection

message 2: by Lou (new) - added it

Lou Michael wrote: "Some great stories in this collection"

Yes thanks I am discovery them now.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I love noir. I need to check out your back catalog of reviews to figure out the best ones to read, Lou.

message 4: by Mohammed (last edited Jun 03, 2012 08:01PM) (new)

Mohammed James M.Cain the master of man and women,deceit.

Lou are the stories noir kind and no Hardboiled PIs? I want anthology of only noir and not detective stories.

message 5: by Lou (new) - added it

Lou Steve wrote: "I love noir. I need to check out your back catalog of reviews to figure out the best ones to read, Lou."

All of James m cain and most of jim thompson must be read

message 6: by Lou (new) - added it

Lou Mohammed wrote: "James M.Cain the master of man and women,deceit.

Lou are the stories noir kind and no Hardboiled PIs? I want anthology of only noir and not detective stories."

So far only read two stories no pi's yet or detectives.

message 7: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed Lou wrote: "Mohammed wrote: "James M.Cain the master of man and women,deceit.

Lou are the stories noir kind and no Hardboiled PIs? I want anthology of only noir and not detective stories."

So far only read ..."

I will look forward to your review because im more fan of noir than PI hardboiled myself. I would easily pay for anthology of mostly noir stories.

You are right about Cain and Thompson they must be read. They are one of few fav authors i read no matter what they wrote, the quality of their book. Shame Cain wasnt as prolific as Thompson ;)

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Lou wrote: "Steve wrote: "I love noir. I need to check out your back catalog of reviews to figure out the best ones to read, Lou."

All of James m cain and most of jim thompson must be read"

Lou, I just ordered "The Killer Inside" from Amazon. Which Cain do you recommend for a newbie? I'm sure I've seen films: Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity, and Postman, and maybe some others.

message 9: by Jason (new)

Jason Great film!

message 10: by Lou (new) - added it

Lou When i get a chance, must watch it.

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