Good Minds Suggest—Benjamin Black's Favorite Noir Books

Posted by Goodreads on March 3, 2014
Who is Benjamin Black? Just a shadowy alter ego whom Irish novelist John Banville calls his "dark twin," a man who writes crime fiction in an entirely different voice and at an even faster pace than the prolific author of The Sea. It is fitting that the Raymond Chandler estate tapped Banville, under his pen name, to resurrect Philip Marlowe, hard-boiled fiction's most iconic antihero. The wisecracking and hard-drinking detective sprang to life in Chandler's The Big Sleep (1939), was immortalized by Humphrey Bogart's performance in the 1946 film, and continued sleuthing in eight more novels—the last two completed by Robert B. Parker 30 years after Chandler's death. Now revived in The Black-Eyed Blonde, the antisocial Marlowe is not unlike Quirke, the troubled protagonist who anchors Black's own crime series, which began in 2006 with Christine Falls. Black shares five moody works of noir to set the scene for Marlowe's next act.

How's the Pain? by Pascal Garnier, translated by Emily Boyce
"Garnier, who died in 2010, is hardly known outside his native France, but he is a marvelous writer, the true heir to Georges Simenon. In How's the Pain? an aging and mortally sick hit man, on his way to the coast to carry out his last job, picks up a couple of strays who both hamper and help him. Dark, compelling, and horribly funny."

The Strangers in the House by Georges Simenon, translated by Geoffrey Sainsbury
"It is hard to choose just one of what Simenon called his romans durs, or hard novels, which did not feature Inspector Maigret and are his greatest achievement. In this one, Loursat is a drunken and embittered lawyer whose teenage daughter is running wild. When a man is murdered in his house, Loursat decides to take on the case for the defense, with unexpected results."

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
"Cain is said to have dashed off this noir masterpiece over a long weekend. The book has been filmed so many times that everyone must know the story by now: the drifter, the bored wife, the hapless husband who ends up dead. An acrid, disenchanted masterpiece."

The Hunter by Richard Stark
"This is the first of the Parker series, which Stark—aka Donald Westlake—began in the 1960s and continued until his death in 2008. Parker is a true existential hero: cool, emotionless, and ruthlessly efficient. In The Hunter we find him dealing with the aftermath of a heist that went badly wrong and ended with him shot by his best friend and left for dead. Now he is out to get his own back..."

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
"Terry Lennox's wife has been murdered, and he calls on his pal, the private eye Philip Marlowe, to spirit him across the border to Mexico. Meanwhile best-selling novelist Roger Wade has disappeared, and his wife hires Marlowe to find him. Then things get really complicated. This is surely the finest of Chandler's Marlowe novels, a complex and rancid tale of multiple betrayals."

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Noir

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