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American Literature
Library of America
Crime Novels: American Noir

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Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s
Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s book jacket Edited by: Robert Polito
Library of America
ISBN: 1-883011-46-9
Series Number: 94
Product Code: 200966
Price: $35.00
Evolving out of the terse and violent style of the pulp magazines, noir fiction expanded over the decades into a varied, innovative and profoundly influential body of writing. The eleven novels in this adventurous two-volume collection tap 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.

American Noir of the 1930s and 40s begins with James M. Cain's pioneering novel of murder and adultery along the California highway, The Postman Always Rings Twice(1934), which 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 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.

 

Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s
Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s book jacket Edited by: Robert Polito
Library of America
ISBN: 1-883011-49-3
Series Number: 95
Product Code: 200974
Price: $35.00
Evolving out of the terse and violent style of the pulp magazines, noir fiction expanded over the decades into a varied, innovative and profoundly influential body of writing. The eleven novels in this adventurous two-volume collection tap 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.

Published as a paperback original in 1952, Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, one of the most blistering and uncompromising crime novels ever written, begins the second volume, American Noir of the 1950s. Written from the point of view of an outwardly genial, privately murderous Texas sheriff, it explores the inner hell of a psychotic in daring and experimental style. Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) likewise adopts a killer's perspective as she traces the European journey of an American con man with a taste for fine living and no conscience about how to attain it. Highsmith's gift for diabolical plotting is matched only by the cool irony of her characterizations. In his nihilistic early novel Pick-Up (1955), Charles Willeford follows the pilgrimage of two lost and self-destructive lovers through the depths of San Francisco, from cheap bars and rooming houses to psychiatric clinics and police stations. David Goodis' Down There (1956) is a moody, intensely lyrical novel of a musician fallen on hard times and caught up in his family's criminal activities; it was adapted by Franżois Truffaut into the film Shoot the Piano Player. With its gritty realism, unrestrained violence and frequently outrageous humor,The Real Cool Killers (1959) is among the most powerful of Chester Himes' series of novels about the Harlem detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones.

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.


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