My Favorite Noirs: Other Favorites


                I’m just about finished with this Noir 101 set of lessons, and I’m going to wrap up with a brief overview of Noir authors who I already mentioned in other features elsewhere on my blog. If you’re interested in more detail, dig back and find them. Then, it’s time to move on to other things. I hope you enjoyed reading about my favorite Noir authors and maybe want to go and check out some of the stories and films I mentioned. If you do that, then I’ve done my job. So, here’s three other Noir authors that you need to check out, and what to read and what to watch.

                Elmore Leonard: It’s hard to find more great things to say about Leonard. He changed the way that stories are written, creating a casual style that’s better than most writers working today, and combined great characters, fast-paced and exciting plots, depth, and social commentary in his crime stories. I wrote a fairly detailed breakdown of his major works earlier. I was missing a whole bunch as there’s a ton of Leonard that I still need to read. I’m looking forward to it.

                Recommended Reading: Here’s one that I didn’t get to around to the first time around – Killshot. It’s the story about an average couple in the northern Midwest who find themselves witnesses to a crime committed by a Native American hitman and his crazy young associate. Killshot is about many things, but I particularly liked the treatment of the hitman returning to his community, after years of being way while killing people for the Mob, and trying to fit in. It’s a very sad and poignant moment that makes him strangely sympathetic throughout the rest of the story.

                Recommended Viewing: I’ll just go ahead and recommend the entirety of the TV series Justified. It’s an adaptation of the short story ‘Fire in the Hole,’ which has grown to include nods to numerous other Leonard stories and characters. Karen Sisco (given a different last name for copyright reasons) makes an appearance, as do characters from Leonard’s final novel, Raylan and his other works. Justified is great for keeping Leonard’s humor, his sense of place and history, and even his commentary about the sad state of life in poverty-stricken Harlan County. Each season has its own flavor which helps to keep the series fresh. Season one is mostly standalone episodes (the weaker ones take Raylan Givens away from the Kentucky backwoods), season two (probably the best season) is an old time hill family feud threatening to reappear, season three is a power struggle with an evil carpet-bagging newcomer, season four is a mystery that all the characters race to solve, and season five (so far) appears to be about both the main characters trying to fit into their new lives. It’s all good stuff and with only one more season to go, now is the time to start watching.

                Dennis Lehane: I wrote about two of Lehane’s books, The Given Day and Live By Night earlier,  so I’ll go ahead and repeat that recommendation here. These are very good historical crime novels about Boston after World War One. It was a turbulent time and place and Lehane’s stories cover the Red Scare and Prohibition. Lehane’s written tons of other books as well, and I’ll have to go back and check them out. For now, I hope he keeps writing historical novels. It’s easy to make the Prohibition Era seem soulless and shallow or like a fun, consequence-free party. Lehane’s engaging, sympathetic characters walk a tightrope between those two poles and it’s great fun to follow along.

                Recommended Reading: Live By Night is my favorite. Prohibition Era Boston and Florida get equal time and there’s plenty of tommy gun action.

                Recommended Writing: Ben Affleck’s going to do a big adaptation of Live By Night. I’m hoping that will be good. In the mean time, Lehane did writing for The Wire. I don’t need to tell you to watch that. He also worked on the fourth season of Boardwalk Empire. That season started out slow and fragmented, but built up to a great, totally tragic ending that I can certainly see Lehane’s hand in. I hope he sticks around for season five, especially if there’s more Floridian action.

                Brian Azzarello: When it comes to Noir comics, Frank Miller’s the guy with the sledgehammer and Azzarello wields an ice pick. His stories feature byzantine plots, dark endings, and some true looks at human darkness. Everything he does is tinged with subtle Noir whether it be Westerns like Loveless, superhero stories like his Batman work, or sci-fi like Spaceman. They’re all worth checking out, if only for the baroque, pun-filled dialogue and complex plots. He’s about mood as much as plot, so if you’re the kind who finds confusion upsetting, you may need to set your inhibitions aside.

                Recommended Reading: It needs to be 100 Bullets. 100 issues long, collected in thirteen volumes, 100 Bullets is a rare comic book achievement – a massive and coherent vision, seen through from the beginning to the end. The story starts with a series of seemingly unrelated tales involving a mysterious man named Agent Graves offering the wronged 100 untraceable bullets to get vengeance. Then you discover that Agent Graves is working for a vast conspiracy, now engaged in a bloody power struggle. Along the way, Azzarello portrays almost every crime imaginable, from black market tiger-rearing to art theft to simple murder. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Azzarello’s frequent collaborators. Dave Johnson creates the best covers in the business and Eduardo Risso’s interior art is stylized and yet detailed, perfectly capturing the emotions of the flawed characters. It ended a while ago and I still miss it.

                Recommended Viewing: There’s occasional talk of 100 Bullets being adapted for television. So far, nothing’s come of it – and I’m glad of that. A TV series can’t improve on perfection. Otherwise, Azzarello doesn’t really have that many adaptations. He did a story for the so-so animated Batman anthology, I think, but you don’t need to watch that. Just read 100 Bullets instead!

                Well, that’s the end of My Favorite Noirs. I’m sure I’ll be writing about more crime stories – especially when more Rot Rods novels come out. I hope you enjoyed it and feel free to check out Dead Man’s Drive, now available as a physical book, here:

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