The Best American Noir of the Century
“Well worth its impressive weight in gold, it would be a crime not to have this seminal masterpiece in your collection.”—New York Journal of Books
In his introduction to The Best American Noir of the Century, James Ellroy writes, “Noir is the most scrutinized offshoot of the hard-boiled school of fiction. It’s the long drop off the short pier and the wrong man and the wrong woman in perfect misalliance. It’s the nightmare of flawed souls with big dreams and the precise how and why of the all-time sure thing that goes bad.” Offering the best examples of literary sure things gone bad, this collection ensures that nowhere else can readers find a darker, more thorough distillation of American noir fiction.
James Ellroy and Otto Penzler mined writings of the past century to find this treasure trove of thirty-nine stories. From noir’s twenties-era infancy come gems like James M. Cain’s “Pastorale,” and its postwar heyday boasts giants like Mickey Spillane and Evan Hunter. Packing an undeniable punch, diverse contemporary incarnations include Elmore Leonard, Patricia Highsmith, Joyce Carol Oates, Dennis Lehane, and William Gay, with many page-turners appearing from the past decade.
“Delightfully devilish . . . A strange trek through the years that includes stories from household names in the hard-boiled genre to lesser-known authors who nonetheless can hold their own with the legends.”—Associated Press
James Ellroy is the author of the Underworld U.S.A. trilogy—American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood’s a Rover—and the L.A. Quartet novels, The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz. His most recent book is The Hillicker Curse, a memoir.
Otto Penzler is the founder of the Mysterious Bookshop and Mysterious Press, has won two Edgar Allan Poe Awards (most recently for The Lineup), and is series editor of The Best American Mystery Stories.
September would never come—but I decided to go along with him. "OK, cash. But you gotta realize what we're working with." He looked up at me, his eyes unblinking behind the thick glasses. "Go ahead, Monroe." "Our parents still won't let us drive by ourselves, so we're stuck with our bikes. Unless you want to steal a car to get out of town—which doubles the danger. So whatever we go after has to be in Boston Falls." "I hadn't thought of that." "There's another thing," I said. "We can't go
Mattie was sleeping in the stuffed chair, her hose rolled down over her knees, an overturned jelly glass on the rug next to the can of spot cleaner. Weldon walked quietly across the rug, unscrewed the cap on the can, laid the can on its side in front of Mattie's feet, then backed away from her. The cleaning fluid spread in a dark circle around her chair, the odor as bright and sharp as a slap across the face. Weldon slid open a box of kitchen matches and we each took one, raked it across the
did that, didn't you?" "The goat slipped" I said. "Maybe," whispered Duff. He lit a cigarette, holding on to the crippled cat with one hand. "But you stood at the top of the stairs and watched the goat suffer until somebody came along" "I was so scared I couldn't move." "Another time" Duff continued, "at another school, you pushed a kid into an oil hole that he couldn't get out of and you were ducking him—maybe trying to kill him —when someone came along and stopped you." "He was a sissy. I
went on. I had a wife. My childhood sweetheart. She became a nurse, went to work in one of these drug rehab places. After she was there a while she got a faraway look in her eyes. Look at me without seeing me. She got in tight with her supervisor. They started having meetings to go to. Conferences. Sometimes just the two of them would confer, generally in a motel. The night I watched them walk into the Holiday Inn in Franklin I decided to kill her. No impetuous spur-of-the-moment thing. I thought
rearview mirror and saw that his passenger was putting on a pair of dark glasses. He said, "You in show business?" "No," Freddy said. "What's the glasses for?" Freddy didn't say anything. "What's the glasses for?" the driver asked. "The headlights hurt my eyes," Freddy said. He said it somewhat slowly, his tone indicating that he was rather tired and didn't feel like talking. The driver shrugged and remained quiet for the rest of the ride. He brought the cab to a stop at the corner of