Magical List of Noir

Last year Chris Hocking gave me a list of noir “must-reads” and it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

Hocking, editor of Detroit Noir, writer of my favorite Conan pastiche, and all-around talented guy and great human being happens to be widely read on sword-and-sorcery but is perhaps even better read in noir.

The list he gave me is a distillation of at least thirty years of his reading in the mystery and harboiled genres — Hocking’s thoughts on the very, very best. You could use it to teach a course on what makes noir great.

Some of the list is meant as a sample, for instance the two Wade Miller books I mentioned Tuesday that led to me reading deep into their catalog. Hocking gave me Guilty Bystander and Devil May Care with the thought that if I loved them I could investigate further.

Some of the other entries on the list aren’t samples — they’re the best from that author, or the only work of that author in the mystery genre.

I’ve liked everything on the list that I’ve read so far, and I’ve loved most of it. I’ve been thinking lately that I should ask Hocking’s permission to share it with the rest of the world, although it won’t be half as useful without some notes from him, so I’ll try to pull him away from his many projects to draft a couple of sentences about each author or entry. (Update: Here is the list. Discussion about the books on the list will follow in posts to come.)

In the mean time I want to share a quartet of links about  one of the other authors on the list. Here’s a discussion of the private eye fiction of Talmage Powell. Like Chris Hocking, J Kingston Pierce thinks the best of the five books are in the opening trio. I know that I certainly enjoyed the first three, enough that I went ahead and scooped up the last two (although I haven’t read them yet).

And here’s a gem of an article from 1997, reprinted by Vintage Library, that’s an actual interview with Talmage Powell about his writing process, working in the pulp era, and all kinds of observations about the writing and publishing life that should be of interest to writers even if you’re completely bored by my recent interest in noir. The Vintage Library is offering e-reprints of a whole host of Powell’s shorter works, though I don’t see his Ed Rivers novels in their catalog.

Finally, here’s a link to Prologue Books, which carries all of Talmage Powell’s Ed Rivers novels as e-books. Poke around there a while and you’ll see they also have e-additions of some Wade Miller titles, including all the Max Thursday books I mentioned Tuesday.


5 Comments on “Magical List of Noir

  1. Please see if you can get Hocking to give you permission to print this list. I would love to see what’s on it. I love noir, but am not nearly as well-read in it as I am in science fiction and fantasy.

  2. Hey Howard,

    I have no problem with the list being shared, except that it’s possible some might misunderstand it. It’s a distilled selection of my all time favorite hardboiled fiction, but I made it just for you, so there are a number of authors whose work isn’t listed simply because I knew you were already reading it. Conversely, Jim Thompson appears with a possibly unexpected title because I knew you’d read The Killer Inside Me and found it grueling enough that I thought you should be encouraged to give him another chance.

    I admit that the list is idiosyncratic because it’s based on my particular tastes, but I can imagine some readers seeing it as an unjust ‘best of’ listing because authors are omitted who would actually be on the list had you not already started reading their stuff.
    And I’m much more interested in potentially discussing why an author or book is on the list than why one is not.

    • Hey Chris,

      It was my thought that when we took it live we’d add in the other stuff you’d already recommended because if I hadn’t already read it, it would have been on the list. The Parker novels, the Quarry and Nate Heller stuff, and a few other things.

      It IS an idiosyncratic list in that it’s Hocking’s favorites, but it’s an especially fine gift to me because our tastes our so similar.

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