Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Recovered -- and Refreshing -- Noir

I'm not a noir or Gold Medal Books expert, so it's hard to know if that moldering paperback with a lurid cover will be any good. You can bet on some authors -- e.g., Charles Williams -- but others haven't aged well or were never very good to start with. Fortunately, there are experts like Bill Crider and Ed Gorman, and imprints like Stark House Noir Classics.

And so, a single volume with two pretty great titles -- One is a Lonely Number (1952) by Bruce Elliott and Black Wings Has My Angel (1953) by Elliott Chaze -- found its way into my hands. Each novel tells the story of a man on the lam who falls for a dame. In its way, Lonely Number seems the more transgressive because the dame is a 14-year old with epilepsy. But antihero Larry Camonille is a nice guy who is willing to take the extra step to see that she gets the medical care she wants.

Black Wings is the longer, more romantic, introspective book. Kenneth McClure -- alias Tim Sunblade -- is smart, disciplined, and brutal. He hooks up with a mysterious, high-class call girl who likes it rough. He puts together a great heist, but this is a Noir Classic, so...

In today's era of heroes, series books, and good luck, it's refreshing as hell to read grim, nasty, feverish, morally unhinged novels of men and women who don't seem particularly destined to make it to a sequel.