Category Archives: James Ellroy

Do You Still Feel the Pain of the Scars That Won’t Heal*

Whenever someone dies, whether it’s murder or not, those left behind are affected permanently. That may be especially the case when the death is untimely. All sorts of raw emotions and hidden feelings come out, and such a death often alters the relationships among the loved ones left behind.

It’s only natural that this would be woven into crime fiction, especially crime fiction where there’s a murder. And it is. There are plenty of examples of what happens to family relationships after a sudden death. Here are just a few; I know you’ll think of plenty of others.

In James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential, we are introduced to Edmund ‘Ed’ Exley. He’s a Los Angeles police officer whose father, Preston Exley, is beloved and revered among the police. Preston had his hopes set on his son, Thomas, rising to the very top of the LAPD as a detective. Thomas, though, was killed during World War II (the novel takes place in the early-to-mid 1950s). Now that Thomas is no longer alive, Ed Exley has the dual burden of being the surviving brother, and of living up to his father’s expectations. And it’s a difficult challenge, too, as Preston Exley is determined that a son of his will rise to the proverbial top of the tree. All of this impacts Ed when, on Christmas Day of 1951, seven civilians are brutally beaten by police officers. There’s a lot of public outrage, which has consequences for the police. Then, two years later, there’s a late-night shooting at a diner called the Nite Owl. The two incidents turn out to be related, and we see how the Exley family dynamics play a role in what happens.

Anne Perry’s Face of a Stranger is the story of the murder of Joscelin Grey, a ‘blueblood’ who was bludgeoned in his own home. London police detective William Monk is put in charge of the investigation, but he is facing a real difficulty. He was involved in a terrible accident and has lost his memory. He doesn’t even know, at first, who he is or why he is in a hospital. He does know that he wants to pick up his life again, and he can’t reveal his memory difficulty if he’s going to do that. Still, bit by bit, he and his assistant, John Evan, start asking questions. And, naturally, they want to talk to Grey’s family. This is Victorian London, where the ‘better classes’ are not accustomed to having their word questioned. And they see no reason to cooperate with a ‘mere’ policeman. But, eventually, Monk and Evan start to learn about the family dynamic. The dead man was the apple of his mother’s eye, and she won’t hear anything against him. None of her other children can quite measure up. Those children, though, don’t see things that way. And they’ve all been impacted by their mother’s bias. As the story goes on, we learn more about the complicated network of relationships in the Grey family. We also learn that more than one person had a good reason to want to kill Joscelin Grey – and not all of them are family members.

Belinda Bauer’s Blacklands introduces us to the working-class Lamb family. Nettie Lamb lives with her mother, Gloria, and her children, Steven and Davey, in the small Exmoor town of Shipcott. This isn’t an ordinary family, though. Nineteen years earlier, Nettie’s brother, Billy Peters, disappeared and never returned. The belief is that he was abducted and killed by a man named Arnold Avery, who’s currently in prison for other murders. Billy’s body was never found, though, so the family has had no real closure. Then, Steven decides to write to Avery in prison, and find out where his Uncle Billy’s body is buried. Thus begins a psychological game of cat and mouse between him and Avery, which turns very dangerous. But it also brings up real family issues. Gloria always preferred Billy over Nettie; yet, Nettie’s the one who survived. That plays its own role in the story. Among other things, it’s meant Nettie has conflicted feelings about Billy.

Paddy Richardson’s Hunting Blind begins in 1988, at a school picnic at Lake Wanaka, on New Zealand’s South Island. The Anderson family goes to the picnic, and the members soon scatter among the rest of the people there. When it’s time to go, Stephanie’s mother, Minna, sends her to get four-year-old Gemma, the youngest. But Stephanie can’t find her sister. And no-one’s seen the child since earlier. Now panicked, the entire family searches for Gemma, but can’t find her. The police are called in, and a thorough, official, search begins. But no trace of Gemma is ever found – not even a body. Gemma’s loss devastates her family, and I can say without spoiling the story that none of the family members are really the same again afterwards. Stephanie, especially, feels the loss. She feels responsible, in her way, and she feels a sense of guilt. Seventeen years later, she’s finishing up her psychiatry studies in Dunedin, when she starts to work with a new patient, Elisabeth Clark. At first, Elisabeth won’t work with Stephanie. But gradually, Stephanie learns that Elisabeth lost her sister, Gracie, in a way that’s eerily similar to the way Gemma disappeared. Stephanie decides to lay her family’s ghosts to rest and find out who wreaked so much havoc on these families. As she searches for the truth, we see how the loss of one sister has impacted the other, and their brothers (and that’s to say nothing of the parents).

And then there’s Donna Morrisey’s The Fortunate Brother. That novel features Sylvanus Now, his wife, Addie, and their children, Sylvie and Kyle. The family is suffering deeply from the loss of Sylvanus and Addie’s other son, Chris, who died three years earlier in a terrible oil rig accident in Alberta. They’re doing their best to go on with life, but they haven’t started to heal, and they’re all hurting in their own ways. Kyle, for instance, carries a great deal of guilt and grief, although he’s not responsible for Chris’ death. The Nows are jolted out of their own suffering when a local bully named Clar Gillard is killed. He was, to say the very least, unpopular, so no-one will miss him. This makes investigating the murder difficult for the police, since few people are interested in finding out who the killer is. But some of the evidence suggests that one of the Now family might be responsible. As they’re coping with this suspicion, they start drawing together just a little. That, plus a health scare, bring the members of the family a little closer, so that they can start to face their pain. Among other things, this novel offers a close look at how families are impacted when members die suddenly.

Whenever there’s a murder or other untimely death (e.g. an accident), family dynamics are permanently changed. And all sorts of things can come to the surface that might have been hidden before. That reality can add to the suspense of a crime novel and can bring in layers of character development.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Daniel.

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Filed under Anne Perry, Belinda Bauer, Donna Morrissey, James Ellroy, Paddy Richardson

I Wasn’t There But I Heard it All*

As this is posted, it’s 103 years since Thomas Edison invented the telescribe, a device for recording telephone conversations. Since that time, of course, technology has dramatically changed the way conversations are recorded. But the basic idea – that someone can record and later listen to one’s telephone conversations – hasn’t.

The notion of recording private telephone conversations without consent is controversial. On the one hand, wiretapping can lead to valuable information that catches criminals. On the other, there are serious issues of privacy and civil rights when telephone conversations are recorded. So, in general (not to say this always happens!), the police need a warrant in order to be allowed to record someone’s conversations without that person’s consent.

As you can imagine, there are plenty of mentions of wiretapping in crime fiction. And it doesn’t just happen in spy thrillers. Space only permits a few examples; I know you’ll think of many more than I ever could.

In Lawrence Sanders’ The Anderson Tapes, we meet professional thief John ‘Duke’ Anderson. He’s recently been released from prison, and is trying to live a legitimate life, with a legitimate job. Then, he gets the chance to visit a luxury Manhattan apartment building. The visit gives Anderson the idea for a major heist: robbing the entire building. To do that, he’ll need materials and support, so he begins to enlist both from his contacts. What he doesn’t know is that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have been wiretapping several of those contacts. So, most his conversations with those people are being recorded. In fact, plenty of the story is told through transcripts of those recordings. As Anderson begins to make final plans, the question becomes: will the police find out about the heist in time to be able to stop it?

James Ellroy’s Blood’s a Rover is the third in his Underworld USA trilogy. The novel takes place between 1968 and 1972, and it follows the political and other machinations of those years (e.g. J. Edgar Hoover’s obsession with civil rights leaders, the Mob’s behind-the-scenes development of casinos, and Nixon’s political ambitions). Three people – Wayne Tedrow, Jr. (who is a drug runner), Dwight Holly (an FBI agent whose father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan), and Don ‘Crutch’ Crutchfield (who does menial PI work) – are caught up in all of the complexity. The plot involves several ‘backroom deals’ and more than one betrayal. And it features quite a lot of wiretapping, which shouldn’t be surprising to those who know what the US political situation was during that era.

In Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion, Anna Travis joins the Murder Squad at Queen’s Park, London. At the time, the squad is facing a perplexing case. Seventeen-year-old Melissa Stephens has been murdered, and the profile of her death fits that of six other women who’ve also been killed. But there are major differences. For instance, the other victims were older sex workers, but Melissa was young, and not a sex worker. Still, Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) James Langton believes that the same killer is responsible. After a time, the team settles on a suspect: up-and-coming television/film star Alan Daniels. But it’s going to be difficult. He is beloved, wealthy, and well-connected. What’s more, there’s very little evidence that conclusively links him to the crime. He may, in fact, be innocent. As the story goes on, the team uses recordings and ‘wires’ to find out the truth, and it’s interesting to see how those fit in.

Ed McBain’s Criminal Conversation (he wrote this one as Evan Hunter) features an ambitious assistant district attorney named Michael Welles. He has a particular loathing for the Mob, so when a thug named Dominick di Nobili is ready tell what he knows about Mob operations, Welles is only too happy to listen. It seems that de Nobili owed a big gambling debt to a loan shark, and the result is that he’s now caught between two major crime families: the Colottis and the Faviolas. As he sees it, he’s safer in police custody than he is on the streets. Welles arranges for all sorts of telephone tapping and other surveillance, thinking he finally has the opportunity to bring down these crime groups. But what he doesn’t know is what the wiretapping will actually reveal. When he finds that out, he learns that it’s all much closer to home than he imagined.

And then there’s Michael Connelly’s The Closers. In that novel, Harry Bosch is working in the Open-Unsolved Unit of the LAPD. And, in one plot thread, he re-opens the murder of sixteen-year-old Rebecca Verloren, who was taken from her parents’ home and shot. Bosch finds that there’s a possible DNA match between evidence on the gun used in the crime, and a man named Roland Mackey. Now that his interest in Mackey is piqued, Bosch wants to trace Rebecca’s last few days and weeks, to see if there’d been any contact with Mackey. More than that, Bosch wants to record Mackey’s telephone conversations. As he says to his colleague, Kiz Rider,
 

‘‘…since Nine-Eleven and the Patriot Act it’s easier for us to get a wiretap.’
 

And she agrees:
 

‘The word’s sort of gotten around that this is a tool we can use now.’’
 

That said, though, approval for recording telephone conversations isn’t usually given capriciously.

And there’s good reason for that. Recording and listening to someone’s telephone conversations is an invasion of that person’s privacy. But at the same time, it can yield valuable information. So, it’s little wonder that tactic is used in some criminal investigation. An, of course, that means it shows up in crime fiction.

 
 
 

*NOTE: the title of this post is a line from the Undertones’ Listening In.

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Filed under Ed McBain, Evan Hunter, James Ellroy, Lawrence Sanders, Lynda La Plante, Michael Connelly

But His Blood Runs Through My Instrument and His Song is in My Soul*

Crime-fictional sleuths get into the business for any number of reasons. And one of those reasons is that their father or mother was a detective. You might say these sleuths are legacies to their parents.

Sometimes that’s a good thing. It can give a detective an ‘in’ (e.g. ‘Oh, yeah, of course. Knew your dad.’). Sometimes it can be a burden, especially when the sleuth makes a mistake, or if the parent is or was under a cloud of suspicion. Either way, that connection to the past can add an interesting layer of character development. It can add tension to a plot, too.

In Agatha Christie’s The Clocks, we are introduced to Special Agent Colin Lamb. As the story begins, he’s searching for clues to the death of a colleague. Apparently, the dead man had uncovered evidence of a spy ring but was killed before he could name names. The clues that Lamb does have lead him to Wilbraham Crescent, a development in the town of Crowdean. Lamb’s trying to find the address he wants when a young woman runs out of one of the houses screaming. Lamb settles her as best he can, and then goes into the house. There, he finds the body of an unidentified man. He alerts the police, and inspector Richard Hardcastle takes the case. It’s an intriguing mystery, and Lamb thinks it might interest his father’s friend, Hercule Poirot. Poirot is, indeed interested – more than he admits at first – and he and Lamb work with Hardcastle to find out who the victim was and who killed him. It’s clear that Poirot has an affection for Lamb’s father, and it’s interesting to see that aspect of Lamb’s past as the story goes on.

In James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential, we are introduced to Edmund ‘Ed’ Exley. He’s become a member of the LAPD mostly because of the influence of his father, the beloved and revered Preston Exley. It’s Exley Senior’s dream that his son will rise to the very top of the LAPD, and he does everything he can, including pushing and prodding his son, to make that happen. It’s a real challenge for Exley Junior, as everyone in the police department knows his father. Still, he aims to please, and does work to ‘get to ahead.’ On Christmas Day, 1951, seven civilians are brutally attacked by members of the police department. A groundswell of public outrage forces an internal investigation, and that has consequences. Two years later, there’s another tragedy, this time a late-night shooting at the Nite Owl diner.  As it turns out, these two incidents are related, and Ed Exley’s drawn into both. As the story goes on, we see how Exley is impacted by having a father who’s well-known in the business.

Above Suspicion is the first of Lynda La Plante’s novels to feature Anna Travis. In the novel, she’s just been promoted to the rank of Detective Sergeant and has applied to join the Murder Squad at Queen’s Park, London. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) James Langton is looking for the right new person on the Murder Squad, and Travis’ résumé is impressive. It doesn’t hurt matters that Langton knew Travis’ father, Jack, who had a very good reputation on the police force. Travis misses her father, so she appreciates that Langton mentions him when they first meet. There’s not much time for sentimentality, though, because the Murder Squad has a difficult case on their hands. The body of seventeen-year-old Melissa Stephens has been discovered. In many ways, her murder resembles that of six other ‘cold case’ murders the team has. So, it could be the same killer. But there are some important differences. For one thing, the other victims were middle-aged, but Melissa was in her teens. For another, the other victims were sex workers, and Melissa wasn’t. Still, Langton believes they’re dealing with the same person. The team settles on a suspect, Alan Daniels. But that’s going to be a big problem. Daniels is a beloved television star who’s poised for real success in films. What’s more, he’s very wealthy and ‘connected,’ so the team will have to have convincing evidence if they’re to pursue the case. And there’s a possibility that they’re wrong, and the killer is someone else. Throughout the novel, we see the impact on Travis of being the daughter of a well-known and well-regarded police detective.

Cara Black’s Aimée Leduc inherited her Paris detective agency from her father. She grew up around his business, and, tragically, witnessed his murder. Since then, she and her business partner, René Friant, have run Leduc Detective together. In the first novel in this series, Murder in the Marais, Leduc and Friant get a case because of a connection to Leduc’s father. Soli Hecht visits the agency, saying that he needs Leduc’s help. At first, she refuses, but then he says,
 

‘‘I knew your father. An honorable man. He told me to come to you if I needed help.’’
 

That gives Leduc pause, and she hears Hecht out. It seems he wants her to decrypt a particular computer code and give the information she gets to a woman named Lili Stein. Leduc agrees, but by the time she finishes, Lili Stein has been murdered. Now, she gets drawn into a case of murder that is connected to another, long-ago murder.

There’s an interesting twist on this dynamic in Martin Edwards’ Lake District Series.  That series features Hannah Scarlett, who leads the Cumbria Constabulary’s Cold Case Review Team. Earlier in her career, she was mentored by Ben Kind, and they worked together on more than one case. His son, Daniel, has become an Oxford historian who’s taken a cottage in the Lake District. He knows Scarlett, because of the connection with his father, and she’s able to shed some light on his father’s professional career. Each in a slightly different way, Scarlett and Kind work together as she investigates cases.

Being a sort of legacy can be a challenge in real life. In fiction, though, it can add an interesting layer to a character. It can also add a solid plot point or point of suspense.

 
 
 

*NOTE:  The title of this post is a line from Dan Fogelberg’s Leader of the Band.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Cara Black, James Ellroy, Lynda La Plante, Martin Edwards

In Loyalty to Our Kind*

In Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Hercule Poirot solves the stabbing murder of wealthy American businessman Samuel Ratchett. The victim is killed on the second night of a three-day trip across Europe on the famous Orient Express, and the only possible suspects are the other passengers in the same car. One of those passengers is Princess Natalia Dragomiroff, a formidable elderly lady whose strength is in her personality. At one point in the story, she has this to say:
 

‘‘I believe…in loyalty – to one’s friends and one’s family and one’s caste.’’
 

She’s not alone. Being loyal to the members of one’s group is a highly-valued trait, and that makes sense if you think about it. People depend on other group members for a lot, including, at times, survival. So, it’s important that groups stick together, as the saying goes. And there are sometimes very severe penalties for breaking that rule. Loyalty matters, but it can sometimes go too far, and that can make for an interesting layer of character development in a crime novel. It can also allow for plot points.

For example, one of the cardinal rules of the Mafia and of other criminal groups is what the Mafia has called omerta – silence. Every member is expected to keep quiet about the group’s activities, or about anyone else who might be involved. That’s how one proves loyalty to the group. We see that, for instance, in Tonino Benacquista’s Badfellas. In that novel, Fred and Maggie Blake and their two children move from the US to a small town in Normandy. The four settle in and begin the process of getting used to an entirely new culture.  But all is not as it seems. ‘Fred Blake’ is really Giovanni Manzini, a former member of the New Jersey Mob, who testified against his fellow mobsters in court. Now, he and his family are in the US Witness Protection Program, and have been resettled in Normandy for their own protection. The plan is successful enough, until word of the Manzini family’s whereabouts accidentally gets back to New Jersey. Now, Manzini could very well pay a terrible price for his disloyalty.

Police officers depend on each other, sometimes for their lives. That’s one reason why there’s such a premium placed on loyalty to other officers. In many cases, that’s part of the ‘glue’ that holds the force together. But this loyalty, too, can be taken too far. In Y.A. Erskine’s The Brotherhood, for instance, we are introduced to Sergeant John White of the Tasmania Police. One afternoon, he is called to the scene of a home invasion. With him, he takes probationer Lucy Howard. They’re investigating at the house when White is stabbed to death. The most likely suspect is seventeen-year-old Darren Rowley, who already has a history with local law enforcement. The other officers are loyal to White, and want to mete out their own kind of justice. But the media is paying very close attention to this case, and everyone knows that if they don’t do everything exactly ‘by the book,’ there’ll be a lot of trouble. It’s all complicated by the fact that Rowley is part Aboriginal. All of the police know that the least misstep on their part will lead to accusations of racism. It’s clear throughout the novel, though, that loyalty to each other and to White impacts all of their choices. There are many other crime novels, too, where loyalty to other police officers comes into play (I’m thinking, for instance, of James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential and David Whish-Wilson’s Line of Sight). This is part of the reason for which so many police officers are biased against Internal Affairs and other internal investigation groups.

There’s also the tendency for people in elite groups to protect themselves and one another. We see this, for instance, in the work of Qiu Xiaolong. His Chief Inspector Chen Cao lives and works in Shanghai at the end of the 1990’s/beginning of the 21st Century. Chen is respected, and has an important position within his police department. However, he isn’t at the very top of the proverbial tree. That place is reserved for the elite of the Party – the High Cadre people. Those individuals make all of the important decisions, and displeasing them can lead to the end of a career, or sometimes worse. High Cadre families are loyal to each other and protect one another, and would far rather police themselves than have independent investigators look into their business. Chen is very well aware of the power the High Cadre people have, and their tendency to be loyal to their sociopolitical group. So, when his investigations lead to high places, as they often do, Chen has to move very carefully.

And then there’s family loyalty. Most of us would agree that being loyal to one’s family is a highly valued trait. In crime series such as Timothy Hallinan’s Philip ‘Poke’ Rafferty novels, we see this loyalty in action. Rafferty is a ‘rough travel’ writer who lives and works in Bangkok. He also happens to be very good at finding people who don’t want to be found. That’s why he’s in demand when people are looking for someone in hiding. Rafferty’s married to Rose, a former bar girl who now owns an apartment cleaning company. Rose loves her husband and adopted daughter, Miaow. But she is very loyal to her family of origin. Here’s what she says about it to Rafferty:
 

‘She [Rose] turns to face him. ‘We have ten dollars left,’ she says. Her voice is so low he has to strain to hear it. ‘Miaow is hungry. My little sister up north is hungry. Who gets the ten dollars? … I would send the money to my sister,’ Rose says. ‘Without a minute’s thought.’’
 

Of course, family loyalty can create all sorts of obstacles to criminal investigation, too. In many crime novels, people don’t want to talk to the police about their siblings/parents/cousins/etc., because those people are family members.

But that’s the thing about loyalty. Like most other human traits, it’s a proverbial double-edged sword. It’s valuable to an extent, and in many situations. On the other hand, it can also be tragic.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Jefferson Airplane’s Crown of Creation.  

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Filed under Agatha Christie, David Whish-Wilson, James Ellroy, Qiu Xiaolong, Timothy Hallinan, Tonino Benacquista, Y.A. Erskine

Give Me a Good Film Noir and a Bottle of Gin*

As this is posted, it’s 71 years since the release of Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep, which is based, of course, on Raymond Chandler’s work (I know, the ‘photo isn’t from that film. Please read on…). It may not be the first film noir, but it’s certainly one of the best-known. And it consistently makes lists of the top films noir of all time. There’s something about this sort of film that draws the viewer in, even though one knows that things are not going to go well. And the film context can capture subtleties and tension that it’s harder to portray in a novel. Little wonder that there are so many out there, and they’re still being made.

Laura, for instance, is Otto Preminger’s 1944 adaptation of the Vera Caspery novel of the same name. In it, NYPD detective Mark McPherson investigates the death of successful advertising executive Laura Hunt. As he gradually builds a picture of her life, McPherson learns the kind of person she was, the people who surrounded her, and the reasons that there might have been to kill her. There are some surprising twists in the film, as anyone knows who’s seen it. And there’s plenty of unreliable narration, as well as characters who aren’t what they seem.

In 1944, James M. Cain’s novella Double Indemnity was adapted for film by Billy Wilder, and many critics consider it the gold standard for a classic noir film. In the film, insurance company sales representative Walter Neff (played by Fred McMurray) falls in love with Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), the wife of one of his clients. Incidentally, the ‘photo is of those two actors in those roles. Neff is so besotted by Phyllis that he falls in with her plot to kill her husband. But he hasn’t counted on the sort of person she is, and he hasn’t counted on claims adjuster Barton Keyes. Everything soon spins out of control, and those who’ve seen the film know that it doesn’t end on any happier a note than the novella does.

There are plenty of other classic films noir out there; I’ve only had time to mention just a few. But it’s a very popular sub-genre. So popular, in fact, that the noir film is still being made today, and very successfully. There’ve been plenty of more contemporary, neo-noir pictures; Here are just a few.

Curtis Hanson’s 1997 L.A. Confidential is a sort of loose adaptation of James Ellroy’s 1990 novel of the same name. Like the novel, the film follows the fortunes of three LAPD officers: Ed Exley, Bud White and Jack Vincennes, who are living and working in 1953 Los Angeles. Also, like the novel, the film portrays the ‘Bloody Christmas’ murders of seven civilians by LAPD police officers, and, later, a shooting at a diner called the Nite Owl. There are plenty of differences between the film and the novel. But both show that noir isn’t confined to the 1940s and 1950s.

Dennis Lehane’s Gone, Baby, Gone was adapted for film in 2007 by Ben Affleck. As fans of both book and film know, it’s the story of what happens when Amanda McCready goes missing. PIs Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro get drawn into the search for the girl when they’re hired by her aunt. They discover that this case isn’t what it seems on the surface. There are several differences between the original novel and the film. But, like the novel, the film raises important questions of moral ambiguity, and there are several people in it who aren’t what they seem.

The same could certainly be said for Bryan Singer’s 1995 film, The Usual Suspects. While this particular film isn’t based on a book, it does have a connection to classic cinema, as the title is taken from a very famous line that Claude Rains says in Michael Curtiz’ 1942 film, Casablanca. The Usual Suspects is the story of Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint, and his involvement in murder and arson aboard a ship. He’s interrogated by US Customs agent Dave Kujan, As the interview goes on, we learn in flashback about Kint’s involvement with a team of hijackers, smugglers and drug lords. Saying much more than this will give too much of the film away. But fans know that very little in this film is what it seems. And there are several places in it where it’s clear that the film format tells the story perhaps better than a novel might.

And then there’s Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2007 No Country For Old Men. If you’re a neo-noir fan, you’ll find the title familiar, as the film is based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name. The film’s focus (perhaps more than the book’s) is hitman Anton Chigurh, and what happens when Llewelyn Moss comes across money that Chigurth has been hired to recover. That slight difference aside, the film’s quite faithful to the book. And it has all of the ingredients you’d expect in a modern noir film. There’s a desolate landscape, untrustworthy people, danger, and things spinning out of control. The Coen brothers have done other fine neo-noir pictures, too (right, fans of Blood Simple?).

As I mentioned, these are only a few examples of films noir. Want more? Sure ya do. Go visit Sergio, who blogs at Tipping My Fedora. He’s an expert on this and other genres of film. You want to follow his blog if you don’t already. In the meantime, which films noir have you liked the best?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Long Blondes’ Swallow Tattoo.

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Filed under Ben Affleck, Billy Wilder, Bryan Singer, Cormac McCarthy, Curtis Hanson, Dennis Lehane, Ethan Coen, Howard Hawks, James Ellroy, James M. Cain, Joel Coen, Michael Curtiz, Otto Preminger, Raymond Chandler