Dark and Stormy Night
Noir never goes out of style. For a century, it has defined an American ethos in which goodness most often remains unrewarded and justice is capricious if it is served at all. It’s a vernacular art, framed by the voices of the losers and those who stand outside the law. This is only as it should be, for the genre was never meant to stick around. Noir was originally published in pulp magazines or as dime-store paperback originals, and its longevity is a testament to its tenacity—everyone’s most necessary survival skill.
To live, after all, is to know the deck is stacked against you. To live is to understand that you and those you love will suffer and that one day everyone will die. Noir doesn’t sugarcoat this or tell us pretty lies and stories. Noir reflects our condition unadorned. Its stories are bleak and elemental; they speak to us because we recognize ourselves in them. Especially in a moment such as this one, when we are all living, in one way or another, on the edge of oblivion, could any genre or worldview resonate more deeply or be more appropriate and profound?
For nearly 50 years, a tight-knit group of San Francisco private eyes—intellectual, swashbuckling, anti-authority lefties—practiced their craft in the pursuit of truth and, hopefully, justice.
Millions in revenue, fan art, and live touring shows: true-crime series are a thriving corner of the podcast world.
Denise Hamilton breaks down the best series, hosts, and subjects in this wildly popular genre.
Often characterized by desperation and darkness, noir has evoked California’s culture of disruption for 100 years.
Alta books editor David L. Ulin selects a collection of must-read (and reread) titles for every noir fan.
What is it about author Raymond Chandler’s famous fictional detective and female foils? A biographer reimagines his legacy.
Can’t get enough of Raymond Chandler’s L.A.? His biographer Judith Freeman names titles that keep the mood—and the murder—going.
In this short story from author Steph Cha, a pregnant woman and her husband struggle to feel safe with riots outside and a gun in the house.
Born of nostalgia, Chinatown today inspires a nostalgia of its own: for a Hollywood driven by creativity.
A trio of neglected neo-noir films reveal the dark side of the California dream.
Eddie Muller, one of the world’s foremost experts on noir, picks Golden State classics to add to your watch list.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Ernest Granville Booth made a name for himself as a criminal and as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after writers.
The jig is up—you love film noir. Watch these classics with someone who’ll serve as a credible alibi.
The mystery author explains why A Soldier’s Story is her favorite whodunit.
The author and Alta contributor picks Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me as his top noir classic.
The Edgar Award–winning mystery writer takes a stab at a classic.
The prolific novelist explains why, just like the beat of a great film score, he can’t shake Fast One.
Summon your inner Dashiell Hammett and write your own pulp fiction—using five elements supplied by us.