the pages of noir: a list for the noir reader

The Pages of Noir: The Novels that Became Film Noir

Big Sleep Vintage Book Cover  In a Lonely Place Vintage Book Cover  Nightmare Alley Vintage Book Cover

After several conversations with a friend about film noir and the various literary texts that helped inspire and then quickly developed a symbiotic relationship with the cinematic style that retrospectively became recognized as noir, I started compiling a list of novels (as well as a few short stories, theatrical plays, and the occasional radio play) that was adapted for the screen by Hollywood during the noir heyday of the 1940’s and 50’s.  It was initially for my own reference, but thought others might be interested as well.

This list, I’m well aware, is far from exhaustive, especially as I have intentionally decided to focus on literary texts that are still potentially available to a reader today (so, a printing within the last 30 years or so).  The vast majority of noirs germinated from some kind of literary antecedent, but many seem to have vanished upon their initial printings, and now the films they inspired often serve as the only continued testament to their existence.  Additionally, in the past decades the renewed interest in both film noir and the hard-boiled detective, urban mystery and pulp genres have led to the publication of a number of anthologies collecting long-unavailable short stories, and those stories are at present very much underrepresented on this list, and will hopefully be added sometime at a future date.

Also, purists will undoubtedly spot many dubious inclusions on this list, ranging from non-American films to films made before or after the historical period recognized as producing pure film noir, and the only defense I can offer is that I chose to embrace the fuzzy, impossible-to-define nature of the term “film noir” and opted to include the occasional precedents and several successors of note that might be of reading interest (without delving into neo-noir, which I felt would quickly take me too far afield).  Tips and suggestions of titles to add, editions and republications I should be aware of, etc. would be very much appreciated.

And most importantly, happy reading!

The Pages of Noir: The List

A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene – This Gun for Hire (1942, Tuttle)

The Asphalt Jungle by W.R. Burnett – The Asphalt Jungle (1950, Houston)

The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing – The Big Clock (1948, Farrow)

The Big Heat by William P. McGivern – The Big Heat (1953, Lang)

The Big Knife (play) by Clifford Odets – The Big Knife (1955, Aldrich)

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler – The Big Sleep (1946, Hawks)

Black Alibi by Cornell Woolrich – The Leopard Man (1943, Tourneur)

The Black Angel by Cornell Woolrich – The Black Angel (1946, Neill)

The Black Path of Fear by Cornell Woorich – The Chase (1946, Ripley)

The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding – The Reckless Moment (1949, Lang) (later adapted into The Deep End (2001, McGehee and Siegel))

Build My Gallows High by Geoffrey Homes – Out of the Past (1947, Tourneur)

Bunny Lake is Missing by Evelyn Piper – Bunny Lake is Missing (1965, Preminger)

La Chienne (Poor Sap or The Bitch) by Georges de La Fouchardière – La Chienne (1931, France, Renoir) and Scarlet Street (1945, Lang)

Christmas Holiday by W. Somerset Maugham – Christmas Holiday (1944, Siodmak)

Clean Break by Lionel White – The Killing (1956, Kubrick)

Criss-Cross by Don Tracy – Criss Cross (1949, Siodmak)

Dark Passage by David Goodis – Dark Passage (1947, Daves)

Deadline at Dawn by Cornell Woolrich – Deadline at Dawn (1946, Clurman)

Detective Story (theatrical play) by Sidney Kingsley – Detective Story (1951, Wyler)

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain – Double Indemnity (1944, Wilder)

The High Window by Raymond Chandler – Time to Kill (Leeds, 1942) and The Brasher Doubloon, (1947, Brahm)

The Fallen Sparrow by Dorothy B. Hughes – The Fallen Sparrow (1943, Wallace)

Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler – Murder, My Sweet (1944, Dmytryk)

The G-String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee – Lady of Burlesque (1943, Wellman)

The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett – The Glass Key (1935, Tuttle) and The Glass Key (1942, Heisler)

I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane – I, the Jury (1953, Essex)

I Wake Up Screaming by Steve Fisher – I Wake Up Screaming (1941, Humberstone)

If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King – The Lady from Shanghai (1947, Welles)

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes – In a Lonely Place (1950, Ray)

The Killers and Other Short Stories. by Ernest Hemingway – The Killers (1946, Siodmak)

Kiss Me, Deadly by Mickey Spillane – Kiss Me Deadly (1955, Aldrich)

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye by Horace McCoy – Kiss Tomorrow Goodybe (1950, Douglas)

Knock on Any Door by Willard Motley – Knock on Any Door (1949, Ray)

The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler – Lady in the Lake (1947, Montgomery)

Laura by Vera Caspary – Laura (1944, Preminger)

Leave Her to Heaven by Ben Ames Williams – Leave Her to Heaven (1945, Stahl)

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – The Maltese Falcon (1931, Del Ruth) and Satan Met a Lady (1936, Dieterle) and The Maltese Falcon (1941, Houston)

Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain – Mildred Pierce (1945, Curtiz)

Night and the City by Gerald Kersh – Night and the City (1950, Dassin)

Night Has a Thousand Eyes: a novel of suspense by Cornell Woolrich – Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948, Farrow)

The Night of The Hunter by Davis Grubb – The Night of the Hunter (1955, Laughton)

Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham – Nightmare Alley (1947, Goulding)

Phantom Lady by Cornell Woolrich (as William Irish) – Phantom Lady (1944, Siodmak)

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain – Ossessione (1943, Italy, Visconti) The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946, Garnett)

Rear Window (originally “It Had to be Murder”) by Cornell Woolrich – The Window (1949, Tetzlaff) and Rear Window (1954, Hitchcock)

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett – Roadhouse Nights (1930, Henley)

Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes – Ride the Pink Horse (1947, Montgomery)

Serenade by James M. Cain – Serenade (1956, Mann)

Sorry, Wrong Number by Lucille Fletcher – Sorry, Wrong Number (1948, Litvak)

The Spiral Staircase: Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White – The Spiral Staircase (1945, Siodmak)

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith – Strangers on a Train (1951, Hitchcock)

Sweet Smell of Success (play) by Clifford Odets – Sweet Smell of Success (1957, Mackendrick)

They Drive by Night by A.I. Bezzerides – They Drive By Night (1940, Walsh)

Thieves Like Us by Edward Anderson – They Live By Night (1949, Ray)

Thieves’ Market by A.I. Bezzerides – Thieves’ Highway (1949, Dassin)

The Woman in the Window (originally Once Off Guard) by J.H. Wallis – The Woman in the Window (1944, Lang)

Woman in the Window Vintage Book Add

Cross-posted at Goodreads

Read So Far:

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (review)
The High Window by Raymond Chandler (review)
The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett