Gary Phillips’s Favorite Noir

The prolific novelist explains why, just like the beat of a great film score, he can’t shake Fast One.

Gary Phillips is the author of Matthew Henson and the Ice Temple of Harlem.
Gary Phillips is the author of Matthew Henson and the Ice Temple of Harlem.

What’s your favorite classic noir?
Fast One by Paul Cain, a.k.a. George Sims.

Why?
The book is a cold-eyed, unflinching gangster story centered on a tough guy named Kells and set in Prohibition-era Los Angeles. The novel shows what’s in those shadows cast by the city’s harsh sunlight.

What makes a great noir?
Like a Morricone score, there’s a beat in the characters’ heads they can’t shake. As they try to figure out why it drives them forward, they find themselves heading toward the dark at the end of the road.

Read more from Alta‘s Fall 2020 Noir Special Section.

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