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?

Colleen Eckvahl, host of the biweekly podcast Misconduct.
Death Becomes Them

Millions in revenue, fan art, and live touring shows: true-crime series are a thriving corner of the podcast world.

More Murder and Mayhem

Denise Hamilton breaks down the best series, hosts, and subjects in this wildly popular genre.

Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon, is one of the genre’s most well-known writers.
The Journey of the Antihero

Often characterized by desperation and darkness, noir has evoked California’s culture of disruption for 100 years.

san francisco based private investigator jack palladino
Last Call for Gumshoes

For nearly 50 years, a tight-knit group of San Francisco PIs practiced their craft in the pursuit of truth and, hopefully, justice.

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Raymond Chandler "Farewell My Lovely"
The Port of Missing Women

What is it about author Raymond Chandler’s famous fictional detective and female foils? A biographer reimagines his legacy.

four books inspired by the works of author raymond chandler
Writing in the Tradition of Chandler

Biographer Judith Freeman names titles that keep the mood going.

the plagues by steph cha
The Plagues

A pregnant woman, her husband, riots, and a gun in the house.

Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson in Chinatown.
When Films Were Kings

Born of nostalgia, Chinatown today inspires a nostalgia of its own: for a Hollywood driven by creativity.

Eight Great California Film Noirs

Eddie Muller, one of the world’s foremost experts on noir, picks Golden State classics to add to your watch list.

Five Great Prison Noirs

The jig is up—you love film noir. Watch these classics with someone who’ll serve as a credible alibi.

Attica Locke is the author of Bluebird, Bluebird and Heaven, My Home.
Attica Locke Makes Her Movie Case

The mystery author explains why A Soldier’s Story is her favorite whodunit.

Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress (1995).
California Schemin’

Three films reveal the dark side of the California dream.

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noir story writing contest
What’s Your Story?

Summon your inner Dashiell Hammett and write your own pulp fiction—using five elements supplied by us.

Naomi Hirahara is the author of Iced in Paradise: A Leilani Santiago Hawai‘i Mystery.
Naomi Hirahara’s Favorite Noir Story

The Edgar Award–winning mystery writer takes a stab at a classic.

Tod Goldberg is the author of the upcoming book The Low Desert: Gangster Stories.
The Killer Inside Tod Goldberg

The author and Alta contributor picks Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me as his top noir classic.

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