Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s (slipcased edition)
This Library of America volume, with its companion devoted to the 1930s and 40s, presents a rich vein of modern American writing, works now being recognized for the powerful literary qualities and their unique, sometimes subversive role in shaping modern American language and culture.
The five novels here are authentic underground classics:
• Published as a paperback original in 1952, Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, is one of the most blistering and uncompromising crime novels ever written. Written from the point of view of an outwardly genial, privately murderous Texas sheriff, it explores the inner hell of a psychotic in daring and experimental style.
• Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) likewise adopts a killer's perspective as she traces the European journey of an American con man with a taste for fine living and no conscience about how to attain it. Highsmith's gift for diabolical plotting is matched only by the cool irony of her characterizations.
• In his nihilistic early novel Pick-Up (1955), Charles Willeford follows the pilgrimage of two lost and self-destructive lovers through the depths of San Francisco, from cheap bars and rooming houses to psychiatric clinics and police stations.
• David Goodis's Down There (1956) is a moody, intensely lyrical novel of a musician fallen on hard times and caught up in his family's criminal activities; it was adapted by François Truffaut into the film Shoot the Piano Player.
• With its gritty realism, unrestrained violence and frequently outrageous humor, The Real Cool Killers (1959) is among the most powerful of Chester Himes's series of novels about the Harlem detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones.
Each volume features newly researched biographies and notes, and an essay on textual selection.
Robert Polito, volume editor, is a poet and the author of Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award and an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He directs the writing program at The New School for Social Research in New York City.
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