Monday, August 24, 2009

Crime Novels American Noir of the 1930s & 1940s

At first I only wanted to read James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, but after searching I found this book which contained 5 more crime stories. I loved crime stories, so to get 5-in-1 book sounded like a great bargain to me.

The presentation of the book is very nice: hardcover, a ribbon for bookmark, with paper as thin as the Bible's (so the book is not so thick and easily carried in my little bag).

The Postman Always Rings Twice (by James M. Cain)
The title wasn't unfamiliar because of the 2 Hollywood films. I hadn't seen any of them, but my attention was drawn to this book because of Luchino Visconti's Ossessione - also based on this book. This is a story of an unhappy wife that after her prince has come, together they get rid of the husband. They can get away from the planned murder, but when the wife dies in an accident, the prince goes to jail for murder. It's the irony of life. None can run from their karma. One may be lucky once, but when the luck is pushed, a misfortune may come.

The Shoot Horses, Don't They (by Horace McCoy)
What is interesting from this book, is that from the beginning we know the narrator is a murderer who is receiving his death sentence. The verdict is told, sentence per sentence, with bigger and bigger letters as the chapter goes, intertwining with the marathon dance. The narrator will tell us how he is justified to do the crime (that's what he thinks), that by doing that, he is doing a kindness.

Thieves Like Us (by Edward Anderson)
For me, this book is a difficult read. It took me a long time to finish. It's about a group of fugitives who rob banks again and again. It centers on a character named Bowie, who promises his girlfriend to stop hanging out with his old friends, but never be able to keep it. I was relieved everytime I reached the part where newspaper article appears, since it was easier to read.

The Big Clock (by Kenneth Fearing)
The world is like a big clock, I think that's what Fearing wanted to say. We must adjust ourselves to it. The story is told by first-person narrators, mostly by a character named George Stroud, an executive in a big publishing company. Stroud's lover is found murdered and the murderer knows that there is an eye-witness and he gives a task to Stroud to find the eye-witness, which is no other than Stroud himself. Quite funny, this one. I love the smart plot.

Nightmare Alley (by William Lindsay Gresham)
This is also a difficult read. Traumatized by his mother's betrayal when he was young, a carnival hustler finds money by claiming that he could contact spirits of the dead. In the beginning of each chapter, there is a Tarot card picture with its description.

I Married A Dead Man (by Cornell Woolrich)
This is my favourite of all 6. The story is simple: a poor pregnant girl has been dumped by her boyfriend and is on her way to her hometown when she meets a young couple in the train. The couple die in the train accident and she replaces her, as a new daughter-in-law in a rich, warm family. The story is quite emotional (at least to me) and I was so happy when she finally found the happiness she had wanted. I don't like the ending, though, which hints that her happiness is fragile.

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