cover image The Best American Noir of the Century

The Best American Noir of the Century

Edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (752p) ISBN 978-0-547-33077-8

Surprisingly, 20 of the 39 well-chosen stories published between 1923 and 2007 in this impressive crime anthology date to the last two decades, which may sound counterintuitive to casual readers who associate noir with the 1940s and 1950s. All the contributors excel at showing the omnipresence of the dark side of humanity in many different times and locales. In addition to names synonymous with noir such as Cornell Woolrich and Jim Thompson, Ellroy (Blood's a Rover) and Penzler (The Best American Mystery Stories) offer depressing fare from writers better known for other work, like David Morrell, whose first published story, "The Dripping," about the disappearance of a man's wife and daughter, is one of the book's best. Lesser-known authors also distinguish themselves, like Christopher Coake, whose reverse chronology in "All Through the House" serves to heighten the suspense rather than dissipate it. (Oct.)