22.01.2018 in Book Report
Los Angeles Noir


Los Angeles (LA) is birth place of Noir. Maybe it is due to the overwhelming shadows cast by the Hollywood, blur of reality and article, possibilities of shucking off  the pasts like the last yearis  dress as well as reinventing  beyond the wildest dreams. May be it is due to desperations which descends when dreams goes sour, duplicity behind stunning beauties, the rot of jungle flowers, rip tides which carries off the unwary. Some writers such as the Nathanael West, James Cain, Raymond Chandler, and Denise Hamilton among other notable writers understood  the element of both hope and horror that LA inspired as well as the harnessed this duality in order to create their masterpiece. Of all the writers, Denise Hamilton, who serves up  the unfiltered  noir from homeland, has helped readers to understand the day to day activities at LA and inspired many upcoming writers across the globe due to his high quality work. Hamilton, is an American, journalist,    crime novelist, and editor of Edgar award winning anthologies such as the Los Angeles Noir as well as the Los Angeles Noir 2. Books such as the classics  have been  shortlisted  for very many awards which includes  Willa Cather Award, Edgar Award in mystery and the Creasey Award in UK.

The book Los Angeles Noir brings out the ethos of Cain and Chandler which are filtered through the lens of 21st century. This is literary travelogue from Chinese mansions of  the San Marino to day spas of koreatown  to windy hills of Mulholland Drive,  baby gangsters of the East Holly wood, OG  entrepreneur  of  the Leimert park, working class from Mar Vista, old money of the Beverly Hills among others. The book Los Angeles Noir offers tale of passion and crime. Betrayal from particular celebrated and innovative writers working in the current times is also evident. This paper will critically analyze the book LOS ANGELES NOIR as edited by Denise Hamilton

Themes relating to Noir

Crime and crime fighters

It is clear that several themes have been manifested in the book Los Angeles Noir. The first theme which is so much pronounced in the book among the several short stories written by different authors but edited by Denise Hamilton is that of crime and crime fighters. In Los Angeles   everything ahs been known to thrive and crime is one of the common scene in place. In the story Mulholland drive, Michael Connelly which have been written in noir style, it feature Detective Clewiston who is an accident investigator. He was trying to explain the cause of brand new Porsche to the drive off side of road, killing famous and rich driver, who had happened to be involved in messy divorce case prior to death. The story starts with crime and blood scenes and procedures, including particular unfamiliar police vocabulary, slowly depict the perfect geographical and spirits of dark as well as twisty roads which divides the LA from the suburbs (Coover, 29). The story show that the crime in LA does not leave anyone being invulnerable from the crime happening in the city.

In the story dangerous days written by Emory Holmes, noir homicide holiday on the Halloween turns into game of hidden identities and then quick deaths in Leimert Park. Genuine suicide and discerning crime rings in the Beverly Hills as indicated by story Morocco Junction 90210 a story written by Patt Morrison .In the story The Method, written by Janet Fitch, getting down in acting chops  on the Los Feliz with little sex as well as murder is well pronounced in the book. Other themes that are well indicated on the book are love and betrayal among others. All themes are connected since they depict the life and activities of people living in Los Angeles.

The role of the femme fatale

The Hamilton novel is a clear indication of the Los Angeles politics, history, culture, diversity among other aspects. She calls the home town of LA as the ultimate Femme Fatale in her first novel referred to as The Jasmine Trade as well as Los Angeles Noir. In the book it the police investigators, most of who engage in hard drinking and carriers of scars of the previous battles or survivors’ guilt are won by plucky female sidekicks. The female sidekicks are usually journalists wearing tight sweaters and usually of sharp wit, thus being able to dodge the detectives, unless the officer is already head heel for requisites femme fatale.

From the book it is possible to imagine the character of  girls who flocked Los Angeles in 1940s during the second world war, looking for fame and  love  in the silver screens among other places.   The history dreams and hopes in bottle and wear it as perfume, smelling honeysuckle, flowers, all indicating that the city full of people was on the way to a better life. In 1940s women started to give up their silk for rayon and nylons in order to support   war effort. They also started to cut down on the shapes of their separates and dresses to ration notions and fabrics and went to work appearing smart as their brothers, husbands and fathers. This was an error of advancement of women in LA in terms of struggle and strengths (Silver & Ursini, 108).

The element of Noir in the stories

Over the years it has become hard for scholars and writers to define the term noir. Buntin, 79  indicates that the term noir was first used in post war France in describing particular styles of  the American filmmaking methods which was  applied in 1940s. Thus it is appropriate to definer the term noir as style of fiction which have at its hearts a gritty realty, world where the main characters are normally imperfect, and more like anti heroes rather than being heroes. However noir do not laud eponymous femmes fatale, cigarette smoking among other elements. James Ellroy work, a writer, often bases his work around the seedy and corrupt sides of the America, especially in Los Angeles. Most of the characters are cops, most of whom are highly corrupt either morally or professionally and sometimes both. In most of the stories the dark side of the human nature such as sexual immorality, crime among other elements are clearly depicted making the stories trio be truly noir (Pauvert, 32). Although the meaning of the term noir may vary from one person to the other, it can easily mean a gritty, dark, seedy world which is populated by convicts, corrupt cops, drug pushers, and whores, junkies which is punctuated by crime, urban terrorists, sex crime, and petty crime among other vices.

In all the stories the LOS ANGELES NOIR, all these scenes are evident making them relevant in constituting a noir. For instant the level of crime is narrated in the story City of commerce written by Neal Pollack, where the writer goes underbelly of commerce, in a California pokers casino, depicting a man with gambling problems and tangled up in Russian mafia. Also in the story Fish written by Lienna Silver, who was an obstinate Russian immigrant, Denisovich witnesses the death of his best friend giving him clearer sense of his morality. Denisovich sexual relationship with the wife of his best friend mirrored his own wife and best friend infidelity which suggested that Denisovichs stubborn views  on what life entails was crumbling (Ellroy,66). In the story Mulholland dive written by Michael Colloney, the element of high levels of corruption by the LAPD officers as set in the Mulholland Drive is evident. This is makes it a classical noir tale of lies, love, corruption and betrayal. In the story Over Thirty written by Christopher Rice, the writer depicts a jealous lover as well as his seemly unfaithful partner. A mentally unstable and homeless man then contributes to violent ending of the relationship. All his are the general characteristic of a noir as depicted by several authors across the world (Suchy, 106).

Los Angeles as the birth of noir

From the book Los Angeles Noir edited by Denise Hamilton, it is evident that most stories  written by different authors highly indicates LA as the birth place of all items noir, which  starts with depression as well as the Second world war era films. They oozed an edgy sexy recklessness and fatalism mirroring social anxieties at the time.  Most of the architects of the many films noir architects had been refugees from Hitler in Europe, steeped in existential despair and expressionism as they brought the sensibility to the shadow, urban labyrinths, silhouettes and hard boiled plot of their films (Downs, 23).

Evolution of noir

The noir genre has evolved over the years thus having many contemporary faces.  As indicate above most of the noir film makers are those who had escaped the dictatorial leadership of Hitler in Europe. One of the main themes which emerged in 1940s was that of wrong man, initially developed by John Huston in the film the Maltese Falcon developed in 1941. In the theme ‘wrong man’  the innocent are accused, the dark impulse   of human soul, killer inside, femme fatale among other elements of  noir. Noir was considered useful as it helped people to recognize that each person have a different side of their personalities. This is due to the fact that the best noirs as those in the book Los Angeles Noir by Denise Hamilton, they don’t force pessimistic views on the readers.

In most of the noirs, a character can start being decent at beginning of a movie, but then end up being very indecent. This is the main that has highly promoted the evolution of noirs across the globe as these are some of the popular things which happens on day to day basis.  The noirs have been used to depict the failures of good intentions in the contemporary society. Noirs reminds the readers that when the roads of good intentions are taken up, sometimes  unwittingly  that ends up undoing  characters  who goes down to them. From the book Los Angeles noir, the some characters have been used to depict the element of noir. For example in the story Mullholland dive, featuring detective Clewiston, who is an accident investigator, the element of betray and crime are evident. Due to the command of the form by Connelly’s at the end, the element of noir is well brought out (Copjec, 12).


Los Angeles Noir anthologies, has been translated in several languages across the globe. Some of them include Italian, Russian, and France among others. The book has 17 different stories all which are set in various locations in Los Angeles neighborhoods. Raymond Chandler, one of the authors, May imagined his hard boiled city around the architectural landmarks, but the effects of noir-ish in Los Angeles still intoxicate the city. It is very crucial that Los Angeles to preserve what had been left after the glorious, dirty, dark, fabulous noir histories. Los Angeles  still blind  in the rapid turnovers  of the lost souls,  pervasive wannabe cultures having the  rare glimpse of  the real where everything is  tenuous at best and fleeting.

Due to their efforts in bringing out the elements of noir in films, some of authors such as Michael Connelly have become famous   making his books, featuring Hieronymus Bosch a LAPD detective,  to be translated to over 30  different languages. In conclusion, it is clear that noir has helped to change the perception of different people, in terms of attitude, thus making noir films to become famous across the world. Through the book Los Angeles Noir, written by Denise Hamilton, the various elements of noir have been brought about in the various stories, thus educating the readers on importance of noir in molding the contemporary society. 

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