The Mysterious Romance of Murder
Crime, Detection, and the Spirit of Noir
Published by: Cornell University Press
296 pages, 140.00 x 216.00 x 24.00 mm
- ISBN: 9781501763625
- Published: June 2022
From Sherlock Holmes to Sam Spade; Nick and Nora Charles to Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin; Harry Lime to Gilda, Madeleine Elster, and other femmes fatales—crime and crime solving in fiction and film captivate us. Why do we keep returning to Agatha Christie's ingenious puzzles and Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled murder mysteries? What do spy thrillers teach us, and what accounts for the renewed popularity of morally ambiguous noirs? In The Mysterious Romance of Murder, the poet and critic David Lehman explores a wide variety of outstanding books and movies—some famous (The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity), some known mainly to aficionados—with style, wit, and passion.
Lehman revisits the smoke-filled jazz clubs from the classic noir films of the 1940s, the iconic set pieces that defined Hitchcock's America, the interwar intrigue of Eric Ambler's best fictions, and the intensity of attraction between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. He also considers the evocative elements of noir—cigarettes, cocktails, wisecracks, and jazz standards—and offers five original noir poems (including a pantoum inspired by the 1944 film Laura) and ironic astrological profiles of Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich, and Graham Greene. Written by a connoisseur with an uncanny feel for the language and mood of mystery, espionage, and noir, The Mysterious Romance of Murder will delight fans of the genre and newcomers alike.
Introduction: The Mysterious Romance of Murder
Part I: Killer Style
1. Cracking Wise
2. Paradise of the Damned: Eighteen Notes on Noir
3. Poetry Noir
4. Five Noir Poems
"Witness to a Murder"
"Just a Couple of Mugs"
Part II: The Elements of Crime
5. Here's to Crime!
6. The Last Cigarette
7. Among My Souvenirs
Part III: Auteurs
8. The Great British Spymasters
9. The Limits of Logic: Trent's Last Case (E. C. Bentley)
10. Dashiell Hammett's Priceless Patter
11. Paperclip (Raymond Chandler)
12. "Grim Grin" (Graham Greene)
13. Rex Stout: The Emperor of Couronne de Canard
14. Ida Lupino: The First Lady of Noir
15. Black Friday (David Goodis)
16. Orange Noir (Charles Willeford)
17. Ed McBain: The Man from Isola
18. Hitchcock's America
Part IV: Dreams That Money Can Buy
19. Straight Down the Line: Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944)
20. Strangers and Mirrors: Orson Welles's The Stranger (1946) and The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
21. An Exchange of Bullets in Belfast: Carol Reed's Odd Man Out (1947)
22. Blind Accidents: John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
23. Epitaph for a Genre: Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956)
24. Shadow of Evil: Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear (1962)
25. A Reluctant Spy's Conversion: William Holden in The Counterfeit Traitor (1962)
26. Gangsters in Love: Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
27. Rogues' Gallery
28. Why Not New York?
Part V: The Imp of the Perverse
29. Three Astrological Profiles
Barbara Stanwyck (July 16)
Graham Greene (October 2)
Marlene Dietrich (December 27)
"As one might expect from this distinguished poet and versatile man of letters, his sprightly new book isn't just deeply knowledgeable, it's also a lot of fun."~Michael Dirda, The Washington Post