March 2010
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Billie Silvey
Noir
Detectives
In 1930, Dashiel Hammett started
the tradition of the noir detective
when he introduced
Sam Spade in
The Maltese Falcon.
The San
Francisco-based Spade was
immortalized by
Humphrey Bogart
in a movie by the same name.
The setting moved down the coast to
Los Angeles in l939 with
Raymond
Chandler's The Big Sleep.  It featured
wise-cracking detective
Philip
Marlowe, who was also  played by
Bogart.
Hammett
Bogart
Mickey Spillane's first Mike
Hammer mystery came out in
1948.  It was set in New
York, with
Ralph Meeker as
the first of a string of actors
to play Hammer.
Gumshoes changed into high heels and
the setting moved to Chicago with the
1982 publication of  
Sara Paretsky's  
Indemnity Only.  Kathleen Turner
played Paretsky's tough detective with  
a love for expensive shoes in the movie
V. I. Warshawski.
In 1991, Walter Mosley introduced
detective
Easy Rawlins in Devil in a
Blue Dress
.  It's not just Hollywood
hype to say that
Denzel Washington was
Easy Rawlins.  I'd love to have seen him
in the entire series, which traces the
black experience and racial relations in
Los Angeles from the end of World
War II through the Watts Riots in 1965.
I have two special memories connected with noir
detective novels.  The first was when I was a child in
the 1950s, reading my father's paperback of
Mickey
Spillane's Kiss Me Deadly under the covers with my
flashlight.  I knew it was an adult book.  The cover
made that clear.  But inside, the story swept me
away with its gritty urban setting and thrilling,
hardboiled detective action.

The second was at a book signing at
Eso Wan
bookstore in
Leimert Park 40 years later.  Walter
Mosley was signing his books, and I walked up with
a stack.  On top was my original edition of
Devil in
a Blue Dress
.  It was five or six years after it had
come out.  He looked me in the eye and commented
on how old it was and that he wasn't sure there were
stil1 any out there.   

Below are five noir novelists and the stars who
played their alter egos.
Chandler
Bogart
Spillane
Meeker
Paretsky
Turner
Mosley
Washington
Film Noir
Morality of Noir