Leave Her To Heaven

Despite the dreamy title and literary ambitions, this is truly one of the darkest noir novels ever written. A #1 best-seller at the time of its release in 1944, the novel deals with the twisted desires of Ellen Berent, whose unhealthy fixation on her father leads to her undoing. Following her father’s death, she meets Richard Harland, a handsome author, who resembles a younger version of him, and she transfers her obsession to Harland. Things swiftly head south.

Adapted for the screen in 1945, it went on to become an Oscar-winning film as well as a film noir classic. The lush color photography masks the evil that resides at the story’s heart, making for a chilling film experience. The audiobook was a pleasure for me to narrate, and I’m thrilled to be able to add it to my catalog.

Thieves Like Us

My audiobook narration of Edward Anderson’s 1937 novel Thieves Like Us (Chicago Review Press) is now live. Anderson was a Depression-era author who wrote of the desperation of rural America during that period. Straight out of the time of John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson, Thieves Like Us brims with richly-drawn, breathing characters and dialogue that rings true.

The novel was adapted for the screen as They Live By Night (1948), starring Farley Granger, Cathy O’Donnell, and Howard DaSilva, and has become an undisputed film noir classic. It was later remade in the 1970s by Robert Altman under its original title. Altman, however, failed to grasp the essence of film noir, focusing instead on the cars and clothes of the 1930s.

Check out the audio sample above. Then go to Audible and buy it!! It’s a terrific novel.

CAUTION: there are two audio versions of this book out, so make sure you get mine, the one with THIS COVER!

The Girl With The Deep Blue Eyes

Doak Miller’s done his twenty-five years with the NYPD. Pensioned off, he wants a quieter life, so he moves to Gallatin County, hidden away in the big bend of Florida. He gets his private investigator’s license, hoping to pick up a little off-the-books work on the side. It’s been three years now, time enough to have developed a working relationship with Gallatin Sheriff Bill Radburn. The Sheriff has a little job for him. Shouldn’t be any problem. No problem at all.

And so begins The Girl With The Deep Blue Eyes, the latest novel from crime fiction master Lawrence Block. Now available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Borderline

I was positively thrilled to work with Lawrence Block in narrating and producing this audiobook. Originally released in 1962 under a pen name, Borderline (Hard Case Crime / Titan Books—2014) is a steamy tale of sex, violence, and deception as its four central characters move individually, for their own troubling reasons, back and forth across the Rio Grande separating El Paso from Ciudad Juárez.

Marty Granger is a professional poker player who lives on the Texas side and plays in the lucrative games in Juárez. One day, while walking in a park on the Mexican side, he meets Meg Rector, newly-minted divorcée from Chicago, who’s looking for kicks. And so it begins.

Throw in a teenage runaway and one of the most frightening and despicable serial killers ever to walk onto a printed page, and you have the makings of a dangerous noir brew. Noir characters traditionally allow themselves to be consumed by extraordinary emotions, and when faced with their subsequent choices, they always choose wrong. Block has seen to it that his characters do not disappoint.

Hard Case Crime has toiled in these vineyards for years, re-releasing pulp and noir classics from days gone by. Several of Block’s novels are in their catalog, as are many from lesser-known writers. All of these books, however, have spent decades mired in the forgotten swamps beyond literature’s fringe, awaiting reclamation. HCC has succeeded in bringing them back into the sunshine by introducing them to new generations of readers, and I’m hoping this audiobook will reach just a few more.

The unabridged audiobook of Borderline is now available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

The Killing

After what seemed like an interminable length of time, my latest audiobook narration, The Killing, has gone live on Audible.com. There’s a description attached to it, but this part is really all you need to know:

The Killing (originally titled Clean Break) by the master of capers, Lionel White, is what many people consider the greatest heist novel of all time. Stanley Kubrick liked the book enough to option it and make a classic noir film of it, co-scripted with the great Jim Thompson.

So there you have it. Jim Thompson, Stanley Kubrick, Lionel White … not bad company. What more do you need? Check out the audio sample above and then go here and buy it.

Detour

Have you ever seen the movie Detour? It was thoughtlessly cranked out in 1945 by Producers’ Releasing Corporation (PRC), one of the bottom-feeders along Hollywood’s “Poverty Row” back in the day. Those places shoveled out low-budget fare to fill the screens (and some of the seats) in theaters on the other side of town, around industrial neighborhoods, where the faint of heart dared not venture. These were theaters where Casablanca never played, nor did Shane or Gone With The Wind. No, these theaters were low-grade joints, perfect matches for the movies that played in them.

Detour was no different. Directed by Czech-born Edgar G Ulmer, a veteran of two-reelers and exploitation flicks, it was spit out of Poverty Row into the bad-neighborhood theaters and soon disappeared without a sound. Years later, no one bothered to renew the film’s copyright, so it slipped unceremoniously into the public domain.

And there it sat until the explosion of cable TV, when stations scrambled for content. They trolled the public domain for whatever they could find and Detour lay there, awaiting rediscovery. After numerous showings on late-night cable, film noir enthusiasts quickly recognized its greatness and began to talk it up. Now, it’s considered a film noir gem, possibly the greatest low-budget movie ever made. Not only that, the Library of Congress included it in a list of 100 films most deserving of restoration and preservation.

But …

Before the movie, there was the novel.

Written by Martin M Goldsmith in 1939, the novel originates the fatalistic tone of the movie. The characters think they’re getting a raw deal from life, and take no blame in their own predicaments. They’re wrong, of course, but that’s noir, baby. They’re always wrong. Sure, they make foolish decisions, and sure, there are improbable coincidences, but the darkness of the story and the strength of the writing keep the reader’s eye on the page. Here’s a brief description:

1938. Alexander Roth is hitchhiking from New York to Los Angeles, hoping to reconnect with his self-absorbed, cutesy-poo girlfriend. A car stops to pick him up and he is soon plunged into a nightmare from which there may be no escape.

And now, for the first time ever, Detour is available as an audiobook. I had a lot of fun narrating this book, because I was so familiar with the characters, having seen the movie countless times and having read the novel twice.

It’s now available on Audible.com. Go here and buy it.

Sharecropper Hell

No one dives deeper into the criminal mind than Jim Thompson. He built his career on the twisted ambitions of his dark, frightening characters. In Sharecropper Hell (DeVault-Graves Agency, 2014), which was originally titled Cropper’s Cabin on its initial release in 1952, he drags the reader into the inhospitable world of white trash sharecroppers of southeastern Oklahoma in the mid-20th century. Sex, murder, racial paranoia … it all plays fast and hard in Thompson’s writing.

This is the first audiobook version of this noir classic and it’s unabridged, exactly as Jim Thompson wrote it. You can get it now on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

The Secret Squad

David Goodis must have led a pretty depressing life. Virtually all of his novels are set amid grimy urban surroundings, usually his hometown of Philadelphia, and they’re populated by characters who live lives of utter hopelessness. I like to think of Goodis’ locales as being where despair goes to die.

In any case, The Secret Squad (DeVault-Graves Agency, 2014) fits right in the heart of the Goodis catalog. Originally titled Night Squad when it was first published in 1961, it is set in an area of “the big city” known as “the Swamp”, block after block of seedy bars, filthy cafés, rat-infested tenements, and violent criminals on every street corner.

Unlike the protagonists of other Goodis novels, the central character in The Secret Squad, Corey Bradford, knows he’s on the down slope of his life and knows he has no one to blame but himself. A disgraced ex-cop who is offered one last chance at redemption, Bradford takes it and, like so many noir characters in literature, makes wrong choices at every turn.

This novel, under its original title, was released as an audiocassette in 1991, narrated by Kevin Spacey. It was heavily abridged, however, losing nearly half of the text. This new audiobook, which I’ve narrated, is unabridged, complete with full text as written by David Goodis, and is now available at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.