Crimeculture    Crime fiction     Crime films     True crime    Reading lists    

Call for Papers     Links   Courses   Home    Contact us

Back to CLS course information     Back to English 359 site


1945-70 ~ The Postwar Period and the Development of Cinematic and Literary Noir

Extract from Lee Horsley, The Noir Thriller (Palgrave, 2001)

The years immediately following the end of World War Two  marked the start of a crucial phase in the creation, definition and popularising of both literary and cinematic noir.  There were several concurrent developments:  the Hollywood  production of a growing number of pessimistic, downbeat crime films , the postwar  release in Europe of a large backlog of American films, the publication in France of a new series of crime novels and the appearance in America of a new kind of book, the paperback  original.   Films released in America just before the end of the war , such as Billy Wilder 's Double Indemnity  and Edward Dmytryk 's Murder, My Sweet  (both 1944), were taken as evidence, when they appeared in France, that 'the Americans are making dark films too'. [i]   In 1945, under the editorship of Marcel Duhamel , Gallimard  started publishing its translations of British and American crime novels in the the Serie Noire .  In 1946, echoing the Gallimard label, the French critics Nino Frank and Jean-Pierre Chartier wrote the two earliest essays to identify a departure in film-making, the American 'film noir '.  Although they were not thought of in the United States as films noirs  (the French label did not become widely known there until the 1970s), numerous postwar Hollywood movies seemed to confirm the French judgement that a new type of American film had emerged, very different from the usual studio product and capable of conveying an impression 'of certain disagreeable realities that do in truth exist'. [ii]  
            The Hollywood  releases of 1945 included Edgar G. Ulmer 's Detour , Michael Curtiz 's Mildred Pierce  and three films  noirs  directed by Fritz Lang  - Ministry of Fear , Scarlet Street   and The Woman in the Window .  In 1946 David Goodis  published the first of his crime novels, Dark Passage , and Delmar Daves  began filming it;  in the spring and summer months of 1946 alone, Hollywood released Blue Dahlia  (George Marshall ), Dark Corner  (Henry Hathaway ), The Postman Always Rings Twice  (Tay Garnett ), Gilda  (Charles Vidor ), The Killers  (Robert Siodmak ) and The Big Sleep  (Howard Hawks ).  In the same year Gallimard  brought out French translations of two of Horace McCoy 's novels, the first American novels to be included in the Serie Noire .  
            American publishing was itself being transformed by the introduction of the paperback .  By 1946 there were over 350 softcover  titles in print (three times as many as in 1945), with Pocket Books , Avon , Popular Library , Dell  and Bantam  all publishing in the paperback format and replacing the pulp magazines on the newsstands. [iii]   Several of the best postwar  crime novelists (Goodis , Jim Thompson , John D. MacDonald , Mickey Spillane , Charles Williams , Gil Brewer ) were about to begin writing paperback originals, though, as is usual in noir narratives, some of the characters were confronted with failure and many were in the dark about what others were doing.  Thompson, who was spending much of his time drinking and doing odd jobs, was as yet unsuccessful in establishing himself as a crime writer.  He had started writing his first crime novel in 1932 but it was only in 1949, after seventeen years of 'fighting that book', that Nothing More Than Murder  was finally published in hardcover by Harper 's . [iv]   Spillane was living in a tent and trying to build his own house.  Needing a thousand dollars for the materials, he wrote I, the Jury , which only sold about seven thousand copies in hardcover but, as a Signet  paperback, sold over two million copies in two years [v] , an achievement that 'electrified and inspired the softcover book industry'. [vi]   Gold Medal  saw the possibility of publishing paperback originals, and they were soon providing an entirely new kind of market for crime writers, whose work could now for the first time go directly into cheap softcover editions.  MacDonald, Williams and Brewer, none of whom had previously published novels, all began to write for Gold Medal in 1950-51.  Goodis, after the success of Dark Passage , had a brief career as a Hollywood  script writer, and when this collapsed at the end of the forties he retreated to his home  town  of Philadelphia and started writing his bleak paperback originals, the first of which, Cassidy's Girl , was a best-seller for Gold Medal in 1951.  Thompson's first paperback original, The Killer  Inside Me, was published in 1952 by a competing house, Lion  Books, 'the most off-beat of paperback imprints'. [vii]   As the boom grew, the struggling, often isolated crime writers fed both the 'gloriously subversive era' [viii] of American paperback publishing and a burgeoning output from Hollywood of films  that would in due course be grouped together under the name French critics had given them:  as Nino Frank described them, '...these "dark" films, these films noirs , [which] no longer have anything in common with the ordinary run of detective  movies...' [ix]   
            Nino Frank's article reflects the difficulty of finding a suitable label for these 'dark films '.  The films he is discussing, he writes, all 'belong to what used to be called the detective  film genre, but which would now be better termed the crime
, or, even better yet, the crime psychology film'. [x]   American film critics, without  a unifying term at their disposal, settled for such phrases as 'murder melodrama', or 'brass-knuckled thriller' or 'hard-boiled , kick-em-in-the-teeth murder cycle'. [xi]   The search for a satisfactory description itself gives some indication of the diversity of noir.  Both French and American critics emphasised the indebtedness of these films to hard-boiled investigative  novels, which provided the basis for some of the most memorable of early films noirs :  Hammett 's Maltese Falcon  and The Glass Key  had both been adapted in the early 1940s; Chandler 's Farewell, My Lovely , The Big Sleep  and Lady in the Lake  were all adapted in the mid-1940s, and Bogart 's performances as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and as Marlowe  in The Big Sleep  established him as the iconic private eye .  Revisions of the detective story were, however, only one element in the phenomenon, and Bogart's place as 'a key iconographic figure in all of film noir ' [xii] was secured by the fact that he was cast, as well, in a range of non-investigative films noirs, such as High Sierra  (1941), Dark Passage  (1946) and In a Lonely Place  (1950).  These films were based, respectively, on novels by W. R. Burnett , David Goodis  and Dorothy B. Hughes , and Bogart's roles in them suggest the different forms noir took as it developed during forties.  In addition to the weary integrity of the private eye, there was the pathos of the ageing gangster  (Roy 'Mad Dog' Earle in High Sierra), the desperation of the 'wrong man ' (the escaped convict wrongly accused of his wife's murder in Dark Passage) and the violence  of the suspected psychopath  (the self-destructive writer in In a Lonely Place).
            In creating film noir , Hollywood  drew on the work of a wide range both of earlier writers and of the late forties-early fifties crime novelists who were writing crime fiction that very often had no role for the private eye .  Amongst those whose work was adapted during this period, along with Burnett , Goodis  and Hughes ,  were William Lindsay Gresham , Horace McCoy  and William P. McGivern , all of whom produced novels that had as their protagonists violent, self-deceived men, criminals, crooked cops, killers, psychotics.   Cornell Woolrich  was another of the writers whose work, very different in style from the hard-boiled  tradition, became closely identified with the noir sense of helplessness and paranoia .  Between 1942 and 1949, there were eleven Woolrich novels or stories made into films , the protagonists of which include a man hypnotised into thinking he is a murderer  (Fear in the Night) and a mind-reader who predicts his own death (Night Has a Thousand Eyes ), as well as alcoholics, amnesiacs, hunted men and fall guys.  Private eye films continued, of course, to be made, but if investigative  figures were included, they tended to become increasingly vulnerable and flawed - for example, Bogart 's confused, hunted Rip Murdoch in John Cromwell 's Dead Reckoning (1947), Robert Mitchum  as the traumatised Jeff Markham in Out of the Past  (Jacques Tourneur , 1947), Edmund O'Brien  as the dying protagonist hunting his own killers in Rudolph Mate 's D.O.A . (1950). [xiii]  
            Many of the writers whose work was adapted by the Hollywood  studios were also translated for Gallimard 's Serie Noire :  Chandler , Hammett ,  Burnett , McGivern  and Goodis  were all added to Duhamel 's list between 1948 and 1953.  He included many of the American writers whose work was central to the development of paperback  crime writing from the 1950s on.  So, for example, in addition to Goodis, he published Jim Thompson , John D. MacDonald , Gil Brewer , Harry Whittington , Charles Williams  and Lionel White .  If, however, one wants to arrive at a coherent definition of literary noir, it would have to be said that a full list of the novels Duhamel chose for his Serie Noire would not be the best basis.  Amongst the huge number of Serie Noire offerings (getting on for three hundred American, British and French crime novels in the first ten years alone) many would be unlikely to be included in any late twentieth-century reprinting of classic romans noirs.  This is particularly true of the sizeable number of French and British imitations of the American style, which were generally published under assumed names that were meant to sound more American. [xiv]   British thrillers were mainly represented by the novels of Peter Cheyney  and James Hadley Chase .  The latter wrote several satisfyingly noirish novels, for example Eve  and More Deadly Than the Male , both in the mid-forties. [xv]   Cheyney, however, is a prime example of the tone of light-hearted hard-boiled  pastiche that often found its way into imitation American thrillers.  He created pacy and violent novels that are exaggerated, present-tense versions of the stories produced by such Black Mask  writers as Carroll John Daly .  Cheyney's Lemmy Caution is an American G-man who first appeared in novels like Dames Don't Care  (1937), Can Ladies Kill?  (1938) and You'd Be Surprised  (1940).  Caution's style and character can perhaps be gauged from his banter on the last page of Dames Don't Care:  '"Listen lady," I tell her..."I am one tough guy .  I am not the sorta guy who you can trust around the place havin' breakfast with a swell dame like you.  Especially if you are good at makin' waffles"' (192).  As the up-beat comic  tone here suggests, the Caution novels are imitation hard-boiled without being noir, exemplifying, especially in the French film versions, the parodic  impulse that is never far from the idea of the tough guy investigator . [xvi]   
            The defining characteristics of the American roman noir and film noir  can more easily be deduced from French critical discourse, which was in general less focused on what was, by the fifties, the fading role of the investigator  than on the other narrative patterns that were becoming increasingly dominant, in which morally ambivalent victims  and criminals served as centres of consciousness.    The French admiration for such interwar writers as Horace McCoy  and James M. Cain  continued to be apparent in the postwar  period, particularly amongst French existentialists , who responded to the protoabsurdist qualities of the earlier American thrillers.  As Naremore writes, both before and after the war , 'when the French themselves were entrapped by history', critics influenced by existentialism  were attracted to film noir 'because it depicted a world of obsessive return, dark corners, or huis-clos''. [xvii]   The crises that had shaken France since the 1930s - the period of war, occupation, resistance and collaboration described by the French as 'les annees noires' - led many to share the existentialist  preoccupations, and to appreciate the darker strains in recent American literature and film.   
            The Americans, for their part, were increasingly absorbing European intellectual influences.  In the postwar  years, the work of the French existentialists  became more widely known in the United States as a response to the absurdity  of modern life and an articulation of the need for existential  self-definition:  'Auden [Age of Anxiety] was not alone in seeing wartime and postwar America as a place where the existential anxieties of modern Europpe found a second home .' [xviii]   The existentialist  novels of Sartre  and Camus , La Nausee and L'estranger, were gaining an American audience, and mainstream American writers were beginning to express a sharper sense of distance between self and community .  They evoked feelings of estrangement, displacement  and dislocation with their representations of fearful, isolated anti-heroes, such as the rebels and victims  of writers like Saul Bellow , Bernard Malamud , Richard Wright  and Ralph Ellison .  Existentialism  had a particularly strong appeal for black  American writers like Wright and Chester Himes , [xix] for whom existentialist themes seemed closely allied to the expression of a racially derived sense of alienation  and of the outsider 's need to become visible and assert his own reality. 
            In the United States, the postwar  years were, of course, a time of prosperity.  The economy continued to expand and the country established both its military and economic  power, with real incomes soon doubling.  Unprecedented affluence made it seem that the Depression  had been an historical aberration. [xx]   Increased affluence, however, was accompanied by materialism and conformity  to an ideal embodied in the family  home , the 'site of integration into the cultural order'. [xxi]   This was a period in which many felt that the individual was powerless against the large-scale forces of industrial and technological  mass society, and during which the pressures towards conformity were heightened by a national mood of self-righteous aggressiveness, directed not just against Communism  abroad but against those at home who were regarded as seditious or subversive of 'the American way'.  Cold war  apprehensions and suspicions and McCarthyite  witch-hunts helped create the atmosphere of fear and paranoia  that is so strongly present in both the cinematic and the literary noir of the fifties. [xxii]   
            The representation of postwar  America as a 'consensus  society' has been challenged in recent years by those who argue that the domestic scene, both during and after World War Two , was 'a site of disagreements, of oppressions, and, often, of the careful and carefully hidden deployment of new modes of power and power-alliances'. [xxiii]   Literary noir develops its own narratives of disagreement and its exposures of oppression, debunking the dominant myth of a unified, happily conformist  America.  Liberal critics of the time often focused on the ways in which American society hunted out difference and suppressed and marginalised  dissent.  They were concerned with explaining a postwar malaise characterised by caution, repression and intellectual retreat. [xxiv]   These preoccupations can be seen in the work of the many critics who were beginning to assail the conformist ethos.  Norman Mailer , for example, attacked what he saw as a new totalitarianism in a culture that stifled dissent, and Irving Howe , in an essay called 'The Age of Conformity', complained that the nation's intellectuals were becoming moderate and 'tame'. [xxv]   Sociological analysis which flourished in the late fifties and early sixties, like that of David Riesman  in The Lonely Crowd (1950), analysed the bland 'other-directed' character type that seemed to be emerging in America's affluent consumer  culture. [xxvi]   Much other analysis focused on the problems of consent and conformity , on the negative effects of private affluence (J. K. Galbraith  on The Affluent Society [1958]) and on the manipulation of people by advertising men (Vance Packard , in The Hidden Persuaders  [1957] and The Status Seekers [1959]).  William H. Whyte , in The Organization Man (1956), argued that the successful men who ran the large organisations that increasingly dominated corporate America were themselves run by the organisations, tested and monitored by corporations that fostered conformist mediocrity.  C. Wright  Mills , in White  Collar (1951), maintained that white collar workers sold not only their work but their personalities.  As Bradbury and Temperley write,  'Despite the Eisenhower equilibrium, the romanticization of anarchic unreason, and the insistence that a conflict rather than a consensus model of society was necessary, were central themes of the Fifties', laying the basis for the protests of the sixties against social and sexual repression, against injustice to minorities and the power of the military-industrial complex. [xxvii]  
            Amongst popular genre writers, it was the noir novelists who issued the most effective challenge to optimistic portrayals of American life.  Rejecting the pervasive 'vocabulary of normality', noir thrillers offered portraits of maladjustment - what David Riesman  called 'Tales of the Abnorm'. [xxviii]    The inset film plot in Charles Willeford 's The Woman Chaser  (1960) epitomises the contrast:  'Mr Average American', with an average family  and 'the dullest job imaginable...Deadly', causes a fatal accident and, in consequence, is isolated completely from his conventional  existence.  Execrated and hunted and doomed, he ceases to be 'a nobody' and, 'all alone on Highway one-oh-one - a good place to work in some symbolism', is suddenly someone of importance, 'a man against the world' (80-2).  In studies of noir, both cinematic and literary, the sixties are often sharply divided from the fifties, [xxix] but there is as much continuity as discontinuity.  The sixties were no more uniformly rebellious than the fifties were 'uniformly conservative', and indeed in looking at the popular literature of the period, there is no radical break.  The heyday of the paperback  originals, with their lurid cover art and sensational cover copy, was over by the early sixties. [xxx]   But some of the most notable paperback writing careers spanned the period, extending from the immediate postwar  years through the sixties and beyond.  Gil Brewer , David Goodis , John D. MacDonald , Peter Rabe , Jim Thompson , Lionel White , Harry Whittington  and Charles Williams , all of whom were writing in the early to mid-fifties, were still producing novels in the late sixties and early seventies (in the case of John D. MacDonald, much longer).  The same is true of several other noir crime novelists who published in hardback, such as Stanley Ellin , Patricia Highsmith ,  Ross Macdonald , William McGivern , Margaret Millar  and Helen Nielsen .
            In the work of these and other American writers of the period, there is, in comparison to the novels of the interwar years, a new emphasis on 'difference' as a key determinant in the lives of the characters.  The sense of disillusionment and the theme of economic  deprivation remain, but in contrast to the archetypal noir protagonist of the interwar years, the alienated figures of the post-World War Two  period are less likely to be victims  of economic failure and deprivation than of exclusion and displacement .  The social background against which they are defined is more often characterised as one of material prosperity and cultural conformity ; characters' anxieties more commonly spring from pressures towards loyalty and uniformity.  This is not just a matter of the McCarthy  ite  themes that run through many novels.  It can also be seen, for example, in relation to the more insistent use of a small town  environment, which acts as a locus for exploring hostility to deviance, stereotyping, moral platitudes, social and racial  prejudice .  Jim Thompson 's novels are particularly associated with the satiric  dissection of the closed community , but many other writers of the time (such as Harry Whittington , John D. MacDonald , Day Keene  and Charles Williams ) produced comparable critiques.  As the protagonist of Day Keene's Notorious  (1954) is warned, '"The eyes of your fellow citizens in Bay Bayou are on you"' (91). 
            The chapters in this section examine three types of character recurrently found in the novels of 1945-70.  The protagonist killer , the femme fatale  and the stranger  or outcast  are all used by their creators to probe and subvert what they see as the complacent conformity  of the time.  The protagonist killer is a man acting to change a given set of circumstances (compared to many other noir protagonists, he does possess agency ).  He acts to change things through revenge , 'cleansing' society or righting a wrong; he murders in order to profit or to achieve upward mobility , that is, to change his economic  and social circumstances.  If he is more radically alienated from 'normality', the killer may act to undermine the whole social order.  The avengers, in comparison to earlier figures like the Op and Satan Hall ,  are more isolated and may themselves be trying to escape from the demands for conformity to a particular code or organisational loyalty (as in Stark  [Westlake ], Rabe  and McGivern ).  Those who kill for profit (for example, in Whittington 's Web of Murder ) frequently function as satiric  representations of capitalist  enterprise and greed.  Their willingness to kill to achieve their ends exposes the brutality of a widely upheld business  ethic.  The killer might be a psychotic figure who sees himself as a saviour, and whose aggression leads him towards the insights of the savage satirist : Thompson 's novels furnish the most striking instances here, but notable examples are also found in the work of Vin Packer  and Patricia Highsmith .  The psychopath  embodies the flaws hidden by a conformist  society - Thompson's Lou Ford, for example, whose mocking adherence to social pieties hides the latent sadism  which prompts him to punish as well as to expose.
            It is really only in the post-World War Two  period that the femme fatale  becomes a significant part of noir narratives.  In Hollywood , as Frank Krutnik points out, the iconic figure of the fatal woman  became much more central from the mid-forties on.  Studios producing hard-boiled  thrillers introduced or increased the importance of the love-story element, so that, instead of being merely one aspect of the protagonist's quest (as in Maltese Falcon ), the entanglement with a woman complicates the whole of the action and undermines the masculine ethos of the investigative  thriller. [xxxi]   Fatal women  also begin to appear much more frequently in literary noir, and in more diverse roles than was possible in the cinema.  Publishers had quickly recognised that more sex brought higher sales, and the new paperback  originals aimed not just for 'gritty realism ' but for frank eroticism, 'lacking in...conventional  morality, and with an iconoclastic eagerness to explore the controversial and the taboo'. [xxxii]   Inevitably in fifties America there were expressions of public outrage at the liberties taken, with the result that the paperback industry was investigated in 1952 by the House Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials.  However, although pressures continued, there was no overt censorship. [xxxiii]   The less predictable representation of women in literary than in cinematic noir may in part be due to the fact that Hollywood, subservient to the Production Code , was more straight-jacketed.  Film-makers, though capitalising on the appeal of the sexually dangerous woman,  were forced to make concessions to conventional morality.  The stereotypical strong woman plot was given its most characteristic shape in film noir  by the general requirement that such women were be punished or otherwise excluded by the end of the narrative.  This pattern is also, of course, present in the literary noir of these decades, and both films  and novels can be read as expressions of male anxiety about the independent woman.  In the novels, however, there is much more scope for variation and for playing against conventional expectations.  Although, as a glance at the cover art makes clear, the greater measure of freedom could scarcely be said to have done away with the stereotypical representation of women, paperback narratives were less constrained than films by notions of acceptable plots, and many of the novels that give central roles to women explicitly confront the issue of gender stereotyping.  Narratives are centred, for example, on the overturning of social expectations, about, say, the relationship between a woman's appearance and her character.   Writers such as Thompson , Williams  and Brewer  satirise  male views of women.  Others, like Bardin  and Millar , challenge conventional images by creating female protagonists who fulfil the functions traditionally assumed by male characters, whether as investigative figures or as protagonist killers whose actions are an implicit criticism of the male world that shaped them.
            The novels of the period are also less constrained than film noir  in their representation of social and racial  marginality , developing a wide-ranging critique of the treatment of those who are outside 'normal', prosperous, white, middle-class  society.  The marginalised  white protagonists are more often portrayed as alienated from the whole idea of a cohesive, normative social structure, as, for example, in the novels of Goodis .  Several other white writers of the time take the step of choosing black  protagonists who are racially outcast , persecuted, pre-judged and shut out by the dominant society.  In some cases a character's marginality is self-imposed, as in Goodis novels like Cassidy's Girl  or Down There , in which a protagonist deliberately circumscribes his own life.  Many characters, however, are represented as imprisoned by an inherited past of class or racial marginality.  As French critics of the period perceived, there was an intersection between tough guy  and black protest  writing, which had natural affinities with the left-wing existentialism  of Sartre  and others, [xxxiv] and one of the things I will consider most closely in Part II (Chapter 6) is the way in which difference and exclusion become central themes in the absurdist  Harlem  cycle of Chester Himes .
            My emphasis in Part II will be strongly American.  The combination of Hollywood  film noir  and the hugely creative energy that went into the rapidly expanding pulp fiction market were the most important contributions of the time to the phenomenon of the noir thriller.  The American literary noir of this period was unmatched.  Writers like Thompson , Goodis , Williams  and Willeford , amongst many others, produced some of the classics of the genre.  Although the links with British writing do not disappear, the hundreds of crime paperbacks  published in postwar  Britain were primarily imitations of American tough guy  and gangster  pulps.  In addition to the novels of Cheyney  and Chase , there were the even more rapidly produced, pseudonymous novels put out by the numerous small 'mushroom' publishers that sprang up to feed the British mass paperback  market, a phenomenon very fully documented by Steve Holland in The Mushroom Jungle. [xxxv]   The appetite for American hard-boiled  crime thrillers had started to grow in the forties.  Encouraged by the huge success of No Orchids for Miss Blandish , which sold over a million copies between 1939 and 1944, writers like Frank Dubrez Fawcett , Harold Kelly  and Stephen Frances  (writing under the names, respectively, of Ben Sarto , Darcy Glinto  and Hank Janson , but under other names as well) had by the mid-forties started to produce an astonishing array of low-priced crime paperbacks. [xxxvi]   Written at speed and printed on rationed paper, these short novels were unashamedly aimed at the mass market.  Using a variety of catchy pen-names, the British gangster novelists churned out versions of every available American plot:  the young man who is in too deep with gangsters  or who eventually seizes his chance to go straight (Al Bocca 's She Was No Lady ; Darcy Glinto's Protection Pay-Off ); the amateur crook who gets involved with big-time criminals ( Hank Janson's Don't Cry Now ); the crumbling of a mob and the exposure of 'every rat in town ' (Al Bocca's City Limit Blonde ); gangsters double-crossing one another (Duke  Linton 's Dames Die Too! ) or falling out over a woman (Hank Janson's Flight from Fear ); wrong-man narratives (Janson's Menace  and Play It Quiet ); first-person accounts of a gangster's ill-fated career (Janson's Devil's Highway ) or of involvement in graft and corruption (Sammy Coburn , Uneasy Street );  small-town iniquities (Janson's Hellcat ); the white slave trade (Janson's Mistress of Fear  and Glinto's Lady - Don't Turn Over ).
             Because of the imitative nature of most British noir during of the period, these are novels that tend not to confront specific socio-political  concerns, although they often create lively variations on the key themes of American thrillers.  At the less popular end of the scale, however, was the relatively slim output of a handful of writers who did engage with the nature of postwar  British society, such as Gerald Kersh , Gerald Butler , Maurice Procter , John Lodwick   and Julian Symons . [xxxvii]    The Britain of these years was a country in which almost everything was rationed:  'In a very real sense these austerity  years were a threshold to the whole first postwar era: rock-hard and grey, whitened maybe by dedication and labour...' [xxxviii]   There was still a strong sense of civic loyalty (to the monarchy, the police), and the period was characterised by a marked time-lag vis-a-vis the United States.  Prosperity was much later in coming.  Only toward the end of the fifties did people finally begin to think of Britain in terms of Galbraith 's phrase, 'the affluent society'.  There was still a sense of optimistic consensus  and a feeling that Britain was cosily separate, with  its humour , tolerance and decency.  But there was also a new sense of an attack on British insularity, comfortableness, stereotypical assumptions and parochialism, and part of what these changes produced was a distinctively British version of alienation  and marginality , apparent in the British thrillers of writers like Butler and Lodwick. [xxxix]    In comparison to their American contemporaries, these are writers preoccupied less with conformity  than uniformity, with the 'dulling' of society and the mediocre greyness that leads protagonists to seek adventure .  These are, however, writers who are little remembered today in comparison to Thompson , Goodis  and others.  This was unquestionably the most 'American' period of noir.  It was a time during which American thriller-writing and influence on popular culture was overwhelmingly strong, with 'home  grown' British noir the exception rather than the rule.  The large markets both in England and France were primarily dominated by novelists who produced pastiche American hard-boiled  crime fiction - and although there can clearly be important examples of noir in which a writer does not use the materials of his own society, the wholly imitative pulp novel does lose one of the most important defining characteristics of the noir thriller, that is, its responsiveness to the obsessions and anxieties of the society that produced it.

[i] Jean Pierre Chartier, 'The Americans Are Making Dark Films Too', in R. Barton Palmer (ed), Perspectives on Film Noir (New York: G. K. Hall  and Co., 1996), 25.
[ii] Nino Frank, 'The Crime Adventure Story: A New Kind of Detective Film', in Palmer (ed), Perspectives, 23.  Both the backlog of films  and those being newly released were eagerly received by French intellectuals and cinema enthusiasts who found in them a 'radically different' vision of American life - of greed, criminality, violence , anomie.  R. Barton Palmer, Introduction to Palmer (ed), Perspectives,  3-4.
[iii] Geoffrey O'Brien , Hardboiled America: Lurid Paperbacks and the Masters of Noir ([1981] New York: Da Capo Press, 1997), 22-5; Lee Server, Over My Dead Body: The Sensational Age of the American Paperback: 1945-1955 (San Francisco, 1994), 34-5.
[iv] Jim Thompson , quoted by Max Miller  in San Diego Tribune, 16 February 1949, in Michael J. McCauley, Jim Thompson:  Sleep with the Devil (New York: The Mysterious Press, 1991), 125.
[v] Mickey Spillane , the Guardian interview, National Film Theatre, 29 July 1999; Max Allan Collins and James L. Traylor, One Lonely Knight: Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer  (Bowling Green, Ohio: Popular Press, 1984), 5-7; Server, Over My Dead Body, 21-42; O'Brien , 19-34.  Although their great mass market impact was as paperbacks , most of Spillane's novels were first published in hardcover by Dutton.
[vi] Server, Over My Dead Body, 26.
[vii] O'Brien , 140.  Goodis ' Cassidy's Girl  sold over a million copies.  See Woody Haut, Pulp Culture and the Cold War  (London: Serpent's Tail, 1995), 9.
[viii] Server, Over My Dead Body, jacket copy.
[ix] Frank, 'The Crime Adventure Story', in Palmer (ed), Perspectives, 23.
[x] Frank, in Palmer (ed), Perspectives, 21.
[xi] James Naremore, More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 17.
[xii] Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward  (eds), Film Noir (London: Secker and Warburg, 1979; 1992), 120.
[xiii] See Frank Krutnik's discussion of these films , In a Lonely Place : Film, Genre, Masculinity (London: Routledge, 1991), 103-14 and 132-5.
[xiv] 'If French writers wrote for the series...they wrote under English/American names.  To be authentic, roman noir - and consequently film noir  - had to be American...' Robin Buss, French Film Noir (London and New York: Marion Boyars, 1994), 13.  French writers were encouraged by Duhamel  and by other editors (trying to create rival crime series) to produce novels that might plausibly have been translated 'from the American', like Boris Vian's J'irai cracher sur vos tombes [I'll Spit on Your Graves], which, like several other Vian novels, was published under the name of Vernon Sullivan.  Naremore, 12.
[xv] Some of the French imitators of the American style, most notably Albert Simonon, used French settings and gave considerable thought to coming up with a convincing body of French 'underworld slang' (see Ian Ousby, The Crime and Mystery Book: A Reader's Companion [London: Thames and Hudson, 1997], 107 and 121; Buss, 32).  The Gallimard  series did not, however, include the most important European noir, such as the novels of Graham Greene  and of the Belgian-French Georges Simenon , whose 1948 La Neige Était Sale [The Stain on the Snow ], for example, written while he was living in America, is a powerfully disturbing exploration of the mind of a young murderer .   None of the European writers published in the Serie Noire   were of the standard of Greene and Simenon.
[xvi] Cheyney  was in fact the first novelist translated for the Serie Noire  and also the only one whose novels became the basis for a series of French private eye  movies.  The Lemmy Caution films , starting with La Môme vert-de-gris in 1953, featured an 'authentic' American star, Eddie Constantine .  Constantine's performances in the role were calculated to bring out the inherent self-mockery and comedy :  'You look at the camera and wink'  (Eddie Constantine, quoted by Jill Forbes, 'The "Serie Noire",' in Brian Rigby and Nicholas Hewitt [eds], France and the Mass Media [Houndmills: Macmillan, 1993], 90). 
[xvii] Naremore, 22-3.
[xviii] Bradbury and Temperley, 242.
[xix] Malcolm Bradbury, The Modern American Novel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983; 1992), 165.  Both Wright  and Himes  eventually moved to Paris.
[xx] Bradbury and Temperley, 262.
[xxi] Sylvia Harvey, 'Women's Place: The Absent Family of Film Noir', in E. Ann Kaplan (ed), Women in Film Noir (London: British Film Institute, 1972), 23-5; and Krutnik, In a Lonely Street,  60-1.
[xxii] See Maltby, 'Politics of the Maladjusted Text', in Ian Cameron  (ed), The Movie Book of Film Noir (London: Studio Vista, 1992), 39.
[xxiii] For example, Richard Polenberg's One Nation Divisible: Class, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States Since 1938 (New York: Viking Press, 1988), cited by Dana Polan, Power and Paranoia : History, Narrative and the American Cinema, 1940-1950 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 41.
[xxiv] Bradbury and Temperley, 256-8. 
[xxv] Irving Howe , 'The Age of Conformity', quoted in Bradbury and Temperley, 258.
[xxvi] Bradbury and Temperley, 262-4.
[xxvii] Ibid.
[xxviii] Maltby, in Cameron  (ed), 47.
[xxix] Studies of canonical film noir  often go no further than 1958; Haut's recent study of pulp fiction, Pulp Culture, chooses the early sixties - Kennedy  America - as its cut-off point, arguing that reality was outstriping fiction and that the iconography was changing (164-5).
[xxx] 'The last piece of true pulp-as-art was published circa 1965.'  Bill Pronzini, 'Forgotten Writers: Gil Brewer ,' in Lee Server, Ed Gorman  and Martin H. Greenberg (eds), The Big Book of Noir (New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1998), 193.
[xxxi] Krutnik, In a Lonely Place ,  97.
[xxxii] Server, Over My Dead Body, 12-14.
[xxxiii] O'Brien , 26; Server, Over My Dead Body, 12-18.
[xxxiv] Naremore, 236.
[xxxv] Steve Holland, The Mushroom Jungle: A History of Postwar  Paperback Publishing (Westbury, Wilts.: Zeon Books, 1993).
[xxxvi] Holland, 28.  Holland notes that James Hadley Chase  and Harold Kelly , who (as Darcy Glinto ) published Lady - Don't Turn Over  in 1940, were the first two gangster  novelists to have their work branded as obscene (in 1942) - but, as Holland says, 'they were certainly not the last'.  The main legal action discussed by Holland (139-55) is the action taken against the publishers of Hank Janson  for publishing 'obscene libels' in seven of the novels (Accused , Auctioned , Persian Pride , Pursuit , Amok , Killer  and Vengeance ). 
[xxxvii] In many ways British crime writing remained much more dominated by the descendants of the Golden Age.  Crime writers did feel that after the 'watershed' of the war  they had to adapt 'to new conditions and ways of feeling'.  But these adaptations did not render the traditional novel unrecognisable.  American writers like Ellery Queen  and John Dickson Carr  had similarly opted for modest changes in the older model, and the British market was still dominated to a considerably greater extent by the work of such writers as Margery Allingham , Ngaio Marsh , Patrick Quentin , Edmund Crispin  and, of course, Agatha Christie .  Julian Symons , Bloody Murder, From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel: A History (London: Pan, 1972; 1992), 171-88.
[xxxviii] Arthur Marwick, British Society Since 1945 (Harmondsworth, Middx.: Penguin, 1996, 3rd edn; 1982), 71.
[xxxix] Marwick, 110-26.