Prop Art


Here’s a paperback I’ve been eager to get my hands on— THE DARK GALLERIES: A MUSEUM GUIDE TO PAINTED PORTRAITS IN FILM NOIR, GOTHIC MELODRAMAS, AND GHOST STORIES OF THE 1940S AND 1950S by Steven Jacobs & Lisa Colpaert  (ARAMER).

I first mentioned this book in a post last September and a copy has finally landed on my desk—bravo! (Official pub. date is March 31st) The concept is so deliciously eccentric it makes me want to compile The Encyclopedia of Fedoras. Fashion aside, who can forget  the portrait of Carlotta Valdes in Hitchcock’s Vertigo,  but I’ll  bet  the farm nobody can name the artist. (It was created especially for the film by the modernist painter John Ferren.)

Art  factors into the plots of a surprising number of film noir favorites such as Preminger’s Laura  and Cukor’s  Gaslight—as well as in many obscure releases. Well I’m happy to report you’ll find them all in The Dark Galleries.

The authors have produced an analytical study of cinema and painting that’s also a highly readable (and fun) reference. Indeed, this illustrated guide to an imaginary museum is like a big bucket of buttered popcorn for fans of film noir.

CLICK HERE to order on Amazon

Channeling the Master


by Benjamin Black
Henry Holt & Company

Tampering with dead authors usually comes with a curse warning readers: stay away. There have been a few exceptions, most notably Joe Gores’ brilliantly executed prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese FalconSpade & Archer (Knopf, 2009).

Well now you can add The Black-Eyed Blonde to that short list of exceptions.

Benjamin Black—the nom de plume of Irish writer John Banville—brings Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe back to full-blooded life—complete with inner turmoil and honest, hard-boiled dialogue. This is not a pastiche, but the real deal, kicked up a notch with clever traces of irony. It’s tightly plotted, has its share of blunt violence and wise-cracks, as well as descriptions of L.A. that puncture the city’s elaborate façade.

Banville has been compared to Joyce, and this novel confirms the comparison. You’ll find memorable passages that demand to be read aloud. For example, here’s Marlowe behind the wheel, lost in thought:

I hadn’t known where I was headed until I got there. The air was fresh, after the rain, and had a melancholy fragrance. I had the car window down, enjoying the cool breeze on my face. I was thinking of Mandy Rogers, and of all the other kids like her who had come out here to the coast, drawn by the promise of one day getting to play opposite Doris and Rock in some mindless concoction of schmaltzy songs and mink coats and white telephones. There was bound to be a boy in Hope Springs who still pined for her. I could see him, clear as the rinsed light over the Hollywood Hills, a gawky fellow with hands like shovels and ears that stuck out. Did she ever think of him, there among the cornfields, pining for her? I felt sorry for him, even if she didn’t. I was in that frame of mind; it was that kind of hour, after the rain.

That poetic riff captures perfectly the melancholy soul of Philip Marlowe.

Click here to order on AMAZON


Benjamin Black’s Favorite Noir Books

Music to Die For


Peter Lovesey scores again with his latest “Peter Diamond Investigation”: The Tooth Tattoo (Soho Crime).  Fans  of the series will not be disappointed, while aficionados of classical music will be on their feet applauding.

British detective Diamond is clearly not a connoisseur of “the three Bs,”  but the discovery of a young woman’s body  in a canal leads him to investigate the classical music scene.

Lovesey skillfully misdirects the reader, weaves leitmotifs,  and conducts a climactic sequence worthy of Hitchcock.


CLICK HERE to order the book

Sweet Suite Tools


onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 8 Premium Edition is the most exciting set of photo-editing tools to arrive this year.

I’ve been a fan of the software’s previous incarnations, and relied on its  Photoshop plug-ins. Now, however, I launch the new version  in stand-alone mode. Why? Because I love the interface  and the fluid workflow it enables. Everything I need is a mouse-click away. I switch between apps to perform multiple editing tasks, create my own presets,  and batch process images—all under one roof.

Bold! Old! Noir! New!


Here’s a delicious  (and fattening) gift for designers & typography-addicts—SHADOW TYPE: Classic Three-Dimensional Lettering  by Steven Heller and  Louise Fili  (Princeton Architectural Press).

If the noirish cover design (by Ms. Fili and Spencer Charles) doesn’t whet your appetite, have your eyes checked immediately.

This gorgeous, 352-paged, full-color compilation features obscure late 19th century metal and wood type, as well as forgotten shadowy faces from  Europe and America, from 1940′s noir through the 1950s. Shadow Type is  fairly bulging with billboards, vintage specimen sheets, advertisements,  movie titles, posters, and packaging.


It’s always cause for celebration when Fili and Heller collaborate on a design book, but this one’s a four-course meal.

You can order the hardcover edition on Amazon here

A paperback edition will be available in April, and can be pre-ordered  here.

books & things (Since 2008)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 99 other followers