9 crime movies, books, and comics to enjoy before playing L.A. Noire
When it was originally released in 2011, Rockstar's L.A. Noire got a lot of attention for being a rather different take on the studio's usual open world crime drama. Where Grand Theft Auto was essentially a darkly comic version on the movie Scarface, L.A. Noire took a more serious approach in melding its influences of noir movies, pulpy crime novels, and open world action.
With a visually updated version of L.A. Noire coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on November 14, it's a great time to consider some movies, books, and comics that will put you in the right mood for this noir crime game.
The Maltese Falcon
Written by Dashiell Hammett, 1929's The Maltese Falcon introduced readers to the now iconic private detective Sam Spade, a character made even more famous when he was portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in the 1941 movie by the same name.
In this, his lone adventure, Spade has to clear his name after his partner is killed during a routine stakeout. What follows is the now-classic tale of deception and greed that typifies the noir genre you'll see in L.A. Noire.
The Big Sleep
Like The Maltese Falcon, this 1939 novel by Raymond Chandler also features a morally ambiguous detective, Philip Marlowe. Who, as it turns out, was also played by Humphrey Bogart in the 1946 film adaptation.
In this dark tale, Marlowe is hired by a retired General whose daughter is being blackmailed by a bookseller. Suffice it to say, it also has the kind of double crossing this genre that is a hallmark of the noir genre.
I, the Jury
Yet another story about a detective who doesn't color within the lines. 1947's I, The Jury marks the debut of Mike Hammer, the hard punching, harder drinking, and hard for ladies to resist shamus created by writer Mickey Spillane.The first of thirteen Hammer novels Spillane would write between '47 and 1996; the first nine of which are presented in The Mike Hammer Collection Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3.
This noir novel has Hammer getting involved in a seedy case that involves prostitution, heroin, and the sex trade.
Directed by Roman Polanski, this 1974 noir crime movie has Jack Nicholson as a private investigator who's hired to follow a possibly cheating husband, only to find out the woman who first hired the shamus wasn't the cheater's wife.
Unlike The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, Chinatown was an original story, written by screenwriter Robert Towne (who, interestingly, also wrote the first two Mission: Impossible movies). While the sequel, 1990's The Two Jakes, wasn't as good — despite reuniting Nicholson and Towne, the original remains a classic of noir cinema.
While many noir novels and movies are about detectives who aren't always well-behaved, some go full bad guy by being more about the criminals. In 1962's The Hunter, writer Richard Stark — a.k.a. mystery writer Donald E. Westlake — introduced readers to Parker, an armed robber who, despite being smart, experienced, and prepared, doesn't always have things go his way.
In his debut, Parker is double crossed by his friend and his wife then left for dead, only to come back for his fair share of the money, no matter what it takes. While Parker is more GTA than L.A. Noire, his effortlessly readable adventures will still put you in a noir mood headspace.
Angels with Dirty Faces
Yet another noir film with Bogart, this 1938 film features fellow tough guy actor James Cagney as William "Rocky" Sullivan, who just got out of reform school and has trouble going straight. Though it's unlike The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep in that Bogart plays a lawyer, not a private dick, and is not the center of attention. It's also notable for being the movie that inspired Angels with Filthy Souls, the fake gangster film in Home Alone.
Given that you don't set any traps for people in L.A. Noire using normal household items, we're guessing that neo-noir film-within-a-film didn't have as much of an influence on the game as the original.
The Golden Gizmo
Aside from Chandler, Spillane, and Hammett, no writer is better known for his noir novels than Jim Thompson. He wrote such iconic books as The Grifters, After Dark My Sweet, and The Killer Inside Me, all of which have been made into movies.
While any of Thompson's nearly thirty novels will put you in the mood to play some L.A. Noire, we'd like to suggest The Golden Gizmo. This is a 1954 page turner about a gold farmer — no, not the video game kind — who "accidentally" steals a gold watch, and ends up in a whole heap of trouble.
Though he's best known for writing the Captain America comics that inspired the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ed Brubaker is known to fans of noir for his work with artist Sean Phillips on such comics as Criminal, of which there's been seven volumes and counting since 2007. In them, we meet some of the more colorful criminals from Center City through self-contained tales.
While they're not an influence on L.A. Noire, they do share the genre's penchant for dark moods and darker behaviors.
Made to Kill
While L.A. Noire only takes influence from classic and classic-style noir crime movies and novels, some writers have employed the tenets of noir in less authentic but still interesting ways. One of the best, and most faithful of these is Made to Kill, the first in a series of sci-fi noir novels by Adam Christopher.
Inspired by something snarky Raymond Chandler once said about sci-fi, Christopher wrote this '40s-style noir crime novel about a robot detective turned hitman, a story he's since continued in the novella Standard Hollywood Depravity and the novel Killing Is My Business, and will conclude next year with I Only Killed Him Once.
What's your favorite example of a noir crime story? Let us know in the comments below.