by Leonard Pierce
The notion of a non-fiction noir isn’t hard to understand — the resonance of noir fiction, after all, comes from how easily we recognize the patterns of spiraling violence, inescapable fate, and the darkness of the human soul from our real lives — but it’s rather difficult to find examples of. True crime books often shoot for a noir sensibility, but their tendency towards exploitation scuttles the attempt even on those rare occasions when the lackluster prose style doesn’t. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is probably the best-known example of the genre; there are others, like James Ellroy’s memoir My Dark Places and even some collections of tabloid photography (I recommend Local News, a batch of vividly nasty shots from Los Angeles yellow papers curated by Diane Keaton, of all people). But the finest example of a noir tone in a non-fiction crime book I’ve ever read was written a good twenty years before anyone even thought up the idea of noir.