Film Noir FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Hollywood’s Golden Age of Dames, Detectives, and Danger (Applause 2013) by David J. Hogan is a great new paperback book on Hollywood noir covering the classic cycle from the 40s and 50s. A hefty tome it weighs in at 420 pages and covers around 200 movies. Author Hogan’s prose is snappy and engaging. His down-to-earth Introduction gets you hooked from the get-go. Noir icon Lizabeth Scott has provided a short but razor-sharp note on the contents page.
The book has seven chapters and a bonus section on neo-noir. Each chapter has a theme, with titles like ‘The War Between Men and Women’ and ‘The Best Laid-Plans’. Within each chapter Hogan reviews a selection of films illustrating the chosen theme, and includes sidebars titled ‘Case Files’ throughout that feature mini-bios of important names in the noir universe.
What I particularly like is the way Hogan approaches the films under discussion. He avoids spoilers by eschewing laboured plot outlines. His concerns are thematic, and his focus is on the cinematic experience, with due consideration to not only the stars and directors, but to the writers, cinematographers, and other artisans that were involved in a film’s production. Hogan also aptly quotes dialog from some of the movies, and shares a lot of background on the making of many of the films.
The book is sparingly illustrated in monochrome – what other color would you want for a book on film noir? - but the chosen frames, stills, and posters are well-chosen and of excellent quality.
While Hogan has a narrower definition of the film noir cannon than some, all the motifs and the essential films are there.
The Film Noir FAQ is must for any film noir fan, and is a great primer for those who want a fast-track to a fuller appreciation of film noir. At US$22.99 the book is a ‘big steal’.