San Francisco Noir

Kem Nunn


Scribner 2014, 320 pages


This one caught my eye at City Lights in San Francisco – maybe it was the picture of the Golden Gate Bridge disappearing into the fog; maybe it was the words on the front cover (“Takes place in the twilit world of noir, where people and things are never what they seem.” – NY Times Book Review). At any rate, I read the back cover, noted that it was set in S.F. and knew that I had to read it.

Eldon Chance is a forensic neuropsychiatrist who becomes obsessed with Jaclyn Blackstone. Or was it her other personality, Jackie Black? Either way, her ex-husband, Raymond, is violent and jealous and causes more problems than Chance can handle, what with being in the middle of a divorce and short of cash. The characters alone are worth the read. There is Carl, who buys an Art Deco Furniture set from Chance, in a deal which is shadier than Chance would prefer, and D, who helps Carl out, philosophizes and knows how to use a knife.


Gritty and smart and makes me want to read more of Nunn’s work.

Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon

Vintage Crime / Black Lizard Edition 1992, 217 pages

First published in 1930


A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man named Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime.

These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett’s coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted three generations of readers. (Text from back cover)


Found this one at Treehorn Books in Santa Rosa. It is set in San Francisco and apparently John’s Grill, a setting in the novel, still exists as well. I wish I’d known that in December…

I remember as a kid, I was maybe nine or ten, my parents went to the Rosebud Movie Theater in Seattle to see this movie and I wasn’t allowed to go with them because I ‘wouldn’t understand it’. Now that I’ve read it, I must admit they were probably right back then (boy was I mad though!). Maybe I will (finally) watch the movie now too!