From Sherlock Holmes to Sam Spade; Nick and Nora Charles to Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin; Harry Lime to Gilda, Madeleine Elster, and other femmes fatales—crime and crime solving in fiction and film captivate us. Why do we keep returning to Agatha Christie's ingenious puzzles and Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled murder mysteries? What do spy thrillers teach us, and what accounts for the renewed popularity of morally ambiguous noirs? In The Mysterious Romance of Murder, the poet and critic David Lehman explores a wide variety of outstanding books and movies—some famous (The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity), some known mainly to aficionados—with style, wit, and passion.
Lehman revisits the smoke-filled jazz clubs from the classic noir films of the 1940s, the iconic set pieces that defined Hitchcock's America, the interwar intrigue of Eric Ambler's best fictions, and the intensity of attraction between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. He also considers the evocative elements of noir—cigarettes, cocktails, wisecracks, and jazz standards—and offers five original noir poems (including a pantoum inspired by the 1944 film Laura) and ironic astrological profiles of Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich, and Graham Greene. Written by a connoisseur with an uncanny feel for the language and mood of mystery, espionage, and noir, The Mysterious Romance of Murder will delight fans of the genre and newcomers alike.