June 25

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One of the joys of reading noir fiction is to come across the striking metaphors and similes that are a hallmark of the genre. Here are some from my favourite authors.

She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight. – Raymond Chandler, The Little Sister 

The only illumination came from one of those economy lightbulbs that looked like a radioactive pretzel. – Stuart MacBride, The Blood Road

From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away. – Raymond Chandler, The High Window

The lawyer Thien, when Morath was ushered into his office by a junior member of the staff, turned out to be an ancient bag of bones held upright only by means of a stiff, iron-coloured suit. – Alan Furst, Kingdom of Shadows

“She died in a fire. I miss her like you… If I was underwater, I wouldn’t miss oxygen that much.” ― Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island

Looking at him I felt as if I had just met a powerful gorilla while at the same time being in possession of the world’s last banana. – Philip Kerr, The Lady from Zagreb

The minutes went by on tiptoe, with their fingers to their lips. – Raymond Chandler, The Lady in the Lake

Politicians were like talking dogs in a circus: the fact that they existed was uncommonly interesting, but no sane person would actually believe what they said. – Alan Furst, Dark Star

She had a long fur coat on over a very short skirt and sparkly top. Heels high enough to give Sherpa Tenzing a nosebleed. – Stuart MacBride, Now We Are Dead

A few locks of dry white hair clung to his scalp, like wild flowers fighting for life on a bare rock. – Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

“Remember, I’ve got no idea what this is all about,” said the girl when they were in the living room, a narrow room, where blue fought with red without ever compromising on purple. – Dashiell Hammett, “The Assistant Murderer”

 Hair like someone had run over Albert Einstein with a ride-on lawn mower. – Stuart MacBride, The Blood Road

A check girl in peach-bloom Chinese pajamas came over to take my hat and disapprove of my clothes. She had eyes like strange sins. – Raymond Chandler, The High Window

Torres finally smiled again, but it was a smile so vicious Bob could have smelled it with his eyes closed. – Dennis Lehane, The Drop

I called him from a phone booth. The voice that answered was fat. It wheezed softly, like the voice of a man who had just won a pie-eating contest. – Raymond Chandler, “Trouble Is My Business” 


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