“A woman doesn't care how a guy makes a living, just how he makes love.”
—Rita (Helen Stanton) in The Big Combo (1949)
Even if you’ve never heard of the term “film noir,” you’ve probably read a book or have seen a movie in that genre. Film noir refers to “…stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations.” With roots in 1930s crime fiction, film noir’s first major wave was during the 1940s and 1950s.
This genre encompasses a broad category of films. It’s strongly associated with a private eye or law enforcement officer as one of the main characters. Other well-known elements are the femme fatale leading lady and an urban setting. It’s also important to note that “Thematically, film noirs were most exceptional for the relative frequency with which they centered on women of questionable virtue.” Noir even extended to science fiction, with films like Blade Runner and Dark City being notable examples of “science fiction noir.”
Given the scope of film noir and crime fiction, it’s no wonder the genres made their way into science fiction romance. J.D. Robb’s In Death series is one prominent example. In a nutshell, it’s noir-flavored crime fiction in a near-future setting. Beginning with Naked in Death, the series follows heroine Lieutenant Eve Dallas as she solves various crimes and embarks on an intense, complex romance with wealthy businessman Roarke. Eve’s character refreshingly subverts the typically male lead in this genre.