If Richard Lingeman, a longtime senior editor at The Nation, found similarities between the early 1940s and the years after 9/11, it does not take a stretch of the imagination to assume there may be some parallels between the years after World War II and the years ahead of us right now, as the wars in Iraq and now Afghanistan begin to finally wind down to an indecisive, belated close. Lingeman doesn’t pursue such inquiries in The Noir Forties, but they are just below the surface of his well-crafted and exceptionally well-researched—and surprisingly personal—new book.

Though Lingeman does an excellent job of defending the thesis behind his title—a topic which we’ll explore in our discussion today—the book is about much more than film noir. It can perhaps be summed up as an extended meditation on Raymond Chandler’s quip that “the story of our time is not the war nor atomic energy but the marriage of an idealist to a gangster and how their home life and children turned out.” We are those children and The Noir Forties goes a long way towards documenting our family history.