Thieves Like Us

Thieves Like Us
Edward Anderson

My but these early American crime novels were cool. When Nicholas Ray made this one into a movie — changing the title to They Live By Night — he turned it into a teen-oriented love story (Rebel Without a Cause was coming up). That angle is there in the novel, but in a far less demonstrative sort of way. Bowie is more of a laconic tough than Farley Granger would play him, with little desire to go straight, while Keechie is a dull bit of luggage to be dragged around. The style is as economical as the emotions, a minimalism that literary noir revelled in (this was another difference between it and the film genre). Anderson was a newspaper man, and if you compare the fragments of newspaper clippings here with the rest of the text you can see the narrative influence: a story built for speed, stripped to its essentials. If he wants, he’ll punch out a striking simile as a flourish, but that’s it for rhetoric and scenery. The rest is dialogue and action.