Ah, the beauty of a great noir film or "read." The characters are always so mysterious and hard to read at first, but in-your-face, and highly memorable. Then, the ambience, the atmosphere, is thicker than blood and very palpable. This is the same feeling I work to establish in my Canaan's Crossing series, and, certainly, in most of my work in general. Authors like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, Dorothy B. Parker, Walter Mosley, and others started the ball rolling as major contributors. Orson Welles and David Lynch as directors and other modern filmmakers seek to establish that same feel and character, ominous and foreboding, rich and sensory-filled.
I would like to think that in many ways my fiction is of a "coastal noir" genre. Looking for something that is always just out of reach is part of the allure, but tone, setting, German expressionism, victims of circumstance, the dark and seedy, are key elements typically. I love the vibe of films like The Maltese Falcon, or modern neo-noir such as Wild Things, or the series Bloodline. Peter Lorre was certainly one of the greats in the early twentieth century of the genre, and the Crimereads article below speaks of his pairing with Sydney Greenstreet as foils and partners in the popularity of the genre.