Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin (Noir)

Created by Christopher Moore

“She had the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes–a size eight dame in a size-six dress and every mug in the joint was rooting for the two sizes to make a break for it…”

Noir (2018) by satirist and professional piss-taker Christopher (Lamb, Secondhand Souls, Bite Me, etc.) Moore is yet another allegedly humorous take on “noir,”  but honestly?

“Noir” is a stretch. It seems to be spoofing hard-boiled detective and crime fiction of the thirties and forties, more than noir–not that anyone makes much of a distinction anymore. And this one doesn’t even have a private eye in it!

Nope, SAMMY “TWO TOES” TIFFIN is just a regular workin’ joe, a minor-league grifter with a limp manning the bar at Sal’s Saloon, a dive in post-World War II San Francisco.

And then a dame walks in, a “tasty bit of trouble” with “sharp angles and dangerous curves” and the family name of Stilton. And so Tiffin immediately starts referring to her as “The Cheese.”

It starts out fairly routine: she’s a damsel in distress, and Sammy falls for her … hard. Soon enough the poor sap’s in it up to his neck. There’s plenty of gaudy patter by all concerned, numerous convoluted plot shucks and jives, and a parade of hard-boiled types you’ve seen in a million pulp stories and B-flicks: a possibly crazy general, a foul-mouthed smart ass kid, a truck load of gangsters and thugs (including Sammy’s pal, Eddie Moo Shoes, from Chinatown), a punch-drunk palooka (who insists he’s not black), some dirty cops, some wise-ass cabbies, and a drag queen or two (this is San Francisco, after all).

But this is a Christopher Moore novel, after all, so things soon slide off the plate, and we’ve got UFOs, pizza for dogs, a mysterious crate marked DANGER! LIVE REPTILE! and just possibly “the construct of an unyielding, all-seeing bureaucracy beyond our perception that is molding humanity to its own will and pleasure” with the ultimate goal of “motorboat(ing) the bazooms of our dames.”


Kirkus Reviews tagged Noir as  “a kindred spirit to Richard Brautigan’s Dreaming of Babylon: A Private Eye Novel 1942 (1977)  or Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, but I’d say it’s a lot funnier–than either of them, playing it all for big, broad laughs. It doesn’t always succeed, but I’d push it closer to the Coen Bros’ The Big Lebowski.

It’s about as “noir” as a Marx Brothers movie, but sometimes it’s almost as funny.


  • “A frantically comic tale of guys and dolls that shoots and just misses.”
    — Kirkus Reviews
  • “(Moore) wanted the novel to be “dark” and “desperate” with “fog, and gunplay, and danger.” He wanted something like hard-boiled fiction; instead, he says he ended up with “Perky Noir.” In fact, it’s more soft-boiled and closer to pesky noir.”
    — The LA Review of Books


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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