Hard Rain Falling, I suppose would fall under the heading of classic noir. Don Carpenter gives us a protagonist who can’t get along with society, but it’s clearly society’s fault. Dumped in an orphanage as a baby, Jack Leavitt learns about life from within institutions, and he can’t seem to get enough of them–including jails and prisons. Never have I read a more insightful accounting of the criminal mind this side of Les Edgerton’s The Bitch and Just Like That.
The difference between Gardner’s Jack Leavitt, though, and Jake, Edgerton’s protagonist is a combination of brains and insight. These two qualities enable him to eventually develop something of a conscience. Not that it does him much good. The same institutions that have been beating him down all his life beat him down again in the end. However, in the end, he’s somehow not embittered. As far as I could tell. Gardner leaves the conclusion hanging.
Whatever the case, this 1966 classic deserves a wider readership and a greater critical reputation. It’s right up there with the best.