"A RIVETING READ… BY A GREAT AMERICAN WRITER": FIRST EDITION OF ASPHALT JUNGLE, 1949, INSCRIBED BY W.R. BURNETT, BASIS FOR DIRECTOR JOHN HUSTON'S 1950 FILM—A "SEARING NOIR CLASSIC"
BURNETT, W. R. The Asphalt Jungle. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949. Octavo, original patterned purple paper boards, original dust jacket. $1900.
First edition of Burnett's definitive crime novel—"one of his best" (New York Times)—inscribed by him, "Best Wishes, Bill Burnett," the inspiration for director John Huston's "utterly faithful adaptation… the template for dozens of heist movies," a film noir classic featuring Marilyn Monroe in one of her first roles.
W.R. (William Riley) Burnett "is an important and original writer… he may be the single most successful writer on the notion of the criminal as the emblem of an era. Burnett provides some of the most dynamic and apposite metaphors for the life of America in the 20th century" (Reilly, 234). His first novel, Little Caesar (1929), and its 1931 film adaptation launched the "tough-guy" genre, and prompted Burnett to move to Hollywood, where he worked on screenplays such as the original Scarface (1932) and co-wrote the screenplay for the 1941 film, High Sierra, from his novel of the same year. "Then, in 1949, he wrote the definitive caper… Asphalt Jungle, which director John Huston turned into a searing noir classic in 1950… It remains a riveting read… by a great American writer" (Miller, Mystery Classics, 28-9). The first novel in a trilogy that includes Little Men, Big World (1951) and Vanity Row (1952), Asphalt Jungle won praise on publication as "one of his best" (New York Times). To fellow novelist and screenwriter Ben Maddow, it portrays a world where crime is simply "another form of business… Burnett made [his] criminal characters so fascinating that as you read the novel… you like them all and sympathize with them." Director John Huston's "utterly faithful adaptation of Burnett's novel proved to be the template for dozens of heist movies that would follow" (Johnson, Dark Page II:18). The 1950 Oscar-nominated film stars Sterling Hayden and features a memorable performance by a young Marilyn Monroe. Despite Burnett's fame in Hollywood, "he claimed that he never wrote novels with movies in mind but that his screenwriting career allowed him to continue doing what he liked best—writing novels… Little Caesar, High Sierra and Asphalt Jungle were firsts in dealing with criminals" (ANB). "First Edition" on copyright page. Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books 42. Dark Page II:18.
Book fine; light edge-wear mainly to spine ends and a bit of color restoration to extremely good dust jacket.