Anyone who doesn’t find the beach at least a little bit disturbing hasn’t really thought about it enough.

I spend a lot of time at the beach in the summer, and it’s hard not to notice the darker side of the ocean after a while: the crime-scene bleakness of a beach town in the rain, or the wind-whipped days when the breakers seem intent on your bodily destruction. So I was excited when, a few months ago, I came across an L.A. Times article musing on the “fascinating light-dark duality” of that city’s coastal playground. The article looked at the beach through the lens of California crime writers from the golden age of pulp to today, and lined up a stellar reading list that included Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Dorothy B. Hughes, Leigh Brackett, Horace McCoy, and others.

Suddenly I realized that the beach and noir go together like sunshine and skin cancer.