If I recommend a book that is hardboiled and grimly noir, it could have been written by any one of a pretty large number of writers. If I recommend a book that is hardboiled and grimly noir and unbelievably funny, it is virtually certain that I have only one author in mind: Craig Rice. Writing in the 1940s and 1950s, Rice turned out a series of stories and novels that combined hardboiled and sometimes grim mystery with screwball comedy.
For a perfect example of what sounds like an unlikely marriage of styles, try Rice's 1945 novel, "The Lucky Stiff." It features a trio of central characters who appeared in many of Rice's books: Chicago lawyer John J. Malone and his two friends, small-time press agent Jake Justus and Jake's by-this-time-in-the-series wife, Helene. "The Lucky Stiff" is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
The book begins in a cell on death row, where a young woman named Anna Marie is about to be executed for a murder she did not commit. When the guards come to take her to the electric chair, she believes her life is over. Instead, they take her to the Warden's office, where he informs her that the real murderer has just made a death-bed confession which clears her.
Grateful? Not Anna Marie. She forces the warden and her lawyer to release a story saying she has died in the electric chair, the confession coming too late to save her. She intends to reappear as a ghost, to haunt the crooks responsible for the murder and to get revenge on them.
And she does - with the help of Malone and the Justuses. And, in the course of the increasingly surreal and bizarre events, there are several more murders, a reasonable amount of crooked dealing, numerous fist-fights (often involving Malone), and - incidentally - increasingly hilarious plot twists alternating with situations that really could define the "noir" genre. If you don't think there can be anything hilariously funny about a bomb going off in a funeral home...well, read "The Lucky Stiff" and find out.
Writing at the Golden Age of Detection wiki, critic Mike Grost observes, "Almost everything that happens in a Rice novel is surrealistic. The characters, plots, settings and incidents all seem intended to surprise the reader with imaginative newness, and to shake up his or her preconceptions about reality." I think that's what you'll find in "The Lucky Stiff." It's most easily available in e-book format, although there seem to be a fair number of used paperback versions as well; your independent mystery book dealer can help, or try the above link to Amazon's Kindle and independent dealers.