I've been on a film noir kick lately (recommendations are welcome), because if there's a stock character I enjoy nearly as much as a loose cannon cop, it's a hardboiled private detective. (No, they're not the same thing.) I'm kind of weird in that I can only watch it late at night, as afternoons just don't lend themselves to the sweaty tension and gloom.

Despite my fondness for a fellow in a sharp suit and fedora, it's the women characters that have me hooked. I'm not talking about the femme fatales who hook our private dick, and then triple cross him. I'm fascinated by the secretaries, taxi drivers, and witnesses that pepper these stories. They're always there in the nick of time, or possessing some vital bit of information that cracks the case. They're impeccably dressed, well-informed, hard drinking, and they never encounter Spade or Marlowe without trading a few sarcastic quips. The Big Sleep is particularly full of them. From the Sternwood sisters to the taxi cab driver, every single one has a sexy quip for Marlowe, and he eats it right up. My absolute favorite is the bookstore clerk, who knows her antique tomes, pays attention to creepy neighbors, and is more than willing to close shop, and get drunk with Marlowe. Femme fatales are a dime a dozen ... but geeky bookstore girls? She's a treasure.