I know many people, including myself, are looking forward to Eddie Muller's updated version of his entertaining and informative Dark City book originally published in 1998, but thumbing through my library the other day, I noticed a couple of books -- Foster Hirsch's "Dark Side Of The Screen" and Robert Ottoson's "Reference Guide to The American Film Noir" -- are celebrating their 40th birthdays this year, both published 17 years before Eddie's first book.
I find it amazing thumbing through my original 1981 copies that Hirsch and "ChiBob" cover so much territory so well and so explicitly, considering the fact that so many noir films were incredibly hard to find or in pitiful condition back in those days. Gaining access to the films had to be a challenge ... VCRs had only been mass marketed for a few years and commercial videotapes were extremely limited. There had to be a lot of midnight movie tapings. I know many of my early noir videotapes had commercials in them, and then there were the ones ordered from "Dark Mark" on this very site. For many years my only copy of Dark Passage (along with Casablanca) was colorized, and much of my collection was comprised from old AMC broadcasts with Bob Dorian (still have a few of those, particularly Universal and Fox films).
I thought it quite impressive that both writers talked up films like The Prowler and The Breaking Point way back in 1981 considering it took another 20 years before The Prowler received a restoration and commercial release by the Film Noir Foundation. The Breaking Point didn't get a DVD release until even later, and to my knowledge, never got one on VHS.
We're at a point now where virtually every domestic noir film is accessible and most are in excellent condition again. We owe no small amount of debt to those early noir exponents like Hirsch and Ottoson, and I would also lump in Spencer Selby here, whose own "Dark City -- The Film Noir" was first published in 1984, as well as the Silver/Ursini/Ward trio, whose film noir encylopedia actually pre-dated Hirsch's book: 1979 on that one.
There are hundreds of books on film noir today but I still turn to the writers of the old classics for the best info. Nice to know they're still around, too!