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Hardboiled America: Lurid Paperbacks and the Masters of Noir

Overview

Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, David Goodis … these are a few of the masters of noir responsible for the great lurid paperbacks of the thirties, forties, and fifties. With titles like The Big Sleep, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, and Street of the Lost, with racy cover lines like "My gun-butt smashed his skull!" and "Ruthless terror ripped away the mask that hid cold fear," and with some of the most extraordinary cover illustrations ever to grace American literature, ...

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Overview

Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, David Goodis … these are a few of the masters of noir responsible for the great lurid paperbacks of the thirties, forties, and fifties. With titles like The Big Sleep, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, and Street of the Lost, with racy cover lines like "My gun-butt smashed his skull!" and "Ruthless terror ripped away the mask that hid cold fear," and with some of the most extraordinary cover illustrations ever to grace American literature, these paperbacks held the ingredients of American nightmares. In Harboiled America—lavishly illustrated with 135 paperback covers, and expanded with new material on Thompson, Goodis, and others—Geoffrey O'Brien masterfully explores the art, history, and ideas of the American paperback.

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Editorial Reviews

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There have been a number of books written about the paperback explosion of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, particularly as regards the hard-boiled crime novel. O'Brien's genius -- and it is nothing less -- is that he understands how many types of literary fiction and crime fiction complemented each other in those days. He sees, for instance, the common perception of the human condition as shared by writers as disparate as John O'Hara and John D. MacDonald; David Goodis and the French existentialists; Charles Williams and Jack Kerouac. They were all of a certain time, of a certain "angle of vision," as Hemingway called it, and of a certain sentimental cynicism, which became a kind of religion for disenchanted romantics. This is a book for serious readers, paperback fans, and collectors alike. Absolutely of the first rank as criticism and an important slice of sociology as well.

—Ed Gorman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306807732
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1997
  • Edition description: Expanded
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 214
  • Sales rank: 1,073,502
  • Product dimensions: 5.93 (w) x 8.99 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey O'Brien is the author of Floating City: Selected Poems 1978-1995, The Phantom Empire, Dream Time, and other books. Executive editor of The Library of America, he also edited The Reader's Catalog.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the First Edition 1
Preface to the Second Edition 5
Ch. 1 Icons on Yellow Paper 7
Ch. 2 Origins of the Paperbacks 19
Ch. 3 A Disposable Gallery 35
Ch. 4 Mythologists of the Hardboiled 61
Ch. 5 The Paperback Detective and His Discontent 101
Ch. 6 Afternoon of the Fifties 139
Epilogue: The Long Morning After 171
Appendix The Hardboiled Era: A Checklist, 1920-1960 177
Selected Bibliography 189
Index 193
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