Unless the Threat of Death Is Behind Them: Hard-Boiled Fiction and Film Noir [NOOK Book]

Overview

Early in the twentieth century a new character type emerged in the crime novels of American writers such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler: the "hard-boiled" detective, most famously exemplified by Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. Unlike the analytical detectives of nineteenth-century fiction, such as Edgar Allan Poe’s Inspector Dupin, the new detectives encountered cases not as intricate logical puzzles but as stark challenges of manhood. In the stories of these characters and their criminal opposites, ...

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Unless the Threat of Death Is Behind Them: Hard-Boiled Fiction and Film Noir

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Overview

Early in the twentieth century a new character type emerged in the crime novels of American writers such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler: the "hard-boiled" detective, most famously exemplified by Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. Unlike the analytical detectives of nineteenth-century fiction, such as Edgar Allan Poe’s Inspector Dupin, the new detectives encountered cases not as intricate logical puzzles but as stark challenges of manhood. In the stories of these characters and their criminal opposites, John T. Irwin explores the tension within ideas of American masculinity between subordination and independence and, for the man who becomes "his own boss," the conflict between professional codes and personal desires. He shows how, within different works of hard-boiled fiction, the professional either overcomes the personal or is overcome by it, ending in ruinous relationships or in solitary integrity, and how within the genre all notions of manly independence are ultimately revealed to be illusions subordinate to fate itself.

Tracing the stylistic development of the genre, Irwin demonstrates the particular influence of the novel of manners, especially the writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He goes on to argue that, from the time of World War II, when hard-boiled fiction began to appear on the screen in film noir just as women entered the workforce in large numbers, many of its themes came to extend to female empowerment. Finally, he discusses how these themes persist in contemporary dramatic series on television, representing the conflicted lives of Americans into the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

Irwin succeeds in presenting his topic with the intellectual cachet it deserves.

Choice

Irwin succeeds in presenting his topic with the intellectual cachet it deserves.

Modernism/Modernity
Irwin gracefully and successfully accomplishes the critic's most worthy task—to return us happily to the scene of the crime.

— Patrick O'Donnell

Journal of Popular Culture
Stimulating... Irwin's psychoanalytic criticism offers subtle readings of the novels, their adaptations, and of the relations between these texts and their authors' lives.

— Brian Diemert

Books & Culture
Persuasively locates the development of noir out of the quintessentially American genre of hard-boiled detective fiction.

— Thomas Hibbs

Modernism/Modernity - Patrick O'Donnell

Irwin gracefully and successfully accomplishes the critic's most worthy task—to return us happily to the scene of the crime.

Journal of Popular Culture - Brian Diemert

Stimulating... Irwin's psychoanalytic criticism offers subtle readings of the novels, their adaptations, and of the relations between these texts and their authors' lives.

Books and Culture - Thomas Hibbs

Persuasively locates the development of noir out of the quintessentially American genre of hard-boiled detective fiction.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801889387
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,091,210
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

John T. Irwin is the Decker Professor in the Humanities at the Johns Hopkins University, where he formerly served as chair of the Writing Seminars. His previous books include The Mystery to a Solution: Poe, Borges, and the Analytic Detective Story, recipient of the Modern Language Association’s Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies and Phi Beta Kappa's Christian Gauss Prize.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Introduction xi
1 "Where Their Best Interest Lies": Hammett's The Maltese Falcon 1
2 Being Boss: Chandler's The Big Sleep 31
3 Beating the Boss: Cain's Double Indemnity 69
4 Who's the Boss?: W.R. Burnett's High Sierra 97
5 Deadline at Midnight: Cornell Woolrich's Night Has a Thousand Eyes 123
6 A Puzzle of Character 171
7 Hard-Boiled Fiction and Film Noir 207
8 Hard-Boiled Fiction and Film Noir, Continued 240
Afterword 273
Notes 277
Index 283
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