Cracking the Hard-Boiled Detective: A Critical History from the 1920s to the Present

Cracking the Hard-Boiled Detective: A Critical History from the 1920s to the Present

by Lewis D. Moore


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The hard-boiled private detective is among the most recognizable characters in popular fiction since the 1920s--a tough product of a violent world, in which police forces are inadequate and people with money can choose private help when facing threatening circumstances. Though a relatively recent arrival, the hard-boiled detective has undergone steady development and assumed diverse forms. This critical study analyzes the character of the hard-boiled detective, from literary antecedents through the early 21st century. It follows change in the novels through three main periods: the Early (roughly 1927-1955), during which the character was defined by such writers as Carroll John Daly, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler; the Transitional, evident by 1964 in the works of John D. MacDonald and Michael Collins, and continuing to around 1977 via Joseph Hansen, Bill Pronzini and others; and the Modern, since the late 1970s, during which such writers as Loren D. Estleman, Liza Cody, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton and many others have expanded the genre and the detective character. Themes such as violence, love and sexuality, friendship, space and place, and work are examined throughout the text. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786425815
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
Publication date: 02/17/2006
Pages: 306
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.62(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Lewis D. Moore, a retired professor of English, taught at the University of the District of Columbia in Washington for thirty years. He is also the author of Meditations on America: John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee Series and Other Fiction (1994).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface 1

Introduction 3

1. Poe, Conan Doyle, and the Hard-Boiled Detective Novel 7


2. History as Recovery 25

3. The Creation of Character 37

4. Violence: Direction and Control 48

5. Decaying Worlds 60

6. Work: Discourse and Danger 70

7. Sexuality and Discovery 81

8. Friendship: The Absent Theme 91


9. Character in Conflict 101

10. Pervasive Violence 112

11. Expanded Space 123

12. Needed Work 134

13. Love and Sexuality 144

14. Friendship: Faint Stirrings 155

15. The Quality of Change: Individual Lives and Social Transformation 165


16. Character and Wholeness 175

17. Violence: Echoes and Conversions 184

18. Better Places 194

19. Necessary Work 204

20. Sexuality and Diversity 214

21. Surviving Friendship 225

22. Multiples of Change 236

23. The Uses of Memory 247

24. Lies and Deceit: Family 258

25. Conclusion: Expanding the Word 269

Bibliography 281

Index 289

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