Cracking the Hard-Boiled Detective

A Critical History from the 1920s to the Present

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About the Book

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.

About the Author(s)

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).

Bibliographic Details

Lewis D. Moore
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 306
Bibliographic Info: bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2581-5
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8239-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

Introduction      3

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

EARLY PERIOD

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

TRANSITIONAL PERIOD

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

MODERN PERIOD

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

Book Reviews & Awards

“quite readable…enjoyable”—Mystery Scene; “a scholarly look into the literary character of the hard-boiled detective”—Reviewing the Evidence.