Making the Detective Story American

Biggers, Van Dine and Hammett and the Turning Point of the Genre, 1925–1930

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About the Book

This critical text examines the fiction of Earl Derr Biggers, S. S. Van Dine, and Dashiell Hammett during a crucial half-decade when they transformed the detective story. The characters they created, including Charlie Chan, Philo Vance, and the Continental Op, represented a new style of detective solving crimes in fresh ways. Their successes would push crime and detective fiction in startling and rejuvenating directions. Topics covered include the highbrow detective, the ethnic detective, the exploitation of contemporary sensations, and the exploitation of women.
Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

J.K. Van Dover taught in the English Department of Lincoln University for 38 years; he has also taught as a Fulbright Professor of American Literature in Germany, China, Austria, and Slovakia. He has published extensively on detective fiction.

Bibliographic Details

J.K. Van Dover
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 231
Bibliographic Info: appendices, filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4895-1
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5689-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Preface      1

1. Introduction: The Detective and the 1920s      7
2. He Used to Be a Highbrow: Intellect, Taste, and the Detection of Crime in the 1920s      30
3. No Chinaman: Ethnicity and the Detective in the 1920s      66
4. Ripped from the Headlines: Translating Sensational Crime Fact into Popular Crime Fiction in the 1920s      97
5. Enterprising, Flippant, Hard: Young American Women in Detective Fiction of the 1920s      124

Appendix A: Three Brief Biographies
Oh Yes, There Was a Man Named Earl Derr Biggers      145
Willard Wright (S.S. Van Dine)      164
Dashiell Hammett      178
Appendix B: Mystery and Detection Bestsellers, 1925–1935      186
Appendix C: Films Based on the Works of Earl Derr Biggers, S.S. Van Dine, and Dashiell Hammett      190
Chapter Notes      197
Bibliography      211
Index      217

Book Reviews & Awards

“For style, scholarship, and analysis, Van Dover has long been one of the best academic writers on detective fiction…significant”—Mystery Scene.