William Marling,Ph.D. Professor of English, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA Criticism of the Genre: 1930 to the Present Updated 12/04/09 How to Footnote this Website History of the Hard-Boiled The/Black Mask /School Erle Stanley Gardner Raoul Whitfield Frederick Lewis Nebel Horace McCoy Paul Cain W.R. Burnett Cornell Woolrich Classic Writers Dashiell Hammett James M. Cain Raymond Chandler Ross Macdonald (Kenneth Millar) Development of Hard-Boiled Narrative The Second Generation _Mickey Spillane_ Jim Thompson Joseph Wambaugh Elmore Leonard Jr. George V. Higgins Robert B. Parker James Ellroy _Early Female Authors of Hard-Boiled Writing_ Sara Paretsky Sue Grafton Chester Himes and Early Afro-American Detectives Walter Mosley Major Works /Red Harvest /(1927) by Dashiell Hammett /The Maltese Falcon /(1929) by Dashiell Hammett /The Glass Key /(1931) by Dashiell Hammett /The Big Sleep /(1939) by Raymond Chandler /Farewell, My Lovely/ (1940) by Raymond Chandler /The Long Goodbye /(1953) by Raymond Chandler /The Galton Case /(1959) by Ross Macdonald /The Underground Man/ (1971) by Ross Macdonald /Cotton Comes to Harlem /(1965) by Chester Himes Characteristics of the Genre The Hero/ Heroine The Detective Code Themes Villains The Femme Fatale _Imagery in Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction _ The Genre's Later Evolution Criticism, 1930 to the Present Detective Fiction in Comics, Radio, and Television Film Noir Film Noir: A Brief History Reactions against Early Crime Movies Humphrey Bogart /The Public Enemy /(1931) German Expressionism High Sierra (1941) /The Maltese Falcon/ (1941) /Double Indemnity /(1944) More Film Noir (brief takes on /The Glass Key /(1942), /Murder, My Sweet/ (1944), /Farewell, My Lovely/ (1975), /The Big Sleep/ (1946), /The Postman Always Rings Twice /(1946, 1981), /The Lady in the Lake/ (1947), /The Lady From Shanghai /(1949), /Criss Cross/ (1949), /D.O.A/. ((1950), /The Asphalt Jungle/ (1950), /Sunset Boulevard/ (1950), /Kiss Me Deadly /(1955), /Touch of Evi/l (1958), /Chinatown/ (1974), /Taxi Driver/ (1976),/Body Heat /(1981), and /The Ususual Suspects/ (1995). Summary Bibliography of Works Bibligraphy of Scholarship Ideas for Papers Glossary of Terms Contact me Genteel mystery and detective fiction has been reviewed by newspapers and magazines since the era of Sherlock Holmes, but hard-boiled fiction was generally considered beneath notice. Its pulp printing, its subjects, and its readership were beyond mention, until Hammett. Dashiell Hammett was the first to review detective novels with any sense of what the hard-boiled was, or should, be about. His reviews, uncollected, argue for realism and plausibility in terms of the detective work he had practiced. He was a wolverine when presented with an S.S. Van Dine novel. Raymond Chandler also reviewed, but he exhibited a more canonical consciousness, anointing Hammett as the genre's father in pieces for /Atlantic Monthly /that have been collected in /The Simple Art of Murder/, /Chandler Before Marlowe/, and /Raymond Chandler Speaking./ The most important essay is "The Simple Art of Murder," in which he singled out Hammett as "the ace performer," observing that Hammett had "a literary style" which "at its best? could say anything," but that "at its worst [was] as formalized as a page of /Marius the Epicurean/." Chandler saw Hammett as a craftsman: "I doubt that Hammett had any deliberate artistic aims whatever; he was [simply] trying to make a living by writing about something he had firsthand information about." ^^1 Criticism of the hard-boiled novel really begins in the 1940s. Howard Haycraft published /Murder for Pleasure: The Life and Times of the Detective Story/ (1941) devoting five pages to Hammett and one to Chandler. Here is a link to Haycraft's list for the genteel reader. However literary critic Edmund Wilson denigrated the mystery genre, even Hammett's /The Maltese Falcon/, which he "assumed to be a classic" ("Why Do People Read Detective Stories?" /New Yorker/, October 14, 1941). In "The Boys in the Back Room," he grouped James M. Cain with Horace McCoy, John Steinbeck, John O'Hara and William Saroyan as "the poets of the tabloid murder" (/New Republic/, November 11, 1940). He saw them as California naturalists, who "stemmed originally from Hemingway" and had adapted to Hollywood. The comparison to Hemingway was also on the lips of French writer Andre Gide a bit later, as he praised Hammett's /Red Harvest/ in the February 7, 1944, issue of /New Republic/, comparing it to "the best of Hemingway." Hemingway himself mentioned his wife reading to him from /The Dain Curse/ in his /Death in the Afternoon/ (1932). Though hard-boiled fiction appeared in the pan in 1944, no scholarly prospector yet called it gold. That would require another decade of enthusiasm by readers for the first generation, continuing praise by other writers, and further development of the genre itself. Joseph T. ("Cap") Shaw's /The Hard-Boiled Omnibus/ (1946), an anthology of "early stories from /Black Mask/," reminded everyone of the distinctive origin of these writers, setting some of the best side by side. David T. Bazelon provided one of the earlier high-brow evaluations of Hammett in /Commentary/ in 1949, the same year that Gershon Legman's essay pointing out the homosexual motifs in Chandler was published (/Love and Death/; reprinted in 1963). Historian Henry Nash Smith underlined the importance of frontier and pulp heroes in /Virgin Land/ (1950), preparing the ground for later scholars. English novelist Somerset Maugham found much to praise in Hammett in 1953, but Leo Gurko dismissed him that same year in /Heroes, Highbrows and the Popular Mind/. Because of his association with Communists during the McCarthy Era, Hammett went into eclipse for most of the 1950s. Chandler was still publishing, Macdonald came into his prime, and niche writers such as Woolrich, Spillane, and Thompson gave the genre a fragmented appearance. In 1960, however, /Love and Death in the American Novel/ by Leslie Fiedler (below right) picked up where Smith had left off. He not only praised Hammett but connected his work historically and thematically to that of Mickey Spillane. Hammett died in 1961, prompting evaluations and opening a decade of rediscovery of his work Knopf reset the 1942 edition of the /Complete Dashiell Hammett/ in 1965 as /The Novels of Dashiell Hammett/, and these volumes were widely reviewed. Knopf followed with /The Big Knockover/, introduced by Lillian Hellman, a collection that made Hammett's short stories from the /Black Mask/ era available. Toward the end of the 1960s the trend to re-evaluation broadened from Hammett to the genre. Frank Gruber's /The Pulp Jungle/ (1967) gave an intimate view of the pulp writer's working conditions that is still valuable. But the key publication was /Tough Guy Writers of the Thirties/, edited by David Madden (1968) which contained such landmark essays as Philip Durham's "The /Black Mask/ School," Irving Malin's "Focus on /The Maltese Falcon/," Robert Edenbaum's "The Poetics of the Private Eye: The Novels of Dashiell Hammett," and Joyce Carol Oates' "Man Under Sentence of Death: The Novels of James M. Cain." Chandler, who had died in 1959, received his due more quickly than Hammett, with Philip Durham's pioneering /Down These Mean Streets a Man Must Go: Raymond Chandler's Knight/ (1963). William Nolan published the first attempt at a Hammett biography in 1969 (/Dashiell Hammett: A Casebook)/ and David Madden began a crusade to win respect for Cain (/James M. Cain/) in 1970. The mid-1970s were an important period in scholarship on hard-boiled fiction. William Ruehlmann's /Saint with a Gun: The Unlawful American Private Eye/ (1974) was a well-written, unapologetically "popular culture" study of the historic background and morality of the detectives in American fiction, with a chapter on Hammett and Chandler, another on Macdonald, and a conclusion that reaches to Shaft creator Ernest Tidyman. A collection of Hammett stories, /The Continental Op/ (1974) appeared that contained no new stories, but the introduction by scholar Steven Marcus pointed out that the Op always deconstructed the fictions of others or replaced them with his own. This set a new direction in scholarship. The first Chandler biographies also appeared: a psychologically oriented chapter in /The Dangerous Edge/ by Gavin Lambert (1976), then Frank McShane's magisterial /The Life of Raymond Chandler/ (1976) which is still unsurpassed as the definitive account of the writer's life. That same year John Cawelti brought out /Adventure, Mystery, Romance/, an important study of the development of the popular genres, and Peter Wolfe published the first book-length study of Ross Macdonald, (/Dreamers Who Live Their Dreams: The World of Ross Macdonald's Novels/, 1976). Stephen Pendo took up screen versions of Chandler's novels in /Raymond Chandler on Screen: His Novels into Film/ (1976). The next year Miriam Gross edited /The World of Raymond Chandler/ (1977), a collection of essays by Spender, Symonds, Houseman, Mason and Barzun, among others. Ross Macdonald had begun to receive article-length attention in the mid-1970s (Carter, Grella, Pry), and Jerry Speir wrote the second book length overview of the writer, /Ross Macdonald/, in 1978. Hammett began to receive long-overdue attention again in 1979, when Lillian Hellman's memoir /An Unfinished Woman/ appeared, with her portrait of the writer. Controlling the Hammett papers and estate, Hellman was an obstacle for anyone attempting a biography. Richard Layman made his appearance in Hammett studies with /Dashiell Hammett: A Bibliography/ in 1979, and Matthew Bruccoli published /Raymond Chandler: A Descriptive Bibliography/. In the 1980s both the genre and individual authors received well-developed academic treatments. Peter Wolfe published the first full length study of Hammett's work, /Beams Falling: The Art of Dashiell Hammett/, in 1980. More notable, however, was Roy Hoopes' massive biography of James M. Cain ( /Cain: The Biography of James M. Cain/, 1982), a long-overdue study of overwhelming detail, still the single most essential source on the author. Dennis Porter's /The Pursuit of Crime: Art and Ideology in Detective Fiction/ appeared in 1981, the first and still one of the best studies of the ideological structure of hard-boiled fiction, tracing its roots to English common law and custom. In 1981, working without Hellman's cooperation, Layman published the first true Hammett biography. /Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett /corrected many misconceptions about the writer and set straight the record on his McCarthy testimony, war record, and prison time. It was quickly followed by William Nolan's sequel to his earlier effort: /Hammett: A Life on the Edge/ (1983). Then Diane Johnson, selected as Hammett's official biographer and given access to Hellman's letters and recollections, produced a more interpretive biography, /Dashiell Hammett: A Life/ (1983). These three volumes have become the key Hammett biographical sources. Now that there were biographies on "The Big Three," interpretive overviews linking biography to fiction followed. Jerry Speir published on Chandler (/Raymond Chandler/, 1981) and William Marling on Hammett's literary development (/Dashiell Hammett/, 1983). Matthew J. Bruccoli (below right) contributed a pair, with /Kenneth Millar/ Ross Macdonald: A Descriptive Bibliography/ in 1983 and an album biography, /Ross Macdonald/, in 1984. In the mid-1980s there were new attempts to see the genre whole. Edward Margolies took up the issue of how detective heroes and the genre respond to social values in /Which Way Did He Go?/ (1982). William Stowe and Glenn Most gathered the best academic criticism to that point in a fine anthology, /The Poetics of Murder: Detective Fiction and Literary Theory/ (1983). William Nolan went back to the roots in his important collection /The Black Mask Boys/ (1985), a reprinting of original stories framed by invaluable biographical material. His original research on lesser-known figures makes this a key volume. Peter Wolfe rounded out his studies of the Big Three with /Something More Than Night: The Case of Raymond Chandler/ (1985) and William Marling provided his second literary/ biographical overview with /Raymond Chandler/ (1986). Robert E. Skinner contributed /The Hard-Boiled Explicator: A Guide to the Study of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald/ (1985), and David Madden continued his crusade on behalf of Cain in /Cain's Craft/ (1985). Earl F. Bargainnier edited /Comic Crime/ (1987), which contains significant essays by Frederick Issac on hard-boiled humor and Chouteau/Anderson on early hard-boiled woman detective Bertha Cool; this begins a trend toward examining more specialized aspects of the genre. As the decade closed, Paul Skenazy published an overview of Cain (/James M. Cain/,1989) and Ross Macdonald received a well-written biographical/ literary overview (/Ross Macdonald/, 1990) from Bernard Schopen. The relation of hard-boiled fiction to movies received attention in the early 1990s. Following on Jon Tuska's /Dark Cinema: American Film Noir in Cultural Perspective/ (1984), a pioneering work in the cultural studies mode, came Bruce Crowther's /Film Noir: Reflections in a Dark Mirror/ (1989), which linked the film genre's origin to fiction. Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward disputed this in a revision of their 1980 benchmark /Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style/ (1993), arguing that /film noir/ owes little to hard-boiled fiction. The 1993 edition covers more movies and adds valuable appendices on production dates, directors, writers and leads. In 1994 R. Barton Palmer entered the debate with his excellent /Hollywood's Dark Cinema: The American Film Noir/, which explains the genre in terms of the studio system and proposes a personal list of classics. William Marling's 1995 /The American Roman Noir: Hammett, Cain and Chandler/ examines the visual, economic and social forces behind the "noir" appearances of both movies and fiction. Once marginalized figures such as Cornell Woolrich and Chester Himes were also examined in the 1990s. Francis M. Nevins Jr. had published /Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die/ in 1988. Interest continued as Mark T. Bassett edited /Blues of a Lifetime/, Woolrich's autobiography (1991). That year also gave us Michael J. McCauley's /Jim Thompson: Sleep with the Devil/. The energetic Robert E. Skinner had taken up Himes in 1989 (/Two Guns from Harlem)/, the same year that Gilbert H. Muller published a fine overview (/Chester Himes/). Edward Margolies and Michel Fabre published a fine biography in 1997 (/The Several Lives of Chester Himes/). A major Thompson biography came from Robert Polito (/Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson/) in 1995. Marcus Klein took us back to the beginning of the proliferating genre in /Easterns, Westerns and Private Eyes/ (1994), probably the finest study of the ancestery of hard-boiled writing. Scholars representing most of the critical schools had taken up hard-boiled fiction by the 1990s. Steven Marcus pointed the way to deconstructive and metafictional interpretations (see above) Having written on Chandler, Peter Rabinowitz examined Hammett in terms of narrative theory. ^^2 Gregory Forter applied a "speculative Freudianism" derived from DeLeuze and others to masochism and sexuality in Hammett and Chandler. ^^3 James Guetti employed a reader response approach in "Aggressive Reading: Detective Fiction and Realistic Narrative." ^^4 Feminist approaches were highly productive in movies, as evidenced by Ann E. Kaplan's collection /Women in Film Noir/. ^^5 Surveys, overviews and reference volumes also dominated the mid-1990s. Gary Warren Niebuhr's /A Reader's Guide to the Private Eye Novel/ (1993) contains hundreds of brief plot summaries of hard-boiled fiction and indexes pseudonyms, story locations and such sub-genres as the female detective, boxing stories and serial killers. Chris Mettress' /The Critical Response to Dashiell Hammett/ (1994) offers an overview of Hammett scholarship and reprints several important essays. A companion volume edited by J. K. Van Dover, /The Critical Response to Raymond Chandler/ (1995) reprinted Frederic Jameson's "On Raymond Chandler," out of print since since Stowe/Most (1983) and essays by Tanner, Steiner, and Rabinowitz. Michael Stephens' /Film Noir: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Reference to Movies, Terms and Persons/ (1995) provided an objective corrective to Silver/Ward. Carlos Clarens' comprehensive /Crime Movies/ (1997) surveys that genre in such a way as to break down walls between it, film noir, and hard-boiled fiction. Another biography, /Raymond Chandler/, by Tom Hiney, appeared in 1997, making use of new documents at the Bodlian Library, but some reviewers disliked its interpretive style. In 1998 Scribner's published its massive two-volume /Mystery & Suspense Writers/ reference set, covering sixty-eight writers and fourteen theme/ genre topics. Thirteen of the individual subjects are hard-boiled writers: there are overviews of their works and brief bibliographies but scant biography. A definitive biography of Ross Macdonald finally arrived with Tom Nolan's /Ross Macdonald/ in 1999. There are a number of sources to which all scholars are in debt and which all researchers consult. The /Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection/, edited by Chris Steinbrunner and Otto Penzler (New York: McGraw Hill, 1976) and /Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers/, edited by John M. Reilly (New York: St. Martin's, 1980) are standard reference volumes. Allen Hubin's /Crime Fiction, 1749-1980/ (New York: Garland, 1984) and its supplement (1988) are invaluable, as is Robert A. Baker and Michael T. Nietzel's /Private Eyes: 101 Knights/ (Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1985). The Popular Press itself, led by Ray Browne, has been the major academic force in evaluating the genre, publishing dozens of studies and the journal /Clues/. Another invaluable journal is /The Armchair Detective/, edited by Otto Penzler. The late E. R. Hagmann did extensive archival research, especially on the /Black Mask/ writers, often published in /Clues/, that underlies many studies. His work is collected in /A Comprehensive Index to Black Mask, 1920 - 1951/, also published by Bowling Green State University Popular Press (1982). Study of hard-boiled fiction has become international in recent years. While most foreign scholars are engaged in cross-cultural comparisons ? Georges Simenon and Raymond Chandler, for example -- some have produced first-rate studies of American writers /per se/. Finnish scholar Jopi Nyman has written two of the more interesting gender studies of hard-boiled writers, both now translated into English. ^^6 Christian Kupchik's "Las desventuras de Raymond Chandler en Hollywood" is another worthy example. ^^7 Germany, India, Spain, and Japan stand out as nations interested in the genre. Not only are an unusual number of dissertations and articles being written on hard-boiled fiction in these countries, but the primary texts are widely available, though usually in translation. It is not unusual to find them in grocery store checkout kiosks or airport bookstores. Writers such as James Ellroy and Robert B. Parker have won audiences, and augmented them through speaking tours, in Austria, France, and the Far East. Parker has even endorsed products on Japanese television. Hard-boiled spin-offs, particularly in television, exist in practically every nation with television production facilities. Dutch, German and French variants can be particularly hard-boiled. The same young Europeans who adore Charles Bukowski and William Burroughs also read Jim Thompson and Cornell Woolrich. Hard-boiled narrative has become international; in the era of global capitalism, it may be the best-selling global genre. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ ^1 Raymond Chandler, "The Simple Art of Murder," /The Simple Art of Murder/ (New York: Ballantine) 1972, 16-17. ^2 Peter Rabinowitz, "'How Did You Know He Licked His Lips?': Second-Person Knowledge and First Person Power in /The Maltese Falcon/," in James Phelan, editor, /Understanding Narrative/ (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1994), vi, 234. ^3 Gregory Forter," Criminal Pleasures, Pleasurable Crime," /Style/: 29:3, Fall 1995, 423-440. ^4 James Guetti, "Aggressive Reading: Detective Fiction and Realistic Narrative," in Chris Mettress, ed., /The Critical Responses to Raymond Chandler/ (Westport, CT.: Greenwood, 1995), 139-44. ^5 Ann E. Kaplan, /Women in Film Noir/. (London: British Film Institute, 1980). ^6 Jopi Nyman, /Men Alone: Masculinity, Individualism, and Hard-Boiled Fiction. /(Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997); /Hard-Boiled Fiction and Dark Romanticism/ (New York: Peter Lang, 1998). ^7 Christian Kupchik, "Las desventuras de Raymond Chandler en Hollywood" /Quimera: Revista de Literatura/. Barcelona: Quimera, 1991. 102, 53-57.