What are the ingredients of a hard-boiled detective story? "Savagery, style, sophistication, sleuthing and sex," said Ellery Queen. Often a desperate blond, a jealous husband, and, of course, a tough-but-tender P.I. the likes of Sam Spade or Philop Marlowe. Perhaps Raymond Chandler summed it up best in his description of Dashiell Hammett's style: "Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it....He put these people down on paper as they were, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes."
Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories is the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind, with over half of the stories never published before in book form. Included are thirty-six sublimely suspenseful stories that chronicle the evolutiuon of this quintessentially American art form, from its earliest beginnings during the Golden Age of the legendary pulp magazine Black Mask in the 1920s, to the arrival of the tough digest Manhunt in the 1950s, and finally leading up to present-day hard-boiled stories by such writers as James Ellroy. Here are eight decades worth of the best writing about betrayal, murder, and mayhem: from Hammett's 1925 tour de force "The Scorched Face," in which the disappearance of two sisters leads Hammett's never-named detective, the Continental Op, straight into a web of sexual blackmail amidst the West Coast elite, to Ed Gorman's 1992 "The Long Silence After," a gripping and powerful rendezvous involving a middle class insurance executive, a Chicago streetwalker, and a loaded .38. Other delectable contributions include "Brush Fire" by James M. Cain, author of The Postman Always Rings Twice, Raymond Chandler's "I'll Be Waiting," where, for once, the femme fatale is not blond but a redhead, a Ross Macdonald mystery starring Macdonald's most famous creation, the cryptic Lew Archer, and "The Screen Test of Mike Hammer" by the one and only Micky Spillane. The hard-boiled cult has more in common with the legendary lawmen of the Wild West than with the gentleman and lady sleuths of traditional drawing room mysteries, and this direct line of descent is on brilliant display in two of the most subtle and tautly written stories in the collection, Elmore Leonard's "3:10 to Yuma" and John D. MacDonald's "Nor Iron Bars." Other contributors include Evan Hunter (better known as Ed McBain), Jim Thompson, Helen Nielsen, Margaret Maron, Andrew Vachss, Faye Kellerman, and Lawrence Block.
Compellingly and compulsively readable, Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories is a page-turner no mystery lover will want to be without. Containing many notable rarities, it celebrates a genre that has profoundly shaped not only American literature and film, but how we see our heroes and oursleves.
|Publisher:||Oxford University Press, USA|
|Edition description:||Revised ed.|
|Product dimensions:||8.00(w) x 5.25(h) x 1.05(d)|
About the Author
Bill Pronzini is a well-known mystery and suspense writer of over forty novels, and is best known as the creator of the "Nameless Detective" series. He served as the first president of the Private Eye Writers of America, and won that organization's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. Jack Adrian is an authority on popular and genre fiction in the twentieth century, and is the author of many books, and editor and co-editor of numerous anthologies, including Crime at Christmas, The Art of the Impossible, and The Oxford Book of Historical Stories.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A collection of 36 of the very best hardboiled stories filling more than 500 pages and arranged decade by decade, commencing in the 1920s and finishing up-to-date in the '90s. All of the usual suspects are present: Hammett, Chandler, Cain (both James M and Paul), Burnett representing the early years, with Goodis, Himes, Gil Brewer, Mickey Spillane, John D MacDonald, Ross Macdonald, and others standing in for the '40s and '50s. The later years are represented by the likes of Jim Thompson, Andrew Vachss, James Ellroy, Lawrence Block and Ed Gorman.The editors are experts in their field, and an excellent feature of the book is the one- or two-page biographical overview of each author, preceding their work. The book also sports a useful long introduction by the editors which attempts to define the sub-genre of hardboiled crime fiction and to set it into proper context. In this task they succeed well, and the entire book is a delight to browse through and dip into -- to sample again the old favourites and also to learn about the lesser known. An essential buy for the lover of the hardboiled.
Representative stories from the beginning of the genre/form until the book's publication (1995), organized by decade. Heavy on the 1930s and 1950s. By page count, about half the book comprises what I think of as hard-boiled crime, 3/4 of which are in the first half of the book. The other stories, not so much. They're good, mostly, but hardly hard-boiled, as most people understand the term.Part of the problem, as I see it, is evident in the introductory essay, where they spend three and a half half-assed, contradictory pages failing to describe what makes a hard-boiled crime story. They float a number of terms, some familiar to lit-crit and some not. They don't detail the application of the familiar ones to the hard-boiled story, and they don't even define the unfamiliar ones. They even seem to lump 'hard-boiled' and 'noir.' So, in the remainder of the essay, which is basically a 15-page publishing history of the genre/form/whatever (they use both words, apparently interchangeably), when they say that this author or that period expanded the definition or broadened the genre/form/whatever, I was left wondering, WTF? Because as far as I can tell, most of the later (mid-1950s on) stories that are included can only be included if one uses a (to my mind) overly broad definition of hard-boiled, which they do, but they never tell you what their definition is. They just paste on the hard-boiled label to suit themselves. All of this is particularly ironic given their complaint in the first paragraph of the intro essay about the misuse and misunderstanding of the hard-boiled label and genre/form/whatever.In summary: good stories, bad anthologizing.