Monday, November 9, 2009

Hard-boiled Detective Novels

Last month, the Tuesday night book group read Agatha Christie, the premier author of "cozy" or English village mysteries. Across the Atlantic, the mystery took on a very different form: that of the hard-boiled detective story which first appeared in such pulp fiction magazines as the Black Mask whose contributors included Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. The tough-guy detective operates in an entirely urban environment, rather than in the cozy village settings of Miss Marple and M. Poirot. Hammett’s Sam Spade and Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and other such gumshoes do not ratiocinate successfully to solve the crimes, but rather they blunder through their books being bopped, “packing heat”, meeting shady dames, drinking too much hootch, with or without a Mickey Finn, and all that hooey. The plots are not as logical as in the British mysteries; the language is colorful, the action violent.
The Tuesday Night Book Group members will each read a book or story by Hammett or Chandler to discuss at the November 10th meeting at 7:30 pm in the Library Meeting Room.
Suggested titles: Hammett’s most famous book was the Maltese Falcon, his best, the Glass Key and his most successful – the Thin Man.
Chandler’s first four Philip Marlowe books were among his best (The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely, The High Window, The Lady in the Lake); his successes were The Big Sleep, The Lady in the Lake and the Long Goodbye.
For a list of the authors’ books in chronological and series order, go to
The Black Mask lives on at with newly published stories by contemporary hard boiled authors like Ed Lynskey and also featuring some archived material.
Recommended contemporary hard-boiled authors are John D. MacDonald (1916 – 1986) who wrote the Travis McGee series and Robert B. Parker (1932 - ) who writes the Spenser series. Parker also wrote two sequels to the Philip Marlowe books called Poodle Springs and Perchance to Dream.

1 comment:

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