African-American detectives & authors

  Chester Himes was not the first black crime or detective novelist, or the first with a black detective. Rudolph Fisher (1897 - 1934), below right, an African-American, holds that distinction, for a little-known classic of the Harlem Renaissance, The Conjure-Man Dies (1932), which featured a black police detective and a black policeman who investigate … Continue reading African-American detectives & authors

The Big Sleep (novel & film)

Chandler's first novel introduces Philip Marlowe, the genre's most influential series detective. His wise-cracking style and capacity to endure punishment from his foes introduced a new kind of "performance" to hard-boiled fiction, in which victory was more often verbal than physical. Chandler's ironic tone and extraordinary metaphors focused readers on individual scenes, which he excelled … Continue reading The Big Sleep (novel & film)

Cotton Comes to Harlem (novel & film)

Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965) is the eighth of ten "Harlem Domestic" detective novels that Himes wrote, and it follows the formula of its predecessors. An outrageous crime causes a chain-reaction of violence in "lawless" Harlem. Black detectives "Coffin" Ed Jones and "Gravedigger" Johnson are called in to restore order. The initial event in this … Continue reading Cotton Comes to Harlem (novel & film)

Double Indemnity (novel & film)

James M. Cain (right) had written an eight-part serial, "Double Indemnity," for Liberty magazine in 1936. Part reworking of Postman, part recollection of his youth selling insurance, the novel Double Indemnity  (1941)  portrayed a corporate/legal control of life that amounted to "double jeopardy" and appealed to Depression readers' sense of helplessness. (Hoopes 1982: 248).    … Continue reading Double Indemnity (novel & film)

Farewell, My Lovely (novel & film)

Farewell, My Lovely (1940) is famous for its metaphors. Chandler's second novel also features one of the richest troves of grotesque characters in American literature. The plot may be disjointed but the theme is sure. This was Chandler's favorite novel, and many critics think it his best. Foremost among the grotesques is Moose Malloy, a … Continue reading Farewell, My Lovely (novel & film)