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)