Re: RARA-AVIS: critical studies on the origins of hard-boiled?

Date: 04 Sep 2002


Re your question below:

> Does anyone know of a good critical study on the
> origins of hard-boiled,
> especially the genre's 19th century dime novel
> roots? I'm looking for a study
> which examines the influence of the Old King
> Brady/Old Cap Collier/Nick Carter
> genre of dime novels on the early hard-boileds. Is
> there such a thing?

There are books which talk about how dime novels eventually transformed into pulp magazines. However, thay emphasize the changes in the magazine publishing indutry. Aside from the fact that Carroll John Daly was clearly influenced by the melodrama he'd grown up with, I think you'd find that the influence of dime-nvel detective stories on their Prohibition/Depression-era descendants would be negligible. The social phenomenons that contributed most to the rise of the hard-boiled crime story was, first of all, World War I which desensitized readers, particularly men, to violence, second of all, Prohoibition and the rise in gangsterism and corruption that accompanied it, and, finally, the Depression, which solidified the cynicism that had been growing all through the '20s.

If anything, you could argue that hard-boiled influenced the dime novel characters. When Nick Carter first appeared in the 19th Century, he was a
"Great Detective" more or less in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes (for all that he preceded Holmes by perhaps a year). When he resurfaced in his own pulp magazine in the 1930s, he'd become a more or less hard-boiled private eye. Thirty years later, changes in what was popular in mystery fiction (and what wasn't) caused him to metamorphisize yet again into the "American version of James Bond" for a series of paperback orignals by various writers (including our own Bill Crider).


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