RARA-AVIS: Book review in Journal of Social History

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 09 Apr 2004

I stumbled across this tonight: Jay Hopler's "Watching the Detectives: Reading Dime Novels and Hard-boiled Detective Stories in Context" (Journal of Social History, Winter 2002), which is available free at


It's a book review of four books, including HARD-BOILED: WORKING-CLASS READERS AND PULP MAGAZINES by Erin A. Smith (2002), which looks like the most interesting of the three academic titles mentioned (though I just picked up MECHANIC ACCENTS: DIME NOVELS AND WORKING-CLASS CULTURE IN AMERICA, by Michael Denning (1998), which the review mentions, and that's how I found it).

Hopler riles us immediately by saying he paid no attention to hardboiled pulp, then, when he did, didn't like it. He gets into some fancy talk about critical theory, but the quotes from Smith's book look interesting:

| Black Mask ads and fiction were presented as almost seamlessly
| connected. Ads urged readers to become skilled, well-paid workers;
| hard-boiled heroes knocked heads with clients and agency owners over
| their workplace autonomy. Ads urged readers to remake themselves into
| real men; Black Mask fiction gave them role models. Ads focused readers'
| attention on the wrinkles in their clothes, the errors in their speech,
| and the vulgarity of their manners; the magazine's heroes offered
| instruction in reading how class, gender, and power relationships were
| embodied in dress and bearing.

The entire review is worth a look. Have any rare birds read Smith's book? It hasn't been mentioned in the archives.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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