I'm afraid we may be boring the others in the group, so I'll keep this short (or try). If no one else chimes in, perhaps we can write back and forth on our own.
I'm not sure that the more forgiving portrayal of disreputable characters is modern. Think Richard III, Macbeth, Coriolanus, etc. It might even be said the Trojans are portrayed more favorably in The Iliad than the Greeks are.
Conrad's "villains" in Under Western Eyes and The Secret Agent are all eminently human -- and I know a number of crime writers who were influenced by those books. (Well, a few.)
The Thirties was an orgy of crime-writing that accepted the less-than-virtuous hero as acceptable: Nightmare Alley and They Shoot Horses Don't They being two examples off the top of my head. What we now call film noir was simply the immersion of the existential hero, as conceived by primarily European directors working in Hollywood, into the crime story.
The conservative backlash began in the 1950s with They Walk By Night, the first police procedural film that I know of: Criminals aren't like us, and we're not criminal at heart. Criminals are pathological predators that need to be hunted down and destroyed by smart, brave, virtuous men and women.
That's the divide to me. The left sees every person as morally mixed, capable of both good and evil, just to varying degrees. Conservatives tend to divide the world into good people vs. bad people. Or is that overly simplistic?
As for being on a first-name basis with Megan Abbott: It's easy. Go to one of her readings, introduce yourself. She's one of the most gracious, warm, welcoming and approachable people I know. Seriously.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 01 Jun 2010 EDT