Abstract

This article argues that Dashiell Hammett’s least-known novel, The Dain Curse, which is often read as a metacritique of the detective form, actually operates as a hard-boiled critique of the competing pulp weird tale, most associated with H. P. Lovecraft. Hammett’s novel exposes the weird tale’s inherent nativism and its implicit reliance on notions of the criminally degenerate body popularized by Cesare Lombroso. The Dain Curse dismantles the positivism of Lombrosian criminology, weird fiction, and—by extension—the classical ratiocinative detective tradition, and their attendant eugenic epistemology.

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