Publication Year: 2000
Relying on pulp magazine advertising, the memoirs of writers and publishers, Depression-era studies of adult reading habits, social and labor history, Smith offers an innovative account of how these popular stories were generated and read. She shows that although the work of pulp fiction authors like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Erle Stanley Gardner have become “classics” of popular culture, the hard-boiled genre was dominated by hack writers paid by the word, not self-styled artists. Pulp magazine editors and writers emphasized a gritty realism in the new genre. Unlike the highly rational and respectable British protagonists (Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, for instance), tough-talking American private eyes relied as much on their fists as their brains as they made their way through tangled plotlines.
Casting working-class readers of pulp fiction as “poachers,” Smith argues that they understood these stories as parables about Taylorism, work, and manhood; as guides to navigating consumer culture; as sites for managing anxieties about working women. Engaged in re-creating white, male privilege for the modern, heterosocial world, pulp detective fiction shaped readers into consumers by selling them what they wanted to hear – stories about manly artisan-heroes who resisted encroaching commodity culture and the female consumers who came with it. Commenting on the genre’s staying power, Smith considers contemporary detective fiction by women, minority, and gay and lesbian writers.
Published by: Temple University Press
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"I have incurred a great many material, intellectual, and emotional debts over the course of this project. A Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities paid for most of my graduate education and let me take a year off from teaching in order to write. The 1996-97 Simone de Beauvoir Named Instructorship in Literature from the Duke University Graduate School..."
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"What's a nice girl like you doing in a genre like this?" In the five years I have spent researching and writing this book, I have been asked some version of this question more times than I can count. The gendering of hard-boiled fiction is comprehensive, persistent, and on occasion embarrassing. My favorite moment occurred at a panel on masculinity..."
Part I: Reconstructing Readers
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"How can we re-create something as ephemeral as reading once the readers who interest us are dead? How can we reconstruct the lives and views of those who have left few traces in the historical record? These are the methodological problems at the center of Part One. Wealthy people with access to education and print media..."
The Hard-Boiled Writer and the literary Marketplace
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"It is not pleasant to think of the immature minds and mature appetites that feed on that such stuff as their staple fodder, but there is no ducking the fact that sensationalism is the age-old need of the uneducated. The steady reader of this kind of fiction is interested in and stirred by the same things that would interest and stir a savage."
The Adman on the Shop Floor: Workers, Consumer Culture, and the Pulps
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"Pulpwood magazines offer two methods of escape from reality: one, by their fiction - that magic carpet that carries the reader off to parts unknown; the other, by their advertising of comparatively inexpensive means to keep the reader physically and mentally fit so that he can take the hero's part in any romantic adventure he reads about, or dreams of having himself."
Part II : Reading Hard-Boiled Fiction
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"The expression of the readers' predispositions, and hence their influence, does not stop once the publication is in the readers' hands. Other acts of "selection" take place during the actual reading and affect the readers' interpretations. "
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"The hard-boiled detective seems an unlikely proletarian hero.1 He is not a worker in the traditional sense, or even labor's ally. Like the operatives of the most famous detective agency, the Pinkertons, who functioned largely as strikebreakers, the private detective is usually hired to protect the interests of those with..."
Dressed to Kill
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"Merle Constiner's 'The Turkey Buzzard Blues,' which ran in the July 1943 issue of Black Mask, introduced Lute McGavock, a private eye who pays obsessively close attention to interior decoration. In one passage, McGavock studies a wealthy client's library: 'The mansion's library reeked wealth. The powder-blue rug had a two inch..."
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"It is doubtful if even Ernest Hemmingway has ever written more effective dialogue than may be found within the pages of his extraordinary tale of gunment, gin and gangsters. The author displays a style of amazing clarity and compactness, devoid of literary frills and furbelows, and his characters, who race through the story with the..."
The Office Wife
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"In the nineteenth century, men were confident . .. but in the twentieth century the men have no confidence and so they have to make themselves...more beautiful more intriguing more everything and they cannot make any other man because they have to hold on to themselves not having any confidence. "
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"The hard-boiled private eye is a special figure in American mythology...It's a staple of the myth that he should be a cynical loner, a man at odds with society and its values. That is not something women normally relate to. Women aren't cynical loners - that's not how they like to work. It seems to me that if they want to go into the profession..."
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Publication Year: 2000