By Peter Swirski
Peter Swirski appears at American crime fiction as an artform that expresses and displays the social and aesthetic values of its authors and readers. As such he files the manifold ways that such authorship and readership are a question of educated literary selection and never of cultural brainwashing or declining literary criteria. Asking, in impact, a sequence of questions on the character of style fiction as paintings, successive chapters examine American crime writers whose careers throw mild at the risks and rewards of nobrow site visitors among renowned types and intellectual aesthetics: Dashiell Hammett, John Grisham, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, Ed McBain, Nelson DeMille, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
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Peter Swirski appears to be like at American crime fiction as an artform that expresses and displays the social and aesthetic values of its authors and readers. As such he records the manifold ways that such authorship and readership are an issue of knowledgeable literary selection and never of cultural brainwashing or declining literary criteria.
Extra resources for American Crime Fiction: A Cultural History of Nobrow Literature as Art
But to appreciate how much some genre bestsellers have in common with the classics and how much some of our classics owe to genreflecting, we need to better appreciate their nobrow design. Eliot—a highbrows’ highbrow, an enemy of mass culture, and a closet devotee of Sherlock Holmes. Often working against the critical grain, they have brought the native variety of crime story up from the basement while documenting the raw power of its storytelling and the lingering darkness of its social vision.
What he found in them was akin to his own literary inclinations: laconic and grim realism, highly structured but action-driven narration, sophisticated appreciation of social hierarchy, preoccupation with loyalty and honor, and not least heroes: granite hard, taciturn, not given to emotional excess. Mencken and his partner, George Nathan, founded the lowbrow magazine Black Mask in order to subsidize their highbrow Smart Set. Hammett became an avid reader and, soon after, regular contributor to the magazine that already featured one hardboiled detective created by Carroll John Daly.
See Hawkins (1991); Swirski (2005). 17. See Gans, especially Chap. 9; Tötösy de Zepetnek and Kreisel. 18. Barsch. 19. Data are consistent over the decades, from Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955) to Gans (1974) to Zuidervaart and Luttikhuizen (2000); on the literary side, see Swirski (2005); Driscoll. 20. The same argument in the context of American movies—in this case early Westerns—is made by Sklar in Chap. 2, “Nickel Madness”. 21. Philips. 22. See classic studies by Dalziel (1957); Gans (1974); this stratification is predicated on the classical social model of five classes—see BBC News (2013) on seven social classes in the UK.
American Crime Fiction: A Cultural History of Nobrow Literature as Art by Peter Swirski