Howard Fast Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

E. V. Cunningham is the pseudonym used by Howard Fast for his mystery fiction. Notable for his prolific output (two or more books a year), he brought a social conscience to the detective genre, with works that expose the pitfalls of power and wealth and the virtues of the simple life. Cunningham was praised for his lifelike characters and action-packed narratives, but it was his commitment to liberal and humanitarian values that truly distinguished his work. His novels are characterized by a sympathetic treatment of women: They are portrayed as courageous, witty, and in some ways superior to men in intuition, reason, and values, empathizing with cultural outcasts, understanding of the pressures that sometimes force decent men to conform, and disdainful of prejudice, hypocrisy, and abuse of power. His Nisei detective allowed him to explore the values of Zen philosophy while facing the materialism and inhumanity of the rich. In sum, Cunningham combined political statement with enjoyable entertainment.

Howard Fast Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Browne, Ray. “E. V. Cunningham: The Case of the Poisoned Society.” In Heroes and Humanities: Detective Fiction and Culture. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1986. Cunningham is discussed in the context of a study of humanist ideology in American, Canadian, and Australian detective fiction.

Deloux, Jean-Pierre, ed. “Howard Fast.” Polar 125 (October 15, 1982): 163-185. Survey of the author’s works, his life, and his politics.

Fast, Howard. Being Red. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Cunningham’s autobiographical reflections on the difficulties of being a communist writer in the United States.

Macdonald, Andrew. Howard Fast: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Detailed critical inquiry into Cunningham’s life and work. Bibliographic references and index.

McLellan, Dennis. “Howard Fast, Eighty-eight: Novels Included Spartacus.” Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2003, p. B13. Obituary of Cunningham deals with his life and works. Notes his use of Cunningham pseudonym while blacklisted.

Meyer, Herschel D. History and Conscience: The Case of Howard Fast. New York, Anvil-Atlas, 1958. Brief but focused study of Cunningham’s representation of morality and conscience.

Pepper, Andrew. The Contemporary American Crime Novel: Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Class. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000. Examination of the representation and importance of various categories of identity in mainstream American crime fiction. Particularly useful for analyzing Cunningham’s women and his Japanese sleuth.