Carroll John Daly Analysis


Usually credited with creating the hard-boiled detective, Carroll John Daly began his writing career in 1922, and between that year and his death he published more than a dozen novels and 250 short stories. Daly was a pathfinder whose writing skills were unpolished but whose sense of audience in the 1920’s and early 1930’s was unerring. Race Williams, the protagonist in eight novels and a number of the short stories, became the prototype out of which Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer, and Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer developed. Not a gifted writer, Daly focused on providing his readers with violent physical action and uncomplicated plots. Race Williams uses his handguns and his fists in a direct assault on evildoers. He is always his own man. The novels and tales are heavily laden with racial and sexual stereotyping; their popularity in the decades before World War II attests that Daly understood the popular mind.


Anderson, George Parker, and Julie B. Anderson, eds. American Hard-Boiled Crime Writers. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. Daly is one of about thirty authors covered in this survey of the genre.

Barson, Michael S. “’There’s No Sex in Crime’: The Two-Fisted Homilies of Race Williams.” Clues: A Journal of Detection 2 (Fall/Winter, 1981): 103-112. Examines the character of Race Williams created by Daly.

Geherin, David. “Birth of a Hero.” In The American Private Eye: The Image in Fiction. New York: F. Ungar, 1985. Credits Daly with the creation of the hard-boiled detective figure.

Haining, Peter. The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2000. Looks at Daly’s contribution to the pulps and the relationship of pulp fiction to its more respectable literary cousins.

Horsley, Lee. The Noir Thriller. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Scholarly, theoretically informed study of the thriller genre. Includes readings of Daly’s The Snarl of the Beast and The Adventures of Satan Hall.

Moore, Lewis D. Cracking the Hard-Boiled Detective: A Critical History from the 1920’s to the Present. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2006. Detailed study of hard-boiled detective fiction tracing its origins and subsequent evolution. Contains a discussion of Daly. Bibliographic references and index.