Cleve F. Adams was one of few pulp writers to make the successful transition to hardcover publication. Although he is an underrated author, eclipsed by his contemporary, Raymond Chandler , Adams brought a new dimension to the genre. Chandler’s image of the private investigator as knight-errant is inverted by Adams into the image of private investigator as antihero. Working in the hard-boiled tradition of Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, Adams has been acclaimed as “one of the best of the tough detective story writers of the middle and late thirties.” His private-investigator novels have been described as unique, having captured “the gray and gritty feel of the time as powerfully as Chandler” and having created an enduring image of the private detective. Adams regarded motive and characterization as the essential elements of mystery and detective fiction. His fast-paced novels present convincing, credible characters and capture the political violence and corruption of the 1930’s.
Baker, Robert A., and Michael T. Nieztzel. Private Eyes: 101 Knights—A Survey of American Detective Fiction, 1922-1984. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1985. Discusses the distinctively American aspects of Adams’s work. Indexes.
Geherin, David. The American Private Eye: The Image in Fiction. New York: F. Ungar, 1985. Examines fictional American private detectives in relation to their British precursors and counterparts. Sheds light on Adams’s work. Bibliography and index.
Moore, Lewis D. Cracking the Hard-Boiled Detective: A Critical History from the 1920s to the Present. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2006. A study of the hard-boiled subgenre from Raymond Chandler to Sue Grafton; provides a framework for understanding Adams.
Nevins, Francis M., Jr. “The World of Cleve F. Adams.” The Armchair Detective 8 (1974/1975): 195-201. Discusses the rules and conventions unique to Adams’s fiction and the character types that inhabit it.
Scaggs, John. Crime Fiction. New York: Routledge, 2005. Contains an essay on hard-boiled fiction as well as a section on the Golden Age of mystery; provides a background against which to place Adams.