Frederick Nebel Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Although Frederick Nebel published three novels, two of which have to do with crime, his major contribution was the large number of hard-boiled short stories he wrote between 1926 and 1937. Along with Dashiell Hammett, Carroll John Daly, Raoul Whitfield, Erle Stanley Gardner, and a few others, he was one of the writers closely associated with the magazine Black Mask under the editorship of Joseph Shaw. Although his later decision to abandon crime fiction in favor of slicker, mass-market journalism has led to his being almost completely forgotten, Nebel should be considered one of the seminal figures in the development of the hard-boiled style. Grimy, realistic, graphically violent, and often pitiless in their contempt for human frailty, his best stories merit the same serious literary consideration given to those of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Breu, Christopher. Hard-Boiled Masculinities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005. Study of the representation of masculinity in hard-boiled detective fiction that sheds light on Nebel’s works.

Goulart, Ron. Cheap Thrills: An Informal History of the Pulp Magazine. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1972. Discusses the success and evolution of pulp fiction, focusing on the most famous characters to come from the genre, as well as such great pulp magazines as Black Mask. Provides perspective on Nebel.

Haining, Peter. The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2000. Looks at Nebel’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 Nebel’s Six Deadly Games, Sleepers East, and The Adventures of Cardigan.

Lewis, Dave. “The Backbone of Black Mask.” Clues 2 (Fall/Winter, 1981): 118-127. Profile of Nebel emphasizing his indispensable role in Black Mask’s publication.

Madden, David, ed. Tough Guy Writers of the Thirties. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1968. Profile of the hard-boiled pulp writers who made “tough guy” detectives famous. Provides context for understanding Nebel.

Nolan, William F. The Black Mask Boys: Masters in the Hard-Boiled School of Detective Fiction. New York: W. Morrow, 1985. Profile of Nebel and such compatriots as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Erle Stanley Gardner.