Hard-Boiled Fiction Criticism: Major Authors - Essay

E. R. Hagemann (essay date 1979)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hagemann, E. R. “Introducing Paul Cain and his Fast One: A Forgotten Hard-Boiled Writer, a Forgotten Gangster Novel.” Armchair Detective 12, no. 1 (1979): 72-76.

[In the following essay, Hagemann presents an overview of the career of hard-boiled writer Paul Cain, author of the novel Fast One—“the best of its kind ever to appear,” according to Hagemann.]


During his professional writing career, 1932-1948, he used Paul Cain for his fiction and Peter Ruric for his movie work, passing off the latter as his real name; yet he was born George Sims in Iowa, 30 May 1902. Nothing is known of his personal life and...

(The entire section is 4491 words.)

James Naremore (essay date 1983)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Naremore, James. “Dashiell Hammett and the Poetics of Hard-Boiled Detection.” In Art in Crime Writing: Essays on Detective Fiction, edited by Bernard Benstock, pp. 49-72. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983.

[In the following essay, Naremore discusses style, characterization, and themes in the novels of Dashiell Hammett, praising his handling of language and placing his works in historical context.]


Dashiell Hammett is a profoundly romantic figure, and the most important writer of detective fiction in America after Edgar Allan Poe. During the years when he was doing his best work—chiefly the late 1920s—he managed to reconcile...

(The entire section is 9590 words.)

James F. Maxfield (essay date spring 1985)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Maxfield, James F. “Hard-Boiled Dicks and Dangerous Females: Sex and Love in the Detective Fiction of Dashiell Hammett.” Clues 6, no. 1 (spring 1985): 107-23.

[In the following essay, Maxfield focuses on Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key, suggesting that the author's seemingly straightforward, objective style contrasts with the ambiguous, self-contradictory characterizations in the novel.]

The Glass Key is perhaps the most controversial and problematic of Dashiell Hammett's five novels. Julian Symons gives the novel his highest praise: “The Glass Key is the peak of Hammett's achievement, which is to say the peak of the crime writer's...

(The entire section is 6371 words.)

David Wilt (essay date 1991)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wilt, David. “Dwight V. Babcock.” In Hardboiled in Hollywood, pp. 121-47. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1991.

[In the following excerpt, Wilt recounts the varied career of hard-boiled writer Dwight V. Babcock, evaluating his achievements in the fields of the novel, pulp fiction, screenwriting, and television work.]

Dwight V. Babcock's writing career spanned more than 25 years, and included numerous short stories, several novels, and many motion picture and television scripts. From 1934 to 1939 he was one of the more popular and prolific writers for Black Mask, considered the apex of detective/mystery fiction pulp...

(The entire section is 10385 words.)

Geoff Mayer (essay date 1993)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mayer, Geoff. “A Hard-Boiled World: Goodbye Paradise and The Empty Beach.Literature/Film Quarterly 21, no. 2 (1993): 112-19.

[In the following essay, Mayer discusses film adaptations of Raymond Chandler's works, commenting on ways in which Chandler's style becomes altered in the screen realizations of his novels.]

In anything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, … and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. … He must be, to use a...

(The entire section is 5145 words.)