Horace McCoy Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In 1946 a dispatch from Paris to The New York Times Book Review revealed a rather surprising aspect of the effect of American fiction on the Continent and in England: Horace McCoy was being “hailed as the peer of Steinbeck and Hemingway” and regarded as the first American existentialist. American writers and readers may well have asked, who is Horace McCoy that he should have made such an impact in Europe? In 1946 he was the nearly forgotten author of one of the best tough-guy novels of the 1930’s: They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, a short, terse, first-person description of a dance marathon that ends in a mercy killing. His second novel, No Pockets in a Shroud, the violent story of a newspaperman’s attempt to expose crime in Dallas politics, first appeared in England and was published in the United States only in paperback (1948). While I Should Have Stayed Home, an account of the despairing lives of two Hollywood film extras, was published in the United States, it commanded little attention. McCoy’s fourth novel, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, the violent tale of a Phi Beta Kappa scholar turned gangster, offered little to explain McCoy’s importance in Europe. His last novel, Scalpel, the story of a coal miner’s ruthless rise to riches as a surgeon, reveals qualities in McCoy’s fiction that may account for his appeal: violence, despair, frustration, and a compressed, vivid, muscular style. Corruption City, a screen treatment about a law professor’s crusade against organized crime that was published...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Fine, David. “Beginning in the Thirties: The Los Angeles Fiction of James M. Cain and Horace McCoy.” In Los Angeles in Fiction, edited by David Fine. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984. A view of McCoy as a seminal writer of California fiction.

Geherin, David. “Tough Guy Literature.” In American Novelists 1910-1945, edited by James J. Martine. Vol. 9 of The Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1981. McCoy is discussed in the context of his fellow Black Mask writers.

Nolan, William F. “Behind the Mask: Horace McCoy.” In The Black Mask Boys. New York: William Morrow, 1985. An accessible biocritical introduction to Horace McCoy.

Nyman, Jopi. Hard-Boiled Fiction and Dark Romanticism. New York: P. Lang, 1998. Considers McCoy as a practitioner of noir fiction, along with Hammett, Hemingway, and Cain.

Sturak, Thomas. “Horace McCoy, Captain Shaw, and the Black Mask.” In Mystery and Detection Annual, edited by Donald Adams. Beverley Hills, Calif.: Donald Adams, 1973. Provides an invaluable analysis of McCoy’s early pulp fiction.

Sturak, Thomas. “Horace McCoy’s Objective Lyricism.” In Tough Guy Writers of the Thirties, edited by David Madden. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1968. Remains the single best study of McCoy’s writing.

Winchell, Mark Royden. Horace McCoy. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1982. The only full-length study published to date is this monograph of McCoy’s work. It focuses exclusively on McCoy’s novels.