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Hardboiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories Oxford University Press USA Bill Pronzini

5th July 2013 Literature & Fiction 0 Comments

What are the ingredients of a hard-boiled detective story? “Savagery, style, sophistication, sleuthing and sex,” said Ellery Queen. Often a desperate blond, a jealous husband, and, of course, a tough-but-tender P.I. the likes of Sam Spade or Philop Marlowe. Perhaps Raymond Chandler summed it up best in his description of Dashiell Hammett’s style: “Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it….He put these people down on paper as they were, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes.”

Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories is the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind, with over half of the stories never published before in book form. Included are thirty-six sublimely suspenseful stories that chronicle the evolutiuon of this quintessentially American art form, from its earliest beginnings during the Golden Age of the legendary pulp magazine Black Mask in the 1920s, to the arrival of the tough digest Manhunt in the 1950s, and finally leading up to present-day hard-boiled stories by such writers as James Ellroy. Here are eight decades worth of the best writing about betrayal, murder, and mayhem: from Hammett’s 1925 tour de force “The Scorched Face,” in which the disappearance of two sisters leads Hammett’s never-named detective, the Continental Op, straight into a web of sexual blackmail amidst the West Coast elite, to Ed Gorman’s 1992 “The Long Silence After,” a gripping and powerful rendezvous involving a middle class insurance executive, a Chicago streetwalker, and a loaded .38. Other delectable contributions include “Brush Fire” by James M. Cain, author of The Postman Always Rings Twice, Raymond Chandler’s “I’ll Be Waiting,” where, for once, the femme fatale is not blond but a redhead, a Ross Macdonald mystery starring Macdonald’s most famous creation, the cryptic Lew Archer, and “The Screen Test of Mike Hammer” by the one and only Micky Spillane. The hard-boiled cult has more in common with the legendary lawmen of the Wild West than with the gentleman and lady sleuths of traditional drawing room mysteries, and this direct line of descent is on brilliant display in two of the most subtle and tautly written stories in the collection, Elmore Leonard’s “3:10 to Yuma” and John D. MacDonald’s “Nor Iron Bars.” Other contributors include Evan Hunter (better known as Ed McBain), Jim Thompson, Helen Nielsen, Margaret Maron, Andrew Vachss, Faye Kellerman, and Lawrence Block.

Compellingly and compulsively readable, Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories is a page-turner no mystery lover will want to be without. Containing many notable rarities, it celebrates a genre that has profoundly shaped not only American literature and film, but how we see our heroes and oursleves.

Prolific anthologist and mystery writer Pronzini (the Nameless Detective series) and Adrian (Detective Stories for the Strand) have compiled a superb anthology of gritty crime fiction. Grouped by decade, from the 1920s to the ’90s, the stories sample some of the best crime writers, many of whom cut their teeth on pulp, including Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald, Mickey Spillane, James M. Cain, Elmore Leonard, Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain), James Ellroy, Andrew Vachss and Lawrence Block. Some of the older tales, like Hammett’s plot-heavy, trick-ending “The Scorched Face,” haven’t aged well. Others, like Macdonald’s “Guilt-Edged Blonde,” a Lew Archer story, and Leonard’s “3:10 to Yuma,” a taut tale of a marshal escorting a convicted robber to prison, still impress in this account of the evolution of an American popular art form.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

If jazz is America’s contribution to music, then hard-boiled crime fiction is its literary equivalent. These 36 selections represent the best of the genre’s short form. The editors, both well respected in the field, have included plenty of big names but also have chosen some less famous but very talented writers. The pieces are arranged chronologically, and the editors provide concise literary biographies for each contributor. Among the most famous names are Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, Mickey Spillane, and Jim Thompson. Surprise entries include Elmore Leonard’s western story “3:10 to Yuma.” A western? Read it, and you’ll understand why you don’t need neon lights to generate hard-boiled atmosphere. Other highlights include Andrew Vachss’ nasty exercise in self-preservation, and Ed Gorman’s modern morality play in which the villains are weakness and lust, not thugs with guns. A wonderfully evil collection. Wes Lukowsky –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Hardboiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories

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