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American Crime Fiction

Peter Swirski looks at American crime fiction as an artform that expresses and reflects the social and aesthetic values of its authors and readers. As such he documents the manifold ways in which such authorship and readership are a matter of informed literary choice and not of cultural brainwashing or declining literary standards. Asking, in effect, a series of questions about the nature of genre fiction as art, successive chapters look at American crime writers whose careers throw light on the hazards and rewards of nobrow traffic between popular forms and highbrow aesthetics: Dashiell Hammett, John Grisham, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, Ed McBain, Nelson DeMille, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
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Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS List of Illustrations CHAPTER 1. Nobrow: Contents and Discontents The Most Ossified Popular Genre of All-Of the Standard of Taste-Flogging a Dead Horse-Damned If You Do and Damned If You Don't-Heads I Win, Tails You Lose-Vice and Its Victim-Beachbooks for Intellectuals-Sex, Money, and Revenge CHAPTER 2. Briefcases for Hire: Dashiell Hammett and John Grisham The Pauper and the Prince-The Toast of Hollywood-Waldron Honeywell-Who Framed Roger Rabbit?-Pow, You Are There- Seven Thousand Liquor Cases-Vacant Niche in the Market-The Banzhaf Bandits-Worst of Pages-Exhibit A- One Part Hammett, Two Parts Grisham CHAPTER 3. Boilerplate Potboilers: William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway Good God, I Can't Publish This-Guts and Genitals-Southern Gothic-Murder Capital of the United States-Sanctuary Much-Worse than Dresden-Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?-.38 Police Special-The Great American Paradox CHAPTER 4. The Not So Simple Art of Murder: Raymond Chandler No Chinaman Must Figure in the Story-Mayhem Spiced with Nymphomania-A Bombshell Redhead on the Run-The Is to Was Man-Pirandello Minus the Obtrusiveness-At Odds with the Canon-Wise Man, Wink, Wink-A Whodunit Without a Dunit-The Great Wrong Place-Anytown, USA-I Cannot Work or Sleep Till I Have Finished It CHAPTER 5. The Urban Procedural: Ed McBain Big Lights, Big City-Salvatore Albert Lombino-Graphic and Photographic-The Worst in Christendom-Colonel Mustard and Lady Buxom-M*E*T*R*O*P*O*L*I*S*-Nothing but a Woman-Mischief-The N Word-Behind the Thin Blue Line-Crime and the City CHAPTER 6. Take Two: Nelson DeMille and F. Scott Fitzgerald Eppolito and Caracappa-Jack Cannon-Trouble Brews in Happy Valley-All Its Watches Limp-Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia-The Most Dangerous Country in the World-Take Two-We Keep You Clean in Muscatine-American Dream BIBLIOGRAPHY

Promotional Information

"With this book, Peter Swirski confirms his reputation as one of the most passionate, perceptive and entertaining analysts of popular/nobrow culture and its relation to American society. After reading it, you will never look upon crime fiction and American culture in the same way." (Arthur Asa Berger, Professor Emeritus of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts, San Francisco State University, USA and author of "Media, Myth and Society") "Those who have not yet discovered Peter Swirski-one of our most challenging, entertaining, insightful, and gloriously outrageous cultural critics-should grab American Crime Fiction, his latest exploration of what he calls "nobrow" literature. Every page of this delightful excursion through landmark "beachbooks for intellectuals" makes us take new perspectives on many of our favorite unexamined assumptions about culture." (H. Bruce Franklin, John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies, Emeritus, Rutgers University-Newark, USA) "Readable, insightful, and thought-provoking, with American Crime Fiction Peter Swirski has given us one of the very best critical studies of popular fiction and the culture of everyday life. Anyone interested in understanding crime fiction, popular fiction, or popular culture in general must read this book. It is a treasure!" (Gary Hoppenstand, Professor of American Studies, Michigan State University, USA) "American Crime Fiction goes a long way toward erasing the artificial distinctions with which we have ring-fenced creative content. If you enjoy a particular work, including Peter Swirski's, then enjoy it without guilt, without insecurity, without worrying about what the Times or the Man Booker committee might think." (Aaron Schwabach, Professor of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, USA)

About the Author

Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic featured in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American studies, and Amazon's #1 Bestseller in American Literature, American History and Criticism, and Canadian Literary Criticism, he is the author of sixteen award-winning books, including the staple of American popular culture studies From Lowbrow to Nobrow (2005); a trio of bestsellers on American literature, culture, and politics: Ars Americana, Ars Politica (2010); American Utopia and Social Engineering (2011), and American Political Fictions (2015); and a tour de force on thinking and creative computers From Literature to Biterature (2013).


"Swirski is once again to be congratulated for integrating his extensive knowledge of literature, literary theory, and literary aesthetics and his insightful views on culture. American Crime Fiction is fascinatingly challenging in its take on America, on crime, on fiction, and on art. Anyone interested in any of these will have a great time reading it. The book has arguably more to offer to those interested in American history and culture ... ." (Iris Vidmar, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 75 (3), 2017)

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