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Detectives in the Shadows

A Hard-Boiled History

Susanna Lee

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A century of American history reflected in the iconic private eye.

Steadfast in fighting crime, but operating outside the police force—and sometimes even the law—is the private detective. Driven by his own moral code, he is a shadowy figure in a trench coat standing on a street corner, his face most likely obscured by a tilted fedora, a lit cigarette dangling from his hand. The hard-boiled detective is known by his dark past, private pain, and powers of deduction. He only asks questions—never answers them. In his stories he is both the main character and the narrator.

America has had a love…

A century of American history reflected in the iconic private eye.

Steadfast in fighting crime, but operating outside the police force—and sometimes even the law—is the private detective. Driven by his own moral code, he is a shadowy figure in a trench coat standing on a street corner, his face most likely obscured by a tilted fedora, a lit cigarette dangling from his hand. The hard-boiled detective is known by his dark past, private pain, and powers of deduction. He only asks questions—never answers them. In his stories he is both the main character and the narrator.

America has had a love affair with the hard-boiled detective since the 1920s, when Prohibition called into question who really stood on the right and wrong side of the law. And nowhere did this hero shine more than in crime fiction. In Detectives in the Shadows, literary and cultural critic Susanna Lee tracks the evolution of this truly American character type—from Race Williams to Philip Marlowe and from Mike Hammer to Jessica Jones.

Lee explores how this character type morphs to fit an increasingly troubled world, offering compelling interpretations of The Wire, True Detective, and Jessica Jones. Suddenly, in the present day, the hard-boiled detective wears his—or her—fatigue outwardly, revealing more vulnerability than ever before. But the detective remains resolute in the face of sinister forces, ever the person of honor. For anyone interested in crime fiction and television, or for those wanting to understand America's idolization of the good guy with a gun, Detectives in the Shadows is essential reading.

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Detectives in the Shadows

Susanna Lee

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Reviews

Reviews

One can say many things about crime fiction, and throughout this thoughtful, well-crafted piece of literary history, Lee succeeds in telling the story straight.

For detective fiction fans, this will prove an entertaining and informative trip through American history alongside their favorite gumshoes.

A revealing critique of a pop culture icon and required reading for mystery buffs.

Detectives in the Shadows is a feisty alternative view of American history as seen through the lens of hard-boiled detective fiction. Lee tails everyone from Race Williams and Hammett's Continental Op to Harry Bosch and Netflix's Jessica Jones, following the clues where they lead. Smart, brave, determined, neither tarnished nor afraid, and always fascinating. A must-read.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
224
ISBN
9781421437095
Illustration Description
9 b&w photos
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction. A Silhouette
Chapter One. Arriving on the Scene
Chapter Two. A Moral Compass
Chapter Three. A Rugged Individual
Chapter Four. A Lone Wolf
Chapter Five. A Person of Honor
A

Acknowledgments
Introduction. A Silhouette
Chapter One. Arriving on the Scene
Chapter Two. A Moral Compass
Chapter Three. A Rugged Individual
Chapter Four. A Lone Wolf
Chapter Five. A Person of Honor
Appendix: Selected Authors' Fictional Works
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Susanna Lee

Susanna Lee is a professor of French and comparative literature at Georgetown University. She is the author of Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction and the Decline of Moral Authority and A World Abandoned by God.