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By Peter Swirski

Peter Swirski seems at American crime fiction as an artform that expresses and displays the social and aesthetic values of its authors and readers. As such he files the manifold ways that such authorship and readership are an issue of knowledgeable literary selection and never of cultural brainwashing or declining literary criteria. Asking, in impact, a sequence of questions on the character of style fiction as paintings, successive chapters examine American crime writers whose careers throw gentle at the risks and rewards of nobrow site visitors among renowned kinds and intellectual aesthetics: Dashiell Hammett, John Grisham, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, Ed McBain, Nelson DeMille, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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Not surprisingly, Red Harvest is also preoccupied with absolute power and absolute corruption. Old Elihu Willsson, an oligarch who owns the legislature, the courts, the police, and the state senators, is a metonym of American capitalism. Halfway through the book, the Op jeers: “don’t kid yourself that there’s any law in Poisonville except what you make for yourself” (119). 14 BRIEFCASES FOR HIRE: DASHIELL HAMMETT AND JOHN GRISHAM 43 SEVEN THOUSAND LIQUOR CASES The gritty, crime-spattered picture from the pages of hardboiled fiction evolved in response to its times and social conditions, just as the legal procedural did in lockstep with our white-collar corporate decades.

By now a raft of studies have shown that even the despised Victorian sensation novels have been anything but artless instantiations of genre formula. Champions of the form, such as Charles Reade, Mary Braddon, Wilkie Collins, and Ellen Wood routinely destabilized the very conventions they employed with consummate skill. 23 This is not to deny that, like any cultural product, popular fiction is not immune to being infiltrated by latent ideological content that can pacify consumers by obscuring the top-heavy character of power hierarchy in society.

Barely a year after publication, The Maltese Falcon became a proto-sexploitation flick Dangerous Females, and five years later a Bette Davis comedy Satan Met a Lady. But it was the 1941 version that imprinted itself on Hollywood and on the public mind. Suddenly, Tinseltown PIs were all Bogey’s Spade: dashing, debonair, and as such nothing like their shabby, low-key offscreen prototypes. Huston’s noir came on the heels of an entire string of translations of Hammett’s action-packed adventures onto the big screen.

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