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July 16, 2012 / John Sheridan

The Mystery Bookshelf

Like your mysteries hard-boiled?  Can’t get enough of smoky gin joints, leggy dames, and guys getting knocked unconscious?  To be a real aficionado, you need to read the classics.

Born in America during the 1920s, hard-boiled fiction owes its enduring literary style to three writers: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and James M. Cain.  In their timeless stories, a tough-talking hero strives to root out corruption and bring a small measure of justice to a dark, urban landscape. However, noir fiction is also a subset of the hard-boiled style.  While the lead character in most hard-boiled stories is a streetwise detective, noir fiction usually focuses on a victim, suspect, or the actual criminal.  The central themes in noir fiction emphasize the self-destructive qualities of the characters and a sense of fatalism, where the world is indifferent to injustice and suffering.  Cornell Woolrich once wrote: “I had that trapped feeling…

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