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“The Detective as Veteran: Recasting American Hard-Boiled Writing as a Literature of Traumatic War Experience”
Men After War, Pages: 130 - 151
Swansea University Author: Sarah Trott
The effects of combat upon American hard-boiled fiction have not been seriously examined. Yet when examined in concert, the crime genre and ‘war’ genre are thematically and stylistically complementary; each wrestles with concepts of masculinity, disillusionment, and corruption. Within hard-boiled fi...
|Published in:||Men After War|
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The effects of combat upon American hard-boiled fiction have not been seriously examined. Yet when examined in concert, the crime genre and ‘war’ genre are thematically and stylistically complementary; each wrestles with concepts of masculinity, disillusionment, and corruption. Within hard-boiled fiction, American writers have attempted to expose a society ignorant of their characters’ traumas and focus their anger against a state that abandoned its soldiers upon their return from combat. Identifying with the embittered and similarly ‘lost’ generation of World War One, these writers incorporated a brutally explicit level of violence and seething underlying anger that marks a significant shift in the structure of American crime fiction. Their hard-boiled and war-traumatised protagonists, combined with their unforgiving social environments, produced a unique convergence of the war story and crime novel. Representing a distinctive form that can be dubbed a ‘war noir,’ writers in the twentieth century absorbed the anger, discontent, and brutality of both genres, which they used to attack an unsympathetic society and a corrupt state. In the process the hard-boiled style became a vehicle for communicating the disillusionment of authors, creating in the process a literature of traumatic war experience. The disillusionment and anguish stemming from war drove many to further the genre by highlighting the nation’s hypocrisy and the state’s corruption, resulting in a brutal but progressively realistic representation of the American social landscape.
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences