What did it take to become a genre-setting author of noir detective fiction? Judging by Karen Huston Karydes’ book, Hard-Boiled Anxiety, the answer comes down to ‘personal demons.’
Karydes clearly has a love of the noir-detective genre and has done a great deal of research into the personal lives of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross MacDonald and shares with the reader the seamy, dark side of their personal lives. From alcoholism, to Oedipal issues, each man has a personal history that they’d likely prefer to stay personal.
I am not well versed in my detective fiction, but I do enjoy critical studies and biographies, and writers have often been my favorite subjects.
I found the narrative on Dashiell Hammett’s life, and its effects on his fiction to be most persuasive. Karydes writes:
Hammett’s plots have a curious trajectory, wherein violence and sex both ramp up as the detective/hero loses control. Over and over in Hammett’s fiction, there turns out to be mortal danger in a man’s letting down his guard, particularly in the presence of his wife. These women don’t enjoy sex. They have it for other, dangerous-to-men reasons. The sole exception is Nora Charles, who is a member of the most demoralizing hard-boiled sorority of all: wives with money.
This paragraph alone has me wanting to hurry to my library and check out every Hammett book possible.
Domineering women seem to be part of the landscape for these men, which, upon reflection, is perhaps not so surprising. Given what Karydes writes about these men, it seems surprising that more people haven’t reflected on these issues and made the connections to how women are presented in their fiction.
This is a great book for those of us who enjoy books that are a little more than just a timeline biography, and great for the university student who might be studying the detective genre.
Looking for a good book? Hard-Boiled Anxiety: The Freudian Desires of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and Their Detectives by Karen Huston Karydes is a thoughtful exploration of some of the dark demons that helped create some of the most popular detectives in literary history.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Hard-Boiled Anxiety: The Freudian Desires of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and Their Detectives
author: Karen Huston Karydes
publisher: Secant Publishing, LLC
Kindle edition, 176 pages