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Contemporary American Crime Fiction (Crime Files) Hardcover – 25 Oct 2001
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'This book is both an education and a joy..fresh insights into books published as recently as 1999.' - Choice
'The eminently utilitarian 'Crime File' series (under the custodianship of series editor Clive Bloom) steams ahead with another provocative and informed volume in Contemporary American Crime Fiction. Yet again (as in previous entries in the series), this is a truly eclectic mix of subject and approach, often eccentric, but always at the service of treating the crime fiction genre with the seriousness it deserves[...]this is a book with added value – it will function as a useful shopping list for those who enjoy the genre.' - Barry Forshaw, Crime Time
About the Author
HANS BERTENS is Professor of Comparative Literature at Utrecht University.
THEO D'HAEN is Professor of English and American Literature at Leiden University, The Netherlands. He has published widely in the field of modern literature, especially on postmodern and postcolonialism.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The result? A good timeline study with heavy doses of liberal faux-intellectualism masquerading as sound, literary scholarship.
It was interesting to read the genesis and maturation of several series characters, ranging from Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone to Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder, among others. The authors do a good job of chronicling each series character book by book, thereby giving us a reliable timeline of their development. The conclusions they draw about the characters' growth are agreeable, such as Grafton's Millhone becoming less self-assured and more vulnerable as the series progresses, to Robert Parker's Spenser basically never changing from the first book to the last. Plenty more solid conclusions abound, and it's helpful to read the panorama of the most prominent mystery series characters in this way. It aids in understanding, even if only in a small way, the possible evolution of the writer as well.
That said, the authors attempt to deepen their psychoanalysis with nothing more than their own assumptions, never taking the time to provide any primary or secondary material to back up their claims. At one point, they claim that Hawk, Spenser's African-American side-kick, is a reflection of Spenser's "black inner-self" kept in check by the "good white self" inside Spenser. Huh? The authors proceed to Freudianize Hawk and Spenser's relationship further, which strikes me as reading a bit too much into a Robert Parker book.
Among other claims, they also assert that Don LeLillo's LIBRA inspired James Ellroy, that the Branch Davidian fiasco in Waco inspired mystery books of similar subject matter, and that the Mystery Writers of America snubbed Sara Paretsky in the major awards because she's imbued her series character, V.I. Warshawski, with the most vocal feminist voice of any female character. Again, they make all these assertions but provide ZERO documentation to back it up. The authors may very well be correct in their judgments, but the reader would never know because of the lack of scholarly support.
In the end, I'd encourage you to buy this book if you're interested in getting some really well-done timelines on some of the most significant series characters of the last 30 years. Be prepared, however, to stomach their pseudo-scholarship just to get to the good stuff.