Topic 60 – Northamerican hard-boiled novels: Dashiell hammett and raymond chandler. Detective english novel: p.d. james

Topic 60 – Northamerican hard-boiled novels: Dashiell hammett and raymond chandler. Detective english novel: p.d. james



1.1. Aims of the unit.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2.1. Crime fiction: common features.

2.1.1. Main elements.

2.1.2. Main sources.

2.2. The English detective novel.

2.2.1. Definition.

2.2.2. Historical and literary background. The nineteenth century. The twentieth century up to the present day.

2.2.3. Most representative authors: P.D. James.

2.3. The North American black novel.

2.3.1. Definition.

2.3.2. Historical and literary background. The nineteenth century. The twentieth century up to the present day.

2.3.3. Most representative authors: D. Hammett and R. Chandler.





1.1. Aims of the unit.

The present unit, Unit 60, aims to provide a useful introduction to the North American black novel and the English detective novel. In doing so, we aim at reviewing the historical and literary background of the time so as to analyse the life, works and style of the most representative authors in this period: D. Hammett and R. Chandler within the former, and P.D. James, within the latter. Actually, it must be borne in mind that the English detective novel emerged nearly a century before than the American black novel, and therefore, it will be analysed first for the sake of chronological order.

Hence, we shall analyse how these authors reflected the prevailing ideologies of the day in the literature of the time which, following Speck (1998), is an account of literary activity in which social, economic, cultural and political allegiances are placed very much to the fore. This is, in fact, reflected in the organization of the unit, which is divided into four main chapters, namely devoted to establish the link between the literary activity and the main social, economic and political changes which took place from the late nineteenth century to the present-day situation both in Great Britain and in the United States.

It is worth mentioning that since both types of novels are framed in the same centuries, but on different sides of the Atlantic, we shall approach their analysis in terms of historical background at political, social and economic level; literary background, so as to trace back to the very sources of the English and North American detective novel; and finally, at a personal level, in which we shall examine the life, works and style of the most representative authors of each type.

So, Chapter 2 namely offers an overview of the North American black novel and the English detective novel. In doing so, we shall approach first both types in terms of (1) common features within crime fiction, regarding (a) main elements and (b) main literary sources. Then we shall examine (2) the English detective novel in terms of (a) definition; (b) a parallel presentation of historical and literary background, which will show to what extent history and literature are interrelated in (i) the nineteenth and (ii) the twentieth century up to the present day. With this background in mind we are ready to examine how this reality is shown by (c) the most representative figures in this field under the figure of P.D. James and other less relevant authors. We shall also examine (3) the American black novel in terms of (a) definition; (b) a parallel presentation of historical and literary background in (i) the nineteenth and (ii) the twentieth

century up to the present day; and (c) the most representative figures in this field: (i) Samuel

Dashiell Hammett and (ii) Raymond Thornton Chandler.

Chapter 3 will be devoted to the main educational implications in language teaching regarding the introduction of this issue in the classroom setting. Chapter 4 will offer a conclusion to broadly overview our present study, and Chapter 5 will include all the bibliographical references used to develop this presentation.

2.1. Notes on bibliography.

An influential introduction to the No rth American black novel and the English detective novel is based on Thoorens, Panorama de las literaturas Daimon: Inglaterra y América del Norte. Gran Bretaña y Estados Unidos de América (1969); Palmer, Historia Contemporánea (1980); Brogan, The History of the United States of America (1985); Cook & Paxton, European Political Facts of the Twentieth Century (2001); and Philips, Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich (2002).

On the present-day literary background, relevant works are: Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel (1960); Bradbury & Temperley, Introduction to American Studies (1981); Rogers, The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature (1987); Magnusson & Goring, Cambridge Biographical Dictionary (1990); Byron, Murder Will Out, The Detective Fiction (1990); Ousby, The Crime and Mystery Book. A Reader’s Companion (1997); Keating, Writing Crime Fiction (1988); Ward & Trent, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature (2000); and VanSpanckeren, Outline of American Literature (2004).

The background for educational implications is based on the theory of communicative competence and communicative approaches to language teaching are provided by the most complete record of current publications within the educational framework is provided by the guidelines in B.O.E. (2004) for both E.S.O. and Bachillerato; the Council of Europe, Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference (1998); and van Ek and Trim, Vantage (2001). Other sources include Enciclopedia Larousse

2000 (2000); Enciclopedia Encarta CD Rom (2004); and Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century (1999).


So, Chapter 2 namely offers an overview of the North American black novel and the English detective novel. In doing so, we shall approach first both types in terms of (1) common features within crime fiction, regarding (a) main elements and (b) main literary sources. Then we shall examine (2) the English detective novel in terms of (a) definition; (b) a parallel presentation of historical and literary background, which will show to what extent history and literature are interrelated in (i) the nineteenth and (ii) the twentieth century up to the present day. With this background in mind we are ready to examine how this reality is shown by (c) the most representative figures in this field under the figure of P.D. James and other less relevant authors. We shall also examine (3) the Amer ican black novel in terms of (a) definition; (b) a parallel presentation of historical and literary background in (i) the nineteenth and (ii) the twentieth century up to the present day; and (c) the most representative figures in this field : (i) Samuel Dashiell Hammett and (ii) Raymond Thornton Chandler.

2.1. Crime fiction: common features.

2.1.1. Main elements.

As a branch of crime fiction1, the detective fiction, has similar features to any other fiction genre in terms of content, elements or characteristics. Actually, the term ‘fiction’ is used to describe works of information created from the imagination and, in contrast to non-fiction, which makes factual claims, it may be partly based on factual occurrences but always contain imaginary content. Hence detective fiction is a combination of imaginary events and religious, historical, social or psychological facts taken from reality.

Regarding elements, thus plots (and subplot), characters (protagonists, antagonists), conflicts, climax, resolution, and structure, this fictional genre also shares most elements with other types of fiction, though the plot usually centers around an investigation by a detective, usually in the form of the investigation of a murder. A common feature is that the main character (the

clip_image001investigator) is usually unmarried with some source of income other than a regular job, and

1 It is worth noting that the term ‘fiction’ includes many different subgenres, for instance, within crime writing we

include spy thrillers, detective stories, and crime novels, namely. Other subgenres are: fictional realm, fictional

characters, film, classical novel, clerical fiction, spy fiction, science fiction, fantasy fiction, children’s fiction, and interactive fiction.

frequently has an assistant, who is asked to make all kinds of apparently irrelevant inquiries, and acts as an audience surrogate for the explanation of the mystery at the end of the story. It may also be an archetypal gossipy spinster, such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.

In addition, some typical features of this type of fiction are, broadly speaking, “an apparently insoluble crime, uncooperative or dim-witted police, the detective (often an amateur), who may be eccentric, the detective’s confident, who helps to clarify the problems, a variety of suspects and carefully laid red herrings to put the reader off the scent, a suspect who appears guilty from circumstantial evidence, and a resolution, often startling and unsuspected, in which the detective reveals how he has found out the culprit” (Byron, 1990).

Other key points that must be included in a good detective novel for it to be successful are given by Encarta (2004), for instance, the detective is rarely the first on the crime scene; forensic reports; rules and regulations to be follow by the witnesses; suspects arrested and kept in custody, usually wrongly; pressure from senior officers to show progress; a large investigating team (two, three or four main characters, plus other officers to order about); specific places to discuss or think about the case (usually pubs, night clubs, parks); informants; political pressure when the suspects are prominent figures; internal hostility from comrades when the suspects are fellow police officers; pressure from the media (tv, newspapers) to come up with an answer; and interesting and unusual cars driven by the principal detective.

Similarly, following Keating (1994), the traditional elements in the detective story are: the apparently perfect crime, the evident suspect accused wrongly, the powers of observation and superior mind of the detective, and the surprising denouncement, in which the detective reveals the clues followed in the investigation. Also, a constant in these stories is that initial conviction and evidences are irrelevant.

2.1.2. Main sources.

Although the golden age of detective fiction in Britain and America is set up in the 1920s (the interwar years), it did not spring into being in its current form in the twentieth century. Rather, it evolved over time, beginning with stories in which the reader was not a participant at all, but a witness who looked over the detective’s shoulder. Both the English detective novel and the American black novel have traditionally been framed within the classical tradition in the late Victorian period and modernism, respectively.

Similarly, they both had their highest point in the 1920s during the interwar years, and had a revival in the 1960s, first, in Great Britain under P.D. James and then in America, under the figures of D. Hammett and R. Chandler. Yet, it is necessary to trace back in history to find out about the main literary sources of both types of novel. In doing so, we shall review both the history and literary background at the same time so as to better understand why the predecessors of crime fiction decided to write about detective stories.

As mentioned above, a true detective story must include several elements, among which we find the element of detection before the crime is solved. Though not in Britain, there are two early works which used this element before Wilkie Collins in Great Britain and Edgar Allan Poe in the United States in the nineteenth century. We refer, first of all, to a XVIth-century Italian tale that was translated into French in 1719 by the Chevalier de Mailly, Le voyage et les aventures des trois princes de Sarendip (translated into English as The Travels and Adventures of Three Princes of Sarendip , 1722); and secondly, to the French writer Voltaire, who also achieved similar deductive feats in Zadig (1747), in which the hero describes a horse that has never seen (Encarta, 2004).

Later on, Gothic novels of terror written in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century were also regarded as literary sources, but were eventually dismissed as such because their mystery depended more on their isolated, medieval- like setting and gloomy atmosphere than on a legitimate mystery. For instance, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1798, published posthumously 1818), Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto: a Gothic Story (1764), William Beckford’s Vathek (1786), Mrs Anne Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), or Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk (1795). Since these works only use elements of detection, we do not consider them to be true detective stories, but the trigger for it.

However, there is one author who deserves an honorable place among the detective story’s predecessors before Wilkie Collins, that is, the English philosopher William Godwin. The reason is that his work, The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794), already accounts for the stereotype of characters in detective fiction, since among its leading characters are an amateur investigator (motivated by curiosity) and an implacable police spy. On the other side of the Atlantic, Edgar Allan Poe masterfully drew all these influences together and marked the beginning of the American black novel for more than a century afterward.

2.2. The English detective novel.

2.2.1. Definition.

First of all, the English detective novel is to be framed within the field of crime fiction which, in turn, is to be included in the literary genre of fiction. It is defined as a “tale that features a mystery and/or the commission of a crime, emphasizing the search for a solution. The detective story is distinguished from other forms of fiction by the fact that it is a puzzle” (Encarta, 2004). This puzzle is related to baffling circumstances, logical investigation, a series of clues, and deductive reasoning, among others so as to direct the reader’s attention to the circumstances surrounding the crime rather than to the event itself.

Note that the English detective novel is often called a ‘whodunit’ (also spelled whodunit in the US), which is regarded as the most widespread subgenre of the detective novel. It is used where great ingenuity is exercised in revealing the basic method of the murder in such a manner as to simultaneously conceal it from the readers, until the end of the book, when the method and culprit are revealed.

2.2.2. Historical and literary background. The nineteenth century.

Nineteenth-century Great Britain is to be politically framed upon the Georgian succession line under the figures of George III (1760- 1820), king of Great Britain and Ireland; his son, George IV (1820-1830), who was succeeded by his brother, William IV; and finally, by the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne when her uncle, William IV dies in 1837. Vic toria would reign from 1837 to 1901 and would be the longest reigning British monarch.

Broadly speaking, the Georgian period had to face the previous-century consequences of the Industrial Revolution, the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), the United States of America’s declaration of independence (1776) and consequently, the American Civil War (1778- 1783), and the French Revolution (1789), which were to influence the literature of the pre-Romantic period, and for our purposes, the main literary sources of crime fiction. This period was one of change since the very infrastructure of Britain was changing and Britain became the world’s first modern society, not only in agricultural developments which were followed by industrial innovation, but also in urbanisation and the need for better communications.

So, regarded as a period of financial, naval and military strength, in which the British government tended to prevail at political, social, economic, and technological level, the Georgian period was also known at literary level. In general, the early Georgian literature dealt with art, music and a variety of genres throught the century (hence the wide variety of authors who produced a flourishing scholarly and popular works that we still consider ‘classics’) whereas the late Georgian literature showed other features distinct to the previous puritanism and mannerism.

In general terms, these events had their effects in every corner of Europe, and in none more strongly than England were reactions were soon heard from the early Romantic writers showing their disappointment, disillusion, dejection and despair as a result of the unexpected political developments. In addition, these changes were also to be felt at social level since the long war brought inevitable misery, low wages, unemployment, and heavy taxation from the government which gave rise to fiery resentment and fierce demands on the part of the people (Albert, 1990).

On the other hand, during Victoria’s reign, the revolution in industrial practices continued to change British life, bringing about urbanisation, a good communications network and wealth. In addition, Britain became a champion of Free Trade across her massive Empire, and industrialisation and trade were glorified in the Great Exhibitions. Yet, by the turn of the century, Britain’s industrial advantage was being challenged successfully by other nations such as the USA across the ocean and Germany on the continent.

The effects of the industrial revolution were also felt in the nineteenth-century Great Britain at social level, and again, in connections between industrialization, labor unions, and movements for social reform in England, Western Europe, and the United States. Also, it is namely noticed in the pace and extent of industrialization in Great Britain and the United States in the latter half of the 19th century. Actually, up to 1837 the main political consequences on social events are closely connected to this move from the country to the towns and the division of labour in the industry market.

Also, industrialization shaped social class and labor organizations in terms of connections between industrialization and the rise of new types of labor organizations and mobilization. In fact, the nineteenth-literature reveals to a high extent the emergence and conditions of new social classes during the industrial period through relevant literary figures, such as Charles’ Dickens and his works. In particular, specific conditions for children employed by 19th-century England before and after major legislation passed in 1833, 1842, and 1847; the wide variety of

organizations created by working-class peoples in England, Western Europe, and the United

States in response to the conditions.

On the other hand, other features reflected in the literature of the time are the policy of imperial expansion reached its widest point during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), migration waves all over Europe because of the wish to make states with one nationality, the standard of living of some members of the labouring population, the role that women played in society through institutions such as charities, churches, local politics, and the arts, especially music; the further growth of the factory system, and the colonial administration.

As stated before, the Victorian Age includes several changes different in nature and, in this respect, the literary background presents a great variety of aspects. Thus, the literary period is characterized by its morality, which to a great extent is a natural revolt against the grossness of the earlier Regency, and the influence of the Victorian Court. In addition, literary productions are affected by the intellectual developments in science, religion, and politics.

Also, the new education acts of the period made education compulsory, which rapidly produced an enormous reading public. Actually, the cheapening of printing and paper increased the demand for books among which the most popular form was the novel. Finally, we also observe a strong literary interaction between American and European writers (specially in polit ical and philosopical writings), hence the influence of European crime fiction in the United States.

The Victorian literature is characterized by the telling of every detail, as in photography so as to get a real image of the object or person described. The fact may suggest concepts of clarity, precision, and certainty, which are reflected in the main literary productions of the period, namely divided into two groups : main themes and le sser themes. Within the former we include political, philosophical and social issues, and within the latter we find several miscellaneous subjects, for instance, historical novel, tales, class light novels, religiuos, humorous, translations, essays, and biographies, art, politics, economics and politics writings and, for our purposes, the subgenres of mystery and detective stories.

Within this background, the subgenre of detective fiction includes several authors who were fascinated by the new detective force not only in Great Britain but also on the continent. Yet, perhaps the most important stimulus to the development of detective fiction is reflected in the Mémoires (1828) of François Eugène Vidocq of France who, in his early life was a thief and imprisoned several times, whereas he later turned police agent and became the first chief of the Sûreté, the famed Parisian detective bureau. In his initial volume he describes his investigating methods in great detail by means of an energetic though embroidered style, and exciting

exploits while catching criminals. Further instances of detective fiction and, in particular, of analytical deduction are applied by the French author Alexandre Dumas in some of the Three Musketeers (1844) episodes, and to a lesser extent in the series of books entitled La comédie humaine (The Human Comedy) by the French writer Honoré de Balzac.

At home, detective stories began to flourish as a popular form of literature after the establishment of regular, paid police forces and their accompanying detective departments. Soon anonymous writers with little police experience started to write thinly veiled fictions where detectives became protagonists in cheap books such as Recollections of a Detective- Police Officer (1852), Diary of an Ex -Detective (1960), and The Lady Detective (1961). Other writers also went on detective investigations such as Charles Dickens in his work Bleak House (1852-1853), where he created the convincing character “Inspector Bucket of the Detective”. As expected, Bucket’s investigations follow the Victorian parameters of clarity, precision, and certainty.

However, it was Dickens’s longtime friend and occasional collaborator, the English Wilkie Collins (1824-1889), who is credited with the first great mystery novel The Woman in White (1860) and is sometimes referred to as the ‘grandfather of English detective fiction’. He was similarly interested in the activities of the detective bureau and, actually, his novel The Moonstone (1868), was defined by T.S. Eliot as ‘the first and greatest of English detective novels. In it, Collins patterned “the rose-loving sleuth Sergeant Cuff after the real-life Inspector Wicher and showed him making surprising but logical deductions from the given facts” (Encarta, 2004).

The only weakness of this work relies on the fact that the investigation is not the entire focus of the novel, but part of a larger narrative. In this sense, the same qualification can be made about the use of detectives in other sensation novels, such as Ellen Wood’s The Trail of the Serpent (1861) and Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862). Later on, by the mid- 1880s many authors, including B.L. Farjeon, Thomas W. Speight, and Fergus Hume were writing genuine detective novels, for instance, Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886).

However, although technically preceded by Charles Felix’s The Notting Hill Mystery (1865), The Moonstone can claim to have established the genre with several classic features of the twentieth-century detective story: a country house robbery, a celebrated investigator, bungling local constabulary, detective enquiries, false suspects, the least likely suspect, a rudimentary murder in a locked room, a reconstruction of the crime, and a final twist in the plot.

Yet, it was in the late 1880s that the English author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) created the greatest of all fictional characters, the detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr Watson. Following Encarta (2004), “the first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet appeared in 1887 and was followed by a series of short stories, published through the 1890s, that made Holmes and his assistant, Dr. Watson, household names. The most famous Holmes stories include The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) and The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), and the popularity of the Holmes tales was such that Doyle’s determined attempt to kill off his hero in the short story “The Final Problem” (1893) had to be abandoned. With the explanation that the great detective had disappeared, not died, Doyle later resurrected Holmes and continued his adventures.”

“The chief attractions of these stories nowadays are their period charm and the characterization of Holmes himself. Arrogant, omniscient, and self-absorbed, he comes through notonly with wonderful clarity but also, surprisingly enough, as an extremely symapthetic character.” So, we may say that Conan Doyle actually set the pattern for the “great detective” and was largely responsible for the subsequent popularity of the detective short story. Among his more distinguished followers in England were Arthur Morrison, who invented Investigator Martin Hewitt; Baroness Orczy, who created the nameless logician known as the Old Man in the Corner; R. Austin Freeman, who introduced the first genuine scientific detective, Dr. John Thorndyke, and orginated the inverted story in which the reader knew every detail of the crime; Ernest Bramah, whose character Max Carrados was the first blind detective; and M. McDonnell Bodkin, who created the first detective family 2.” The twentieth century up to the present day.

Within the first decade, still within the Holmes tradition, “many of the short stories written during the period ranging roughly from the appearance of Sherlock Holmes to the end of World War I (1914-1918) can be read with pleasure today” (Encarta, 2004). Unfortunately, this cannot be said of the novels, though with very few exceptions, for instance, the stories of Mary Roberts Rinehart, Carolyn Wells, and Marie Belloc Lowndes which, although best-sellers in their own day, look very old-fashioned now. Thus, Lowndes’s The Lodger (1913), an interpretation of the

clip_image002Jack the Ripper murders, which was successful as a stage play and a motion picture.

2 Bodkin’s main Works are Paul Beck (1897), Dora Myrl, The Lady Detective (1900), The Capture of Paul Beck

(1909), and Young Beck (1912).

Moreover, among the mystery novels of this period that continue to be notable, we include those of A.E.W. Mason featuring Inspector Hanaud, the bulky detective from the Sûreté in At the Villa Rose (1910), which was a detective novel far ahead of its time, as well as his later work, The House of the Arrow (1924). Another author was Gaston Leroux, who is still regarded as one of the most ingenious locked-room puzzlers ever devised, for instance, in The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1909). Also, E.C. Bentley who was one of the first in featuring the detetective as a human being rather than a reasoning machine. For instance, in his work Trent’s Last Case (1913), he makes the detective fall in love with the main suspect and also introduces the multiple -solutions theme that would become important during next decade. Unfortunately, the World War I brought a marked change in the nature of the detective story in the sense that the same magazines that published so many of the Holmes stories, declined in popularity.

The years before the First World War coincide with the accession of Victoria’s son, Edward VII (1841-1910) to the crown, and his reign was known as the Edwardian Age (1901-1910) or the age of the House of Saxe -Coburg-Gotha. Edward was the only British monarch who reigned for nine years at the beginning of the modern age in the early years of the 20th century. He was replaced on his death by King George V (1865-1936), who replaced the German-sounding title with that of the English Windsor during the First World War. Actually, the Windsor title remained in the family under the figure of Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor (1894-1936) , and, as we know, the family name is still present in the current Royal Family. He was followed by George VI, who reigned from 1936 to 1952; and since then the English Crown has been represented by the figure of Elizabeth II.

Broadly speaking, under the rule of Edward VII, known as Edward the Peacemaker for his diplomacy in Europe, the kingdom of Britain still felt secure after the Boer War despite the growing forces of discontent and resentment felt by most members of British society due to the international situation. It must be borne in mind that the balance of power in so many areas was shifting in a Europe because of the rise of a united Germany, and in a world in which the United States would soon dominate. Yet, the death of King Edward would mark the dividing line between the security and stability of the nineteenth century and the uncertainties of the twentieth, not only in Great Britain but also on the rest of the world.

Following Laurousse (2000), the First World War came about the result of a breakdown in the European diplomatic system and of the profound economic changes that had been at work within European society. As stated above, England’s domestic problems had dictated foreign policy decisions, such as not to see Germany defeat France again or to lose her imperialist position as the world’s leading power. Eventually, World War I broke out in August 1914, when

Germany declared war on Russia, and trouble in the Balkans precipitated the outbreak of hostilities, which had been stewing for a long time.

Regarding England’s domestic policies in the pre-War years, the following major changes are to be mentioned. Economically, the crisis on the question of tariff reform, whic h divided the Conservative and Liberal parties; in politics, the rapid rise of men from humble origins to high positions in the government; the greatest industrial unrest in Britain’s history (1911) where nationwide strikes of dock workers, railway men and miners brought the country to a standstill; and finally, in social terms, the passing of the National Insurance Act to ensure the welfare of its citizensby means of which the worker, the employer and the government would contribute to a general fund to pay for free medical treatment, sick pay, disability and maternity benefits.

Moreover, this flood of reforms which took place under the label of socialist experiment brought about important changes in society, such as the introduction of a salary for the Me mbers of Parliament (M.P.’s), the entry of working class members to Parliament; the Union Trade’s liability for strike damage, and the freedom to use their funds in politics. Hours and conditions of labor were also regulated, slum clearances effected, eighty-three labor exchanges set up, and old-age pensions inaugurated as the first installment of social security. All this cost a great deal of money and, as we stated above, came from the pockets of the rich (tariff reform).

Actually, these reforms were further incensed by the Home Rule Bill of 1912 and, since Irish M.P.’s wanted their reward in Home Rule, they helped the Liberals gain power. Yet, the Conservatives did not agree with the idea of Britain splitting up in the face of increasing German hostility and defined this situation as ludicrous. Hence they were aided by the Protestant forces of Ulster (most of Northern Ireland), who were equally alarmed at the prospect of being ruled from Dublin. As a result, major civil war loomed in Ireland, and in the mutiny at the Curragh the British Army regulars made it clear that they would not fight against their brothers in Ulster. In 1914, the Home Rule Bill was finally pushed through, but the outbreak of the Great War pushed everything else aside.

On the other hand, regarding foreign policy, it is worth mentioning that by the turn of the century, Prime Minister Arthur Balfour (1902- 1905) saw that Britain needed to strengthen its defenses after the humiliations of the Boer War and a Committee of Imperial Defence was created. Hence the Civil Service was itself enriched by a steady stream of educated, qualified young men and Britain’s naval defenses were also improved so as to further meet the threat from the new German fleet. Moreover, it had become increasingly apparent to many, both in and out of government, that the possession of an Empire would not cure Britain’s domestic

problems but, on the contrary, could only waste the nation’s resources (the costly adventures in

Afghanistan, the Sudan and South Africa), sorely needed to aid its own people and its own land.

Yet, the troubles began out of the British Isles, in Bosnia, with the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June, 1914 since, after it, the military chiefs of many nations were all ready to go to war. Then two main events created a huge dilemma for Britain: first, Austria declared war on Serbia (with the Kaiser’s support) and, second, Germany declared war on Russia and on France. This meant that Britain should give full military support to France (and her allies) and also to stay out of Europe altogether in a policy of complete neutrality. Yet, Germany violated the neutrality of Belgium in August and eventually Britain went to war on the side of France.

Yet, the period of inter-wars (1918-1939) was, according to Albert (1990:507), “overshadowed by the two World Wars –the after-effects of the first and the forebodings of the second. After the Treaty of Versailles [1919] attention in England was still mainly concentrated on foreign affairs- the growing pains of the new League of Nations, uncertainty in the Middle East, and troubles in India and Ireland. The Treaties of Locarno (1925) diminished, at least temporarily, anxieties in Europe, and home affairs began again to dominate English political thought.”

As stated above, the final treaty of Versailles marked the beginning of the inter-War period and therefore, the reparations in all the nations which took place in the war. Yet, the “war-guilt” clauses were later seen as a future cause of discontent since they later became an excuse for Herr Hitler to begin his efforts to countermand them. The United States did not ratify the treaty, and the disunity that prevailed after its signing did not bode well for the future of Europe. Eventually, the United States and Russia did not join the League of Nations that met for the first time in Geneva in November, 1920.

Broadly speaking, the inter-War period is namely characterized by three main factors: economic weakness, social conflicts and political reorganization. Hence it is regarded as a period of rehabilitation, grave economic conditions for the British Empire and the introduction of new economic measures to improve social welfare; social conflicts (social agitation, the introduction of new social statements), and politically, the reorganization of the Commonwealth and Irish problems.

Within this background in mind, the short story was no longer the predominant form and had few specialist practitioners, although H.C. Bailey’s character Reggie Fortune was a skillful newcomer. The novel was thought to give more scope for plot development and surprise, and in

what is often called the Golden Age, which coincides with the inter-war years from 1918 to

1939- dozens of new great detectives arose, several of whom were created by women. In fact, the first detective book published in this decade was The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), whose author was the English novelist Agatha Christie (1891- 1976).

She is regarded as the first lady of crime fiction and also the heir of Doyle’s tradition in the

1920s and 1930s. She is worldwide famous due to a three-fold creation: first, the masterful detective Hercule Poirot, a tiny, weary Belgian, whose eccentricities did not please the reading public; the character of Miss Marple, a perspicacious old spinster so masterful as the former; and a masterly constructed plot, which is one of her best known characteristics in all her novels, particularly reflected in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) and Murder in the Orient Express (1934).

The list of authors who followed is a long one and includes in the 1920s Freeman Wills Crofts, who created the character Inspector French; Ellery Queen, with detective Ellery Queen; Anthony Berkeley, with the creation of Roger Sheringham; and Philip Macdonald, with Anthony Gethryn. A second wave during the 1930s includes John Dickson, who created Sir Henry Merivale; Erle Stanley Gardner, who is the creator of Perry Mason; Margery Allingham, with Albert Campion; Ngaio Marsh, with Roderick Alleyn; Michael Innes, with John Appleby; Nicholas Blake, with Nigel Strangeways; and Rex Stout, with Nero Wolfe.

All were British or American writers, for on the European continent the detective story had not fulf illed the promise of continuity due to the politic al and social background. Yet, the 1920s and

1930s, the British detective novel flourished and set the standard for its type. These books were meant to be entertainments, games where the reader matched wits with the author, so their hallmarks were cleverness of murder and detection methods, graphic violence or sociological comment kept to a minimum, stylish writing, and a satisfactory conclusion where order was restored to the community by an essentially honorable detective to confirm the reader’s notion that the English way of life was the best on offer.

Actually, detective-story writers were now taking the rules of their craft very seriously, and two of them, Monsignor Ronald Knox and S.S. Van Dine, wrote rules to be obeyed by detective- story writers. Founded in 1928 the Detection Club was dedicated to the cultivation of the art. Members swore to abide by a set of rules of fair play with the reader: no concealing of vital clues allowed; the detective solves the crime by his or her wits; no divine inspiration or supernatural intervention allowed; the King’s English must be honored. This club still exists, although the rules have been abandoned. Among its original members, we mention G.K.

Chesterton (first president), Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, S.S. Van Dine, Anthony Berkeley, Gladys Mitchell, Miles Burton/John Rhode, Freeman Wills Croft, and Father Ronald Knox.

After the WWII, “the uncertainty of the War- and post-War years is reflected in the concern of many novelists about the disintegration of society, and their lack of positive optimism, while the frequency with which violence and sadism appear as themes is not surprising in a world grown accustomed to the thought of genocide, global conflict, and nuclear destruction” (Albert,

1990:563). Even nowadays, at the turn of century, globalisation, uncertainty and the question of

terrorism are often reflected in literature as well as the positive development of Europe under the strong ties of the European Union.

Generally speaking, the post-war years brought about a general feeling for change. British population was resentful of unemployment, asked for the nation’s post-war restructuring, and did not trust the Conservative government any more since they failed to tackle the enormous political, social and economic problems. Thus, at a political level, the end of the Second World War brought a new Labour government and the desire for independence on behalf of almost all of Britain’s colonies (India and Pakistan) though most retained ties with Britain through the Commonwealth; at a social level, countless thousands of returning soldiers and sailors wanted a turn-around in the status quo and the government promoted the expansion of the welfare state including the establishment of a National Health Service.

Moreover, despite the fact that Britain’s political and economic history has been somewhat mixed in the latter half of the twentieth century, in some areas, the country and its population have continued to lead the world. Actually, the 1960s witnessed modern Britain through the eyes of a more permissive society, increased consumer confidence, radical political protest and a blossoming of popular music which spread across the world; at economic levels, Britain’s economic position relative to many other industrialised countries continued to decline, although external trade remained extremely important to the country (signified by the entering of the European Community in 1973).

The 1990s and early twenty-first century coincide with a Conservative and Labour Government under the rule of John Major and Tony Blair, respectively. First of all, we shall deal with John Major as prime minister (1990-97), who was committed to keep ‘Thatcherism’ alive and, hence, his administration is likely to be remembered at least as much for its failures. Yet, he successfully steered the government through conflict in the Gulf, negotiated an opt-out for

Britain at the later stages of the European Monetary Union (December, 1991), and rejected the social chapter at the Maastricht Summit meeting of the European Council.

Regarding Britain’s presence in the European Union, after much diplomatic insight, Britain and Ireland formally entered the EU in January 1993. On the one hand, Ireland showed enthusiastic about being a member of Europe since it obtained a great economic benefit whereas Britain still showed hostility on the fact of being governed by the Common Market. Its geographical features seemed to be the reason of former hostilities but this shadow disappeared when France and Britain agreed in building a high-speed rail tunnel to end with isolationism (1986). Nevertheless, the economic and political relationship with Europe remained a divisive issue in the government. In fact, important controversies are still evident nowadays, regarding world trade, agricultural and fishery policy, audiovisual trade barriers, and more recently, the attitude towards the conflict of Iraq.

At home, leading Tories feared that British industry would be subject to European regulations in working conditions and labor relations and, therefore, hundreds of Tory candidates were in open rebellion over Major’s fence straddling on Europe. Finally, despite the fact that the economy was recovering and inflation was low (due to the sale of tens of thousands of public housing at bargain prices) and the lowest unemployment in Europe, Labour won a landslide victory in

1997. Tony Blair was thus able to inherit an economy free from the dreaded British disease

regarding militant trade unions, over-regulation, and vacillating government policies.

Tony Blair then became prime minister in May 1997 (up to nowadays) and the generally favourable economic conditions inherited from the previous administration helped to ensure that the Government did not experience the economic difficulties which had challenged previous Labour administrations. As a result of manifesto promises (and subsequent referenda) both Scotland and Wales were granted forms of administrative and political devolution as the millennium closed. Yet, the most important events under the Labour Government are the question of Scotland and Wales’ assembly independence (1997), the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland (1998), the question of the House of Lords (1999), the conflict over Kosovo (1999), and the current conflict of Iraq (2004).

First, the question of Scotland and Wales namely lies on the search for independence, that is, asking for their own Assembly. On the one hand, Scotland, though very much a minority party represented by the Scottish National Party (SNP), still suffered from the stigma attached to the very idea of nationalism during war years. So the SNP begun to build its organizational skills and work on political strategy; similarly, this intense activity was also carried out in Wales by members of the Party of Wales (Plaid Cymru). In both cases, discontent in both areas of Britain

led to a feverish proliferation of committees soon at work in Westminster looking at further measures of devolution for Scotland and Wales.

Also, problems in Europe remained for Tony Blair and, in addition, there was the age-old question of what to do about the House of Lords. Regarding the latter issue, the very idea of non-elected, hereditary legislators seemed ridiculous in a country that prided itself on its democratic institutions since the Lords had often obstructed legislation that would have surely benefited the nation. Their defense of ancient privilege had often blinded them to the realities of British political life since the time of Oliver Cromwell. Their record on Ireland was appalling, with their obstruction of Home Rule Bills, but it could be matched by many other areas in which they had excelled in their obstinacy.

Also, th House of Lords needed some drastic changes. The days of complacency were over. In

1967, the Labour Party announced its plans to reduce the powers of the Lords and to eliminate its hereditary basis. Many Labour M.P.’s wished to abolish the Upper House altogether, but a compromise was reached: only minor changes were effected. In the late 1990’s, Tony Blair grapped with the problem of the Lords, a problem that perhaps exemplifies the struggle of Britain to adjust itself to the modern world by preventing hereditary members from obtaining their parliamentary rights.

Also, a large-scale conflict in Kosovo (1999) broke out between the Serbian government and Kosovar Albanians when this autonomous region within Serbia, sought independence. Later on, since violence continued, a ceasefire was agreed in October 1998 to allow refugees to find shelter in Europe. Yet, the Serbian government refused the proposed settlement at a peace conference held in Paris (19 March 1999) and five days later, NATO forces (which were formerly devised to be defensive and not offensive) led by Britain and the United States began air attacks on Serbia.

Finally, the current question of Iraq suggests two main points, first, that this issue is not new, since it started several years ago; and second, that one thing was clear from this event: that “Britain still had not made up its min d whether its first political loyalty lay across the Atlantic, or in Europe” (McDowall, 1995:174).

Yet, as the years passed, the great detective, that egocentric amateur, became slightly more human, and the attendant Watson-like character almost vanished. But it was firmly believed that, there was a great difficulty about letting real human beings into a detective story. Thus, alhough the clasical detective story produced masterpieces of watertight plotting, the most

representative masterpieces after the WWII are closely related to the name of the English detective writer P.D. James.

2.2.3. Most representative authors: P.D. James.

Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, was born on 3 August 1920 and was the eldest daughter of an Inland Revenue Official. is the most representative contemporary British writer of crime fiction. When she was eleven, her family moved to Cambridge and there she attended the Cambridge High School for Girls. She also worked for the National Health Service (1949-68) and the Civil Service until 1979 when she began to work as a full-time writer.

It is against the backdrop of Britain’s vast bureaucracies such as the criminal justice system and the health services where many of P.D. James’ mystery novels take place, since these places are arenas in which James honed her skills for decades starting in the 1940s when she went to work in hospital administration to help support her ailing husband and two children. In 1968 she entered the Home Office taking the open competition for older Civil Service candidates and served as a Principal, first in the Police Department and then in theCriminal Law Department. It was in the former job that she was concerned iwth forensic science service, so useful for her future novels.

In 1979 she decided to retire and devote herself to full time writing, but she could not fullfill her promise since she continued on the labour scene. She was a Governor for the BBC (1988-93), and Chairman of the Literature Advisory Panel at both the Arts Council of England (1988-92) and the British Council (1988- 93). She was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in 1983 and created a Life Peer (Baroness James of Holland Park) in 1991. The same year she was made a DBE (Dame Commander of Order of the British Empire). In 1986 she was made an Associate Fellow of Downing College , Cambridge; and Baroness James is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and chaired the Booker Prize Panel of Judges in 1987.

She has also been President of the Society of Authors since 1997 and since then she has received the following honorary degrees: Doctor of Letters from the Universities of Buckingham 1992; Hertfordshire 1994; Glasgow 1995; Durham 1998, Portsmouth 1999. In addition she has been awarded with Doctor of Literature from the University of London 1993; Doctor of the University , Essex 1996; and has been awarded major prizes for her crime writing in Great Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia. In 1999 she received the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award for long term achievement.

It is worth noting that she is published widely overseas including the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Argentina. More recently, she was made an Associate Fellow, Cambridge (1986) and an Honorary Fellow of Downing College (2000). She is also an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford (1996) and of Girton College, Cambridge (2000).

Regarding her main productions in terms of themes, characters and style, it has been noted by many critics that James has upgraded and expanded the entire genre of mystery writing; and that many of her books, especially the police procedurals starring Dalgliesh, the poetry writing detective, fit the mainstream novel criteria as much as they do the detective genre. James’ strengths are characterization and her ability to construct atmosphere and stories rich in detail. Also, her many years of experience within the already mentioned bureaucracies add a complex stratum of insider’s knowledge to her writing.

Her style is said to be literate, her plots complicated, her clues abundant and fair, and her solutions, a surprise. Among her most popular detective novels we include: Cover Her Face (1962), which introduced her Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh, who is described by some other characters in the novel as tall, dark and handsome, an unusual appearance for a detective. In this work, she uses an accurate prose full of emotional charge as well as in characterization. Next year she wrote A Mind to Murder (1963) with similar characteristics; then An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (1972), which introduced her female sleuth called Cordelia Gray, a self-reliant independent 22-year-old detective who owns a detective agency in the Soho and goes through melodramatic moments. Here it is shown the feminine view of the detective work.

In The Black Tower (1975), she introduces classical detective story considerations and insights on the subject of death, though she always tried to avoid it; Death of an Expert Witness (1977); Innocent Blood (1980), a successful mainstream novel in which she tackled a subject and a theme difficult to find in contemporary fiction: the nature of love. These works were followed by The Children of Men (1992) and Death in Holy Orders (2001), which displays an insightful grasp of the inner workings of church hierarchy and concerns murder at an Anglican theological college on the East Anglian coast. In this work she features the Scotland Yard policeman Commander Adam Dalgliesh. Finally, her latest Commander Dalgliesh mystery is The Murder Room (2003).

2.3. The North American black novel.

2.3.1. Definition.

Similarly to the English detective novel, the North American black novel is to be framed within the field of crime fiction and, therefore, defined as a “tale that features a mystery and/or the commission of a crime, emphasizing the search for a solution” and is distinguished from other forms of fiction by the fact that it is a puzzle (Encarta, 2004). The baffling circumstances, logical investigation, a series of clues, and deductive reasoning, among others are shared with the English novel so as to direct the reader’s attention to the circumstances surrounding the crime rather than to the event itself. Yet, thought the English detective story is known as a

whodunit’, the North American black novel was known as the ‘hard-boiled’ detective stories.

2.3.2. Historical and literary background.

Yet, the main difference between the English detective novel and the North American black novel relies not on the sources (since both of them were inspired on other European works, namely French) or the content (since they both deal with the same topic s), but the time in which each type was developed in literary and historical terms. Thus the English type is to be framed within the classical novel in the very early twentieth century whereas the North American type it is framed within modernism between the 1920s and the 1940s. The nineteenth century.

Historically speaking, this period coincides in its second half with the presidential election of Abraham Lincoln (1860), which took place in an atmosphere of great tension since it was not received in the same way in the North and South, and as a result, the Civil War (1861- 1865), which has been also called the main American social revolution, a watershed in the rise of modern industrial society in the United States and as the result of free-labor industrial capitalism, and the resolution of sectional conflict in the North. This war was fought between the northern states, popularly referred to as the “Union,” the “north,” or the “Yankees,” and the seceding southern states, commonly referred to as the Confederate States of America, the “Confederacy.” the “south,” or the “rebels.”

The aftermath of the Civil War is namely represented by several international and national events which are interrelated regarding social consequences, which were reflected in the strong spirit of reform and important social and cultural changes; economic consequences, which include the emergence of new industrialized fronts in the South and the West as a result of the late consequences of international events, such as the Industrial Revolution and the imperialist policy of powerful countries; and finally, the main political consequences in this period.

The period before the Civil War coincides with democratic origins, revolutionary writers and the beginning of the Romantic period. The triumph of American independence was regarded as a divine sign of greatness, where military victory fanned nationalistic hopes for a great new literature. Yet with the exception of outstanding political writing, few works of note appeared during or soon after the Revolution. Since American books were harshly reviewed in England and there was an excessive dependence on English literary models, the search for a native literature became a national obsession.

Whereas Europe could afford the luxury of romanticising its past and finding its ideal in the pastoral, America’s past was too close. Yet America’s literature was in need of tradition in which literature could flourish. The American Romanticists created a form that, at first glance, seems ancient and traditional; they borrowed from classical romance, adapted pastoral themes, and incorporated Gothic elements. Hence the unique features of American prose fiction are as follows: separated lovers and woman’s chastity; an intricate plot, including stories within stories (hence detective stories); exciting and unexpected chance events; travel to faraway settings; hidden and mistaken identity; and works to be written in an elaborate and elegant style.

Hence it would take fifty years of accumulated history for America to earn its cultural independence and to produce the first great generation of American writers: Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson. America’s literary independence was slowed by a lingering identification with England, an excessive imitation of English or classical literary models, and difficult economic and political conditions that hampered publishing.

Then American awareness of literary fashion still lagged behind the English, and fifty years after their fame in England, English neoclassic writers were still eagerly imitated in America. Moreover, the challenges of building a new nation attracted talented and educated people to politics, law, and diplomacy. These pursuits brought honor, glory, and financial security. Writing, on the other hand, did not pay. Early American writers, now separated from England,

effectively had no modern publishers, no audience, and no adequate legal protection, so until

1825, most American authors paid printers to publish their work.

On the other hand, British nineteenth-century literature in the Victorian period, that is, from

1837 to 1901 coincides with the late consequences of the British imperialism since the mid- Victorian period (from 1850 to 1873) saw the highest point of the British imperial expansion, and economic and political prosperity. Yet, the late Victorian period (from 1873 to 1901) is associated to a loss of consensus due to the Great Depression (1873) which marks the end of British economic supremacy and, therefore, the decline of the British empire.

All in all, this literary period is characterized by its morality, which to a great extent is a natural revolt against the grossness of the earlier Regency, and the influence of the Victorian Court. In addition, literary productions are affected by the intellectual developments in science, religion, and politics, where we observe a strong literary interaction between American and European writers (specially in political and philosopical writings). The Victorian literature is also characterized by the telling of every detail, as in photography so as to get a real image of the object or person described. The fact may suggest concepts of clarity, precision, and certainty. On the contrary, the disadvantages of being close to the object, and of possessing masses of information about it is the production of copious works.

Within American prose we find different types of productions (novel -fictional and non- fictional-, literary criticism, periodical literature -political, philosophical-, essays, and other miscellaneous works which receive scanty notice), but we shall focus on the novel (American romance) and short story in the United States (namely detective stories). The first fiction writers used American subjects, historical perspectives, themes of change, and nostalgic tones. They wrote in many prose genres, initiated new forms, and found new ways to make a living through literature. With them, American literature began to be read and appreciated in the United States and abroad.

The Romantic period and, in particular, the Romance form indicated how difficult it was to create an identit y without a stable society. The self-divided, tragic note in American literature becomes dominant in the novels, even before the Civil War of the 1860s manifested the greater social tragedy of a society at war with itself. It is in this background that we find relevant writers such as Herman Melville and Edgar Allan Poe. Similarly, there is no doubt that the Victorian era, even in America, was the age of the English novel, namely realistic, thickly plotted, crowded with characters, and long. By the end of the period, the novel was considered not only the premier form of entertainment but also a primary means of analyzing and offering

solutions to social and political problems, only challenged by the revival of realism towards the end of the century.

The American romance, which shows a literary form in which happy country life is portrayed as a contrast to the complexity and anxiety of the urban society, as we can see in the American romancers’ use of the frontier, Indian society, Arcadian communities, Puritan villages, and shipboard societies. Hence typical features of romance are the manuscript, the castle, the crime, religion, deformity, ghosts, magic, blood, which are used as the basis and end of a tale of terror. The other variety of prose is the short story (namely developed in the next century under the shape of detective story), which shares the same features as the American romance or gothic novel, but differs in length (shorter than the novel).

So, within this century, the most important crime-fiction authors before 1880 in the United

States were the American Anna Katharine Green (1846-1935) and Edgar Allan Poe (1809-

1849). It is worth noting that, except for her, there were no notable American detective-story writers between Poe and the beginning of the 20th century. Green is remembered today as the “mother of detective fiction”and gave us Amelia Butterworth, the first spinster sleuth, and Miss Violet Strange whose success rested on her possession of a clue-sensitive bloodhound. Her most representative work, The Leavenworth Case (1878), was the first significant detective novel written by a woman and is said to rank with the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins and Emile Gaboriau as a cornerstone of the genre. In this work, she gave the world not only the main character is Inspector Ebenezer Gryce, who follows a detailed investigation into a mysterious murder, but also the first literary instance of ballistics testimony. Later on, the last part of the nineteenth century was dominated by the fictionalized memoirs of Allan Pinkerton, beginning with The Expressman and the Detective (1874). In 1882, a steady stream of dime- novel detective adventures began appearing, featuring such characters as Old Sleuth, Old King Brady, and Nick Carter.”

On the other hand, Edgar Allan Poe introduced the first great detective of ficion, C. Auguste Dupin, an abrupt man, contemptuous of the police, and more like a reasoning machine than a human being. Poe, though born in Boston, was brought up partly in England (1815-20) by a childless couple since he lost his parents between 1810-1811. Edgar attended Manor School at Stoke Newington, and it was there that he first became acquainted with the Gothic literature that was popular in Europe at the time.

When Poe returned to Richmond in 1820, he continued his education at private schools, studying Latin, verse, and oratory, but he was not popular. He was taunted by his peers as the son of actors since this was a disreputable profession. Fortunately, in 1825, John Allan inherited a large sum of money, and this abrupt reversal of fortune enabled him to enroll Edgar at the University of Virginia (1826), but since then his life would be a misfortune. On trying to make his own way in Boston Poe joined the U.S. Army in 1827 as a common soldier, enlisting under the fictitious name of Edgar A. Perry.

While he was stationed at Fort Independence, Poe prevailed upon a local publisher to print his first volume of verses, Tamerlane and Other Poems, By a Bostonian (1827). To these, he would eventually add six new poems for a volume that would be published in Baltimore under his real name at the end of 1829. By then, in February 1829, Poe’s stepmother died, and tragedy struck Poe’s life once more since it was the third mother figure in his life to suffer an untimely death.

In 1830 Poe entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, but was dishonorably discharged next year (1831), for deliberate neglect of his duties. Shortly thereafter, he brought out a third slim volume of poems; like its predecessors, this third book was comprised of verses on conventional romantic subjects, notably the myth of an idealized world of beauty and joy recaptured as dreams and memories. Unfortunately, like his first two collections, it failed to receive any reviews. Poe applied for editorial and teaching positions, but was unsuccessful in his effort to gain regular employment.

By 1832, the tastes of the American reading public had turned from romantic poetry and toward humorous and satirical prose. By June of that year, he had submitted five comic pieces to the Philadelphia Saturday Courier, thus Metzengerstein , The Duc de L’Omelette , The Bargain Lost, A Tale of Jerusalem, and A Decided Loss, all of which were first published in 1832. After that, Poe would write comic and satiric tales, including parodies, burlesques, grotesques and outright hoaxes. In 1833 and 1834, Poe wrote two serious short stories, MS. Found in a Bottle (the first of his sea tales) and The Assignation (the first Poe story to appear in a magazine with national circulation).

Yet his proposal brought his talents to the attention of John Pendleton Kennedy, and through Kennedy, Poe received entree to the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond (1835-37), and in 1836 Poe married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia Clemm. The next eight years were Poe’s most productive period as a fiction writer, where he composed most of the tales of terror Berenice (1835), Morella (1835), Ligeia (1838), The Fall of the House of Usher (1839) and William Wilson (1840). Then he joined Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine in Philadelphia (1839-

40) where he produced his best-selling work. The Conchologist’s First Book (1839); and finally, he joined Graham’s Magazine (1842-43). Shortly thereafter, he became an editor of the Messenger, to which he would contribute additional tales, poetry, and scores of book reviews. Many of the latter were extremely abrasive and Poe quickly made enemies that would come back to haunt him, even after his death.

In 1840, Poe financed the publication of twenty-five short stories as Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, which contained one of his most famous works, The Fall of the House of Usher (1839). But their appearance was neglected by other reviewers, many of whom Poe had already alienated through his criticism of their talents and tastes. Also, The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) and The Purloined Letter are among Poe’s most famous detective stories. Poe fired back, with sharply-barbed literary parodies like “How to Write a Blackwood’s Article ,” and through political satires, many of which were aimed at the bourgeois life-style and sensibilities of the rising middle class. After quarrelling with his co-editor, he was fired and Poe tried to found his own literary journal, Penn Magazine, but found no financial backers for the project. Thereafter, he worked for a year (April 1841 to May, 1842) as an editor at Graham’s Magazine.

Due to his family’s financial insecurity, Poe attempted to gain a position at a custom’s house but was not successful. To earn a living, Poe turned to the composition of comic pieces like Never Bet the Devil Your Head . Yet, in 1842, his young wife Virginia suffered a burst blood vessel and contracted tuberculosis, which was reflected in his allegory of epidemic disease, The Masque of the Red Death (1842) and in the dark poem of lost love, The Raven (1845), which brought Poe national fame. In the fall of 1845, Poe borrowed a large sum of money and bought the Broadway Journal. But it failed to turn a profit and ceased publication altogether in early

1846. His wife died in the same year.

After her death, Poe began to lose his struggle with drinking and drugs, suffered from bouts of depression and madness, and even, attempted suicide in 1848. Yet, he turned to the composition of theoretical works about literature, human nature, and the cosmos at large, including Eureka: A Prose Poem (1848), in which he advanced a complete theory about God’s will and the universe. During this time, Poe developed friendships with several women, including Sarah Helen Whitman, Mrs. Annie Richmond, and Mrs. Sarah Elmira Shelton (Poe’s adolescent erstwhile fiancée). He became conditionally engaged to the somewhat older Sarah Helen Whitman, but their relationship ended abruptly when he called upon her in a drunken state.

Contrary to popular belief, in his final year (1849), Poe’s life was relatively stable. He continued to earn a living through his lectures and recital performances, and visited friends that he had

made in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Richmond. In fact, it was there that Poe wrote his last poem, the melancholy Annabel Lee. In late September and in seemingly good health, Poe left Richmond for New York, but for some unknown reason he stopped in Baltimore. On October 3,

1849, Poe was found deliriously ill and was taken to hospital. There he uttered his final words and epitaph, “Lord help my poor soul,” on October 7, 1849. He was buried the next day in Baltimore’s Presbyterian Cemetery.

Edgar Allan Poe has a darkly metaphysical vision mixed with elements of realism, parody, and burlesque. He refined the short story genre and invented detective fiction. Many of his stories prefigure the genres of science fiction, horror, and fantasy so popular today. Poe’s short and tragic life was plagued with insecurity and this influenced his works. He believed that strangeness was an essential ingredient of beauty, and his writing is often exotic. His stories and poems are populated with doomed, introspective and gloomy aristocrats.

Regarded as an American poet, a master of the horror tale, and credited with practically inventing the detective story we shall focus on his novelist style. His main works include The Premature Burial, Ligeia, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Fall of the House of Usher. On the other hand, Poe’s verse, like that of many Southerners, was very musical and strictly metrical. His best-known poem, in his own lifetime and today, is The Raven (1845), an eerie poem. Poe’ decadence also reflects the devaluation of symbols that occurred in the 19th century. The resulting chaos of styles was particularly noticeable in the United States, which often lacked traditional styles of its own and the loss of coherent systems of thought. In art, this confusion of symbols fueled the grotesque, an idea that Poe explicitly made his theme in his classic collection of stories, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840). The twentieth century up to the present day.

“After 1900 several significant series of short detective stories were written by Americans. Jacques Futrelle wrote two volumes about Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen, better known as the Thinking Machine. These works, almost of Chestertonian ingenuity, also introduce the most uncompromisingly omniscient detective in fiction. Whether beating the world chess champion after only a few lessons or escaping from a prison death cell to win a bet, Professor Van Dusen finds all problems absurdly easy to solve. Melville Davisson Post’s Uncle Abner, Master of Mysteries (1918) is similar to Chesterton’s stories, especially in its quasireligious atmosphere. Uncle Abner, who lives in the western part of Virginia before the American Civil War (1861-1865), sees crime and detection in moral terms. Although rarely read today, the most

popular American writer of this period was Arthur B. Reeve, whose stories are filled with an astonishing array of scientific or pseudoscientific gadgets.”

Historically speaking, the First World War (1914-1918) brought a period of diplomatic conflict between the United States and Great Britain and between the United States and Germany since it was an outgrowth of European territorial problems and nationalism. Following Palmer (1980), the great majority of Americans were firmly neutral and determined to avoid intervention unless American rights and interests were violated, and in 1915 an official proclamation of neutrality was proclamated. This proclamation appealed the Americans to be impartial both in thought and action. Yet, in April 6, 1917 the United States was finally drawn into the war against Germany and its allies due to the unrestricted German submarine warfare on Atlantic shipping.

The United States contribution was decisive in the outcome because of its military superiority both in armament and people. Henc e it provided Britain with the ships to overcome the submarine threat and also, with the American Expeditionary Force on September 1918 to France. As a result, this military power inclined the balance on the western front and helped to end the war in November 1918. Next year, the United States was also influential in the writing of the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended the war in 1919.

Many historians have characterized the period between the two world wars as the United States’ traumatic “coming of age,” despite the fact that the United States direct involvement was relatively brief (1917-1918). The great processes of change and periods of war transformed the American and European life in terms of human nature, society, and the individual’s place of history, and modernism appeared under the shape of innovations and experimentalism.. Thus, in Britain literature is to be framed into the Edwardian (1901-1910) and Georgian literature, which will challenge previous productions of Victorian morality with an emerging realism, which is defined as the pre-war literature up to the First World War, whereas after the World War II, we find post-modernism towards the end of the century.

On the other hand, the United States became a dominant nation in the twentieth century, and in the same way, literature also interpreted these changes as a period of a fundamental redirection in the nature of the ideology of American society and also, cultural and technological development. Up to the First World War literature is associated with a stream of realism, both in American and in Britain, but in the roaring 1920s there is a need to divert attention from the cruder conceptions of reality (Great Depression, post-war situation, poverty, the 1929 Crack), since Americans had lost their ideals.

Hence this generation of artists turned their back on progress, on economics, on Main Street, and on Wall Street. Rather, they focused on the Jazz Age and showed no interest in politics nor in business. Yet, the great outburst of artistic creativity had begun even before 1920 and it continued beyond 1929. We may consider these experimental forms to be a break with tradition and have a deliberate use of artistic manipulation of concepts of time, man, sound and meaning. During the Roaring Twenties, as these years are commonly known, the United States enjoyed a period of unbalanced prosperity since prices for agricultural commodities and wages fell at the end of the war while new industries (radio , movies, automobiles, and chemicals) flourished.

Also, the standard of living in rural areas fell increasingly behind that of urban and suburban areas which saw dramatic improvements in housing and urban planning. In cultural terms, Jazz music became widely popular and dancing was a popular recreation. Although the early 1920s brought improvements in architecture, education, technology, and Americans fell in love with modern entertainments (movies, radio, automobile touring, dancing), these years also saw the rising of mass law-breaking and the rise of organized crime. Yet, the late years of the 1920s witnessed the cease of this prohibition due to the 1929 Stock Market Crash and the turn of the decade saw the Great Depression which was an unparallelled economic disaster in the history of the United States.

During the 1930s all social classes were affected by this crash. Actually, millions of workers lost their jobs, banks failed, the nation’s economy was paralyzed and poverty swept through on a scale never experienced under Hoover’s presidence (1929). In addition, the depression deepened as the elections of 1932 approached. In November 1932 Roosevelt was elected President and in the months preceding Roosevelt’s inauguration presidency, the Depression worsened and he faced the greatest crisis in American history since the Civil War. Yet, he undertook immediate actions to initiate a sweeping program to bring recovery to business and agriculture, relief to the unemployed and to those in danger of losing farms and homes, and reform, especially through the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority. This program was known as the New Deal.

The New Deal proved successful and the results were soon to be felt since banks reopened and direct relief saved millions from starvation, so the nation had achieved some measure of recovery. By 1938, Roosevelt was spending increasing amounts of time on international affairs to pledge for arrangements of mutual action against aggressors, that is, neutrality acts designed to keep the United States out of another world war. Yet at the same time he sought to strengthen nations threatened or attacked under the menace of Germany’s aggressiveness, which would

lead the American people to the World War II when Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June


America, though a neutral in the war and still at peace, was becoming the heart of democracy, as its factories began producing as they had in the years before the Depression. However, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt directed organization of the Nation’s manpower and resources for global war. The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor followed four days later by Germany’s and Italy’s declarations of war against the United States, brought the nation irrevocably into the war.

The aftermath coincides with beginning of the Cold War (1945-1967) , which coincides with a disassociated sensibility in the United States due to the violent events since World War II and, therefore, a sense of history as discontinuous. Since then, style and form now seem provisional and reflexive as well as the process of composition and the writer’s self-awareness. Following VanSpanckeren (2004), the assumption that traditional forms, ideas, and history could provide meaning and continuity to human life has changed in the contemporary literary imagination throughout many parts of the world, including the United States.

The after-war years also coincide with the concern of many novelists about the disintegration of society, and their lack of positive optimism, while the frequency with which violence and sadism appear as themes is not surprising in a world grown accustomed to the thought of genocide, global conf lict, and nuclear destruction. Even nowadays, at the turn of century, globalisation, uncertainty and the question of terrorism are often reflected in literature as well as the still-relevant role of the United States within the political field.

Broadly speaking, from the late 1950s to the present, Americans have been increasingly aware that technology, so useful in itself, presents dangers through the wrong kinds of striking images. the cultural equilibrium that sprang out as an original and vital literary movement in the previous half century was to be changed in this period. After 1945 to 1955, approximately, writers were then faced with the search of new directions, together with the emergence of Jewish, Blacks and women writers into the literary scence and, therefore, there was much new and vibrant writing.

Yet, we can talk about a second American literary renaissance (1955-1965) in which there was a literary revolution due to the cultural and technological progress. The multilateral exchange between the US and Europe helped the currents of culture flow, and the doors were similarly open to the Orient, particularly with India and Japan. The three-fold classification (drama,

poetry and prose) seemed to be moving toward new creative impulses due to the truly cosmopolitan quality of the post-War culture.

Later on, factors another factor of change is drawn from the gradual shift in the philosophy underlying American literature from Naturalism to Existentialism, man’s relationship with God, nature, society, his fellow man and himself. Hence American writers in the XXth century, and even to the present day, saw the confrontation of the individual will by a mechanistic fate as the ultimate tragic issue of human experience. The issue of imminent threat and total destruction of all life has become a constant issue in modern man, who learns to depend upon intensity and objectivity. Hence the extremes of comedy, fantasy, natural disasters, perversion, war horror, terrorism and violence on the one hand and the range and depth of mystic and religious excitement on the other, which is the main feature of contemporary literature.

In short, the main themes in American literature focused on U.S. foreign policy, international trade, and a variety of issues and topics of interest worldwide, such as international security (news and information on U.S. foreign policy); economic issues (the latest on U.S. economic policie s and foreign trade issues); global issues (U.S. policy and programs related to climate change, the environment, energy, world health, sustainable development, and other topics); democracy (information from the U.S. and multilateral sources on the growth of democracy around the world); human rights (information from the U.S. and multilateral sources on human rights issues around the world); and finally, society, culture and values (information on U.S. society, culture, and values).

It is within this context that the detective novel does not only search for a murderer by following a lineal plot, but also a whole denouncement of corrupt society at all levels (upper classes, ordinary citizens, religious institutions) since this kind of fiction has always been related to public interest in the problems of modern, urban life, particularly in crime. Having its roots in the English detective novel, the convention of the great detective, the supreme amateur who knew much more than the foolish police comes into force in the United States by the mid- twentieth century.

Lesser writers were Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876-1958), who is often referred to as the founder of the “had I but known” school of detective fiction since her statements always started like that. Her first successful novel, The Circular Staircase (1908) is now considered a classic and, along with two later novels, The Yellow Room (1945) and The Swimming Pool (1952), are first-rate examples of mystery writing. Also, we find the works of Carolyn Wells (1870-1942), who with Green and Rinehart may be considered a founding mother of the genre. Her books have become

increasingly collectible in recent years. Finally, Gertrude Stein is regarded as a mystery writer because of Blood on the Dining-Room Floor (1948), which is concerned with the puzzling circumstances surrounding the death of a friend.

Yet, the figure of the great detective was shattered by the advent of the American hard-boiled school, founded in the pages of the pulp magazine Black Mask . The first hard-boiled writer was Carroll John Daly, whose most important detective was Race Williams, but the outstanding figures in this genre were Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

2.3.3. Most representative authors: D. Hammett and R. Chandler.

Generally speaking , following Encarta (2004), “Hammett’s Sam Spade and Chandler’s Philip Marlowe are both private investigators doing a job for money –and not much money at that. They are honest but have a strong streak of ruthlessness. In The Maltese Falcon (1930), Spade refuses to allow his love for a murderess to interfere with the course of justice. Although a gentler characters, Marlowe is almost equally implacable in his pursuit of social good. Both Hammet and Chandler began by writing for the magazine Black Mask , but their stories far surpass the ordinary pulp magazine bang-on-the-head level of fiction. In Europe, and somewhat less in the United States, both were recognized as serious novelists possessing great narrative skill.”

“Although Hammett and Chandler have had hundreds of imitators, only two showed anything like their perceptiveness of the social scene or possessed more than a fragment of their sharp intelligence. One was Johathan Latimer, whose early Bill Crane stories are filled with sardonically funny dialogue, and the other and more notable was Ross Macdonald, Chandler’s true successor, whose work radiates human sympathy and understanding. After Hammett and Chandler, it was impossible that any more great detectives, arrogant and omniscient, should be born. Christie, Allingham, and Queen greatly modified their central characters while retaining them in far more loosely constructed tales than the classical detective stories of the 1930s and

1940s. Indeed, few classic puzzlers are now written. The spy thriller and the crime novel have taken their place.”

2.3.1. Samuel Dashiell Hammett (1894- 1961).

Hammett was born on 27 May, 1894 in St. Mary’s County, between the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers, Maryland and he died on 10 January, 1961 at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York, New York. At present, he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. In this section we shall approach the question of ‘What did he do in those 66 years?’ As a child, his family moved to Philadelphia and later Baltimore, where he studied at Baltimore Polytechnic. He left school at fourteen to help support the family and then, after having worked as paper boy, junior clerk in an advertising agency, messenger for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, nail machine operator in a box factory, and advertising manager, he became a detective in 1915 when he was twenty-one. He joined the Baltimore branch of the Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency where he was trained by James Wright, who later served as Hammett’s model for the Continental Op.

During the First World War he was a sergeant in the ambulance corps but spent most of the war in hospital following tuberculosis. After the war (June 1918), he resigned from Pinkerton’s and enlisted in the Army. It was during this time he contracted influenza and later tuberculosis, from which he would suffer the rest of his life. In May 1920, he returned to Pinkerton’s and worked out of their San Francisco office, at Washington, branch. He became sick again with lung troubles and went to hospital where he met a nurse, Josephine Dolan (Jose), with whom he would marry on July 7, 1921; four months later (October 15) his daughter Mary Jane was born; and on February 15, 1922, Hammett resigned from Pinkerton’s.

He signed up for journalism courses at Munson’s Business Colle ge, with the goal of becoming a newspaper reporter. Actually, Dashiell Hammett started writing detective stories in the 1920s, when the typical detective story was not well defined. Eventually he was discovered by H. L. Mencken, editor of The Smart Set and published his first by- lined piece, ‘The Parthian Shot’ (October 1922). After working as an operative at the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency, he took his experience to the written word. He and other early detective writers of this era made famous what is now known as the “hard-boiled” detective genre. The rough, rogue operative who was a step ahead of the law and not unlike many of the criminals he chased.

Mencken soon bought more from Hammett and in 1923 the first short story by Hammett, ‘The Road Home’, appeared in Black Mask . Thanks to the adventures of the Continental Op Hammett became one of its most popular writers of the period and by the end of May 1923, he completed his schooling at Munson’s and began to sell his work on two levels, fiction to the pulps and ads to local stores. Under the pseudonym ‘Peter Collinson’, Hammet introduced a short, overweight,

unnamed detective employed by the San Francisco branch of the Continental Detective Agency, who became known as ‘The Continental Op’, the first believable detective hero in American fiction.

In March 1926 Hammett leaves Black Mask because he was not receiving enough money, but he was asked to come back in the summer of 1926. So, between 1929 and 1930, he wrote three dozen stories that featured the tough and dedicated Op, whose methods of detection were completely convincing, and whose personality had more than one dimension. His first book, Red Harvest (1929) was a set of four linked stories all telling a common story of corruption and gangsters in a Montana mining town, which was followed shortly after by The Dain Curse (1929) both featuring The Continental Op. The same year (1929), Hammett portrayed another character, Sam Spade, the protagonist of one of the most famous detective stories ever written: The Maltese Falcon (1930).

In this work the first person narration is dropped and Hammett views the detective from the outside. Also, Hammett’s language was unsentimental, journalistic, moral judgments were left to the reader. Regarding the characters, a beautiful woman, Brigid O’Shaughnessy, is also introduced to reflect the evil of feminity since she is eventually a murderer. The Maltese Falcon was filmed first time in 1931 and then in 1936 under the title Satan Met a Lady , directed by William Die terle and starring Bette Davis. Also, John Huston’s adaptation from 1941 starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade is the most famous.

At a personal level, since Hammett had a couple of affairs, his marriage to Jose was over by

1929. Yet, in 1930 he met Lillian Hellman at about the same time as he began the Thin Man. In the following years, he published The Glass Key (1931), in which the main character, Ned Beaumont, was partly a self-portrait: a tall, thin, tuberculosis-ridden gambler and heavy drinker; and The Thin Man (1934), in which he presented Nick Charles, a former detective who had married a rich woman, Nora Charles, whose character was based on Lillian Hellman. Both novels had a resounding success since he combined hard-boiled style with lighthearted comedy.

Then, subsequent to the success of The Thin Man, the studio hired Hammett to write screen stories, which would be adapted and turned into screenplays by other writers. By 1934, embarked on a long, tumultous relationship, full of high drama and cocktails, politics and art with Lillian Hellman, Hammett’s career as a creative prose writer was almost over. He never wrote another novel, and he decided to write few short stories. By then, Hammett had completed over 90 pieces of fiction, including 2 stories printed after his death and some 13 unprinted

stories found among his papers in just 12 years,. He had also written a dozen nonfiction pieces and well over a hundred book reviews. He had no intention of ending his career as a novelist at this point in his life. He intended to do straight stuff and continued to think of himself as a working writer. But in truth, at age 40, his fiction writing career had ended.

Increasingly disturbed over what he perceived as a rising tide of anti-Semitism and fascism, Hammett turned to the Communist Party.Then in 1940 Hammett became politically active and joined the Communist Party as chairman of the Committee on Election Rights against Nazism. However, when Hemingway and a number of other writers went to Spain to help the Republicans in the Civil War (1936-39), Hammett remained in the United States, but helped veterans after their return from the war. Yet, he started drinking heavily and had problems with his writing, but his support was crucial for Hellman’s own career.

During the Second World War he edited a newspaper for troops in the Aleutian Islands and he also created a new character, Secret Agent X-9 in the new comic strip, which only lasted a year. Always looking for money, he also wrote a few things for radio, or at least lent his name to them. Thanks to the success of the film versions of his work, his reputation preceded him in Hollywood, and he wrote a handful of screen stories. However, the end of World War II saw the anti-Communist breakdown pinpoint him for his Communist beliefs, and elected him president of the Committee of Rights (1946).

The FBI kept a close watch on Hammett’s activities since this group was regarded as subversive by the Attorney General. Actually, in the summer of 1951 four communist leaders were convicted on charges of criminal conspiracy and the US District Court in New York collected information in order to aid authorities in tracing the fugitives. In July that year, Hammett was called to testify in the trial of four communists accused of conspiring against the U.S. government. He declined, and went to prison for five months, despite his failing health.

From 1946 to 1956 he taught creative writing in Jefferson School of Social Science while the State Department kept his books away from the shelves of overseas US libraries, inland revenue claimed he owed huge amounts of tax and the federal government attached his income. After that, he was blacklisted in Hollywood. When Hammett was jailed Hellman testified at a closed session and got away without legal penalty. Early in 1955 Hammett was once again required to testify, this time before the New York State Joint Legis lative Commmittee and the committee dismissed him without penalt y.

In August 1955 he suffered a major heart attack and next year (1956) Hammett went into hospital. Hellman refused to allow him to go and convinced him to move in with her. Eventually, she convinced him. In April 1959 he complained of severe and continual shortness of breath and by 1960 the disease had already progressed to an inoperable stage: he had lung cancer. Hammett quickly depleted the fortune he had made as a successful writer and died a relatively poor man in 1961.

He was one of the twentieth-century greatest American novelist who also worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood. He represented the early realistic vein in detective stories through the way his tough heroes confronted the violence with full knowledge of its corrupting potential. In his novels Hammett painted mean picture of the American society, where greed, brutality, and treachery are the major driving forces behind human actions. For instance, Red Harvest (1929) is more than a superb crime novel: it is a classic exploration of corruption and violence in the American grain; The Dain Course (1929) is a tautly crafted masterpiece of suspense.

His greatest novel, The Maltese Falcon (1930) shows the tale of Sam Spade, the quintessential hard-boiled detective, who searches for order and truth in a perfect mystery novel as anyone is going to get, and often rises above the genre as a tightly-constructed literary masterpiece, rich in both character and plot; The Glass Key (1931), is a combination of an airtight plot, authentically venal characters, and writing of telegraphic crispness. Woman in the Dark (1933) shows the author at the peak of his narrative powers; The Thin Man (1934) is one of Hammett’s most enchanting creations, in which a rich, glamorous couple solve homicides in between wisecracks and martinis. At once knowing and unabashedly romantic , The Thin Man is a murder mystery that doubles as a sophisticated comedy of manners.

Similarly, other works include Dashiell Hammet Omnibus (1935), The complete Dashiell Hammett (1942), Blood money (1943), The adventures of Sam Spade (1944), The battle of the Aleutians (1944), and The Continental Op (1945), which was the prototype for generations of tough- guy detectives since he was short, thick-bodied, mulishly stubborn, and indifferent to pain. In these stories the Op unravels a murder with too many clues while looking for a girl with eyes the color of shadows on polished silver. Also, The return of the Continental Op (1945), Hammett homicides (1946), Dead Yellow Women (1947), Nightmare Town (1948), in which Sam Spade confronts the darkness in the human soul while rolling his own cigarettes; The Creeping Siamese (1950), A Man Called Thin (1962), The Big Knockover (1966), The Continental Op: more stories from the Big Knockover (1967), and Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett 1921-1960 (2001).

Among this most famous screenplays we include “City Streets” (1931), with Oliver H.P. Garrett and Max Marcin, and directed by Rouben Mamoulian; “Mister Dynamite” (1935), with Doris Malloy and Harry Clork; “After the Thin Man” (1936), with Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett,

“Another Thin Man” (1939), with Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, and “Watch on the

Rhine” (1943), with Lillian Hellman.

2.3.2. Raymond Thornton Chandler (1888- 1959).

Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago (July 22 1888), but grew up in Engla nd, after the divorce of his parents. He attended two different public schools between 1900 and 1905, Upper Norwood and Dulwich College, London where he studied both classical and modern subjects, and received solid instruction in the craft of writing. He also studied in France and Germany between 1905 and 1907 and then he became a naturalized British subject in 1907 in order to be eligible for the civil service. His first position was as Assistant Store Officer, in the Naval Stores Branch, at the Admiralty (1907).

Yet, after six months he resigned and between 1908 and 1912worked as a teacher at Dulwich and a journalist for the London Daily Express and Bristol Western Gazette. Before returning to the United States (1912), Chandler published twenty-seven poems and his first story, The Rose- Leaf Romance. Once in the United States, he worked in a number of different jobs, for instance, in a bank, as a bookkeeper and as an auditor in an oil company, from where he was dismissed for his alcoholic problems. In 1924 he married divorcee Cissy Hurlburt (twice married, and divorced), and eighteen years older than he was. In 1933, with the support of Cissy, he devoted himself entirely to writing and became a successful full time writer at the age of forty-five.

Chandle r was a slow writer so it took him five months to write his first work Blackmailers Don’t Shoot (1933) which, was published by Black Mask , the leading crime pulp of its time which also published Dashiell Hammett’s stories. Between 1933 and 1939 he produced a total of nineteen pulp stories, eleven in Black Mask , seven in Dime Detective, and one in Detective Fiction Weekly . Unlike most of his pulp-writing colleagues, Chandler tried to expand the limits of the pulp formula to more ambitious and humane directio n which was fully reflected in his next work Killer in the Rain, which later formed part of Chandler’s first novel The Big Sleep (1939), and then to screenwriting (1943). In it we meet his main character, Philip Marlowe, a 38-year- old idealistic, honest and romantic private investigator, who is a man of honor and a modern day knight with a college education, but tough and cynical at the same time. He is described as an

old-fashioned character, chivalrous, with an individual sense of conduct and justice, and as an intellectual who reads Hemingway, T.S. Eliot and Flaubert, among others. These characteristics trascend his actions and it is actually shown in the maturity expressed in The High Window (1942).

Writing proved lucrative, and was something Chandler enjoyed, so he continued. So, he wrote Farewell, My Lovely (1940) and The Lady in the Lake (1943). After this, Chandler met with some success writing for Hollywood and, in 1943 he was asked to work on the script for Double Indemnity, the novel by James Cain. Although Billy Wilder and Chandler did not get on all that well, Wilder quickly recognized Chandler’s ability as a screenwriter and he started to write. Thus, And Now Tomorrow (1944), Five Murderers (1944), Double Indemnity with Billy Wilder (1944), The Unseen (1945), an original script; and The Blue Dahlia (1946). The same year (1946), he and Cissy moved to La Jolla (north of San Diego) where he continued writing while taking care of his beloved wife, who suffered from fibrosis of the lungs. In 1946 Chandler received Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for screenplay.

By that time he was a heavy drinker although he tried to control his drinking, still managing to produce some of the English language’s greatest crime fiction. As a representative and master of hard-boiled school of crime fiction, Chandler criticized classical puzzle writers for their lack of realism in his much quoted essay The Simple Art of Murder (1950) and Strangers On A Train for Hitchcock (1951). In 1954 Cissy passed away after a lengthy illness and two months after her death, he attempted suicide. During the last year of his life Chandler was president of the Mystery Writers of America; and his last finished novel, Playback appeared in 1958.

Since then he went into a slow decline, though he is said to have had two romantic interests after Cissy’s death: his secretary, Jean Fracasse and his agent, Helga Greene. He died of pneumonia brought on by a particularly heavy drinking binge on March 23, 1959, at the age of seventy. His unfinished novel, Poodle Spring (1959) was completed by Robert B. Parker, who has also written a sequel to The Big Sleep, entitled Perchance to Dream (1990). Also, some of his novels were made movies, such as Murder, My Sweet (1944), directed by Edward Dmytryk; The Big Sleep (1946), directed by Howard Hawks, and starring Bogart & Bacall; The Lady in the Lake (1947), directed by & starring Robert Montgomery; and finally, The Long Goodbye (1973), directed by Robert Altman.


Literature, and therefore, literary language is one of the most salient aspects of educational activity. In classrooms all kinds of literary language (poetry, drama, prose –novel, short story, detective fiction, minor fiction- , periodicals) either spoken or written, is going on for most of the time. Yet, handling literary productions in the past makes relevant the analysis of literature in the twentieth and twenty-first century in this unit, specially when we find literary adaptations to the cinema. Yet, what do students know about the literature in this period? At this point it makes sense to examine the historical background of Great Britain and the United States up to the present day so as to check what our students know about these crime fiction writers which are specialized in detective stories.

Since literature may be approached in linguistic terms, regarding form and function (morphology, lexis, structure, form) and also from a cross-curricular perspective (Sociology, History, English, French, Spanish Language and Literature), Spanish students are expected to know about the history of Great Britain and the United States and its influence in the world. In addition, one of the objectives of teaching the English language is to provide good models of almost any kind of literary productions for future studies.

Currently, action research groups attempt to bring about change in classroom learning and teaching through a focus on literary production under two premises. First, because they believe learning is an integral aspect of any form of activity and second, because education at all levels must be conceived in terms of literature and history. The basis for these assumptions is to be found in an attempt, through the use of historical events, to develop understanding of students’ shared but diverse social and physical environment.

Learning involves a process of transformation of participation itself which has far reaching implications on the role of the teacher in the teaching- learning rela tionship. This means that literary productions are an analytic tool and that teachers need to identify the potential contributions and potential limitations of them before we can make good use of genre techniques, in our case, detective stories techniques: clues, characters, a murder, the crime setting, and so on. We must bear in mind that most students will continue their studies at university and there, they will have to handle successfully all kind of genres, especially poetry, drama and fiction ones within our current framework.

Moreover, today’s new technologies (the Internet, DVD, videocamera) and the media (TV, radio, cinema) may provide a new direction to language teaching as they set more appropriate

context for students to experience the target culture. Present-day approaches deal with a communicative competence model in which first, there is an emphasis on significance over form, and secondly, motivation and involvement are enhanced by means of new technologies and the media when dealing with literary adaptations. Hence literary productions and the history of the period may be approched in terms of film displays in class, among others.

But how do twentieth and twenty-first-century English and North-American detective novel tie in with the new curriculum? Spanish students are expected to know about both cultures and their presence in Europe since students are required to know about the world culture and history. The success partly lies in the way literary works become real to the users. Some of this motivational force is brought about by intervening in authentic communicative events. Otherwise, we have to recreate as much as possible the whole cultural environment in the classroom by means of novels, short stories, documentaries, history books, or their family’s stories.

Hence it makes sense to examine relevant figures such as Hammett, though students are likely to know him best for his novel, The Maltese Falcon (1930) and even more, for his literary adaption to the cinema, that is, John Huston’s adaptation from 1941 starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, which is the most famous. Also, some of Raymond Chandler’s novels were made movies, such as The Big Sleep (1946), directed by Howard Hawks, and starring Bogart & Bacall; The Lady in the Lake (1947), directed by & starring Robert Montgomery. Yet, the most famous detective characters, such as Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes or Chandler’s Philip Marlowe are known by students through television.

This is to be achieved within the framework of the European Council (1998) and, in particular, the Spanish Educational System which establishes a common reference framework for the teaching of foreign languages where students are intended to carry out several communication tasks with specific communicative goals, for instance, how to locate a literary work within a particular historical period. Analytic interpretation of texts in all genres should become part of every literary student’s basic competence (B.O.E., 2004).

In addition, one of the objectives of teaching the English language is to provide good models of almost any kind of literary productions for future studies. Following van Ek & Trim (2001), ‘the learners can perform, within the limits of the resources available to them, those writing (and oral) tasks which adult citizens in general may wish, or be called upon, to carry out in their private capacity or as members of the general public’ when dealing with their future regarding personal and professional life.

In short, the knowledge about British and American culture (history and literature) should

become part of every literary student’s basic competence (B.O.E., 2004) since there are hidden influences at work beneath the textual surface: these may be sociocultural, inter and intratextual. The literary student has to discover these, and wherever necessary apply them in further examination. The main aims that our currently educational system focuses on are mostly sociocultural, to facilitate the study of cultural themes, as our students must be aware of their current social reality within the international scene.


On reviewing the issue of Unit 60, we have examined the North American black novel and the English detective novel up to the present day. In doing so, we have reviewed the historical and literary background of the time so as to analyse the life, works and style of the most representative authors in this period: D. Hammett and R. Chandler within the former, and P.D. James, within the latter. Actually, both of them represent two different types of detective fiction within the genre of crime fiction: the English detective novel, more classical and with Victorian reminiscences, commonly known as the ‘whodunit’, and the North American novel, more related to public interest in the problems of modern, urban life, particularly in crime , commonly known as ‘hard-boiled’ detective fiction.

So, Chapter 2 has namely offered an overview of the North American black novel and the English detective novel in terms of common features within the genre of crime fiction, regarding main elements and literary sources, namely European for both, and in particular, from French authors. Then we have introduced the two types of novels in terms of definition; a parallel presentation of historical and literary background in the nineteenth and twentieth century up to the present day; and finally, the most representative figures in this field, that is, the English P.D. James and the American Samuel Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Thornton Chandler, better known as the creators of Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (related forever to the figure of Humphrey Bogart) and the private investigator Philip Marlowe, recently associated to the American actor Bruce Willis in the TV series ‘Moonlight’. On reviewing their characters, we have got closer to how those writers reflected the time in which they lived.

Chapter 3 will be devoted to the main educational implications in language teaching regarding the introduction of this issue in the classroom setting. Chapter 4 will offer a conclusion to broadly overview our present study and have an overall view of this presentation from the

furthest sources, through the figures of the Three Musketeers (1844) by Alexandre Dumas; Detective Bucket by Charles Dickens in Bleak House (1852-1853); The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle , Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple in Murder in the Orient Express (1934); and more recently, the detective figures we know through the media. Finally, Chapter 5 will include all the bibliographical references used to develop this presentation.

So far, we have attempted to provide the reader in this presentation with a historical, literary and cultural background on the vast amount of literature productions in the twentieth and twenty- first-century literature in Great Britain and the United States. This information is relevant for language learners, even ESO and Bachillerato students, who do not automatically establish similiarities between North-American and English literature and the rest of the world in terms of social reality. So, learners need to have these associations brought to their attention in cross- curricular settings through the media. As we have seen, understanding how literature reflects the main historical events of a country is important to students, who are expected to be aware of the richness of English-speaking countries literature.


Albert, Edward. 1990. A History of English Literature. Walton-on-Thames. Nelson. 5th edition

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B.O.E. 2004. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 116/2004, de 23 de enero. Currículo de la Educación Secundaria Obligatoria en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.

B.O.E. 2004. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 117/2004, de 23 de enero. Currículo de Bachillerato en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.

Bradbury, M. and H. Temperley. 1981. Introduction to American Studies. London: Longman. Brogan, H. 1985. The History of the United States of America, Penguin Books, New York.

Byron, T.J. 1990. Murder Will Out, The Detective Fiction. Oxford University Press.

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