Nice and Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction

Nice and Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction

Nice and Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction

Nice and Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction

Synopsis

Owners of mystery bookshops will tell you that there are several sorts of buyers: those who purchase on impulse or whim; genre addicts who buy paperbacks by the week and by the armful; and those who have caught up on canonical texts and regularly buy new novels by select authors in hardcover. Richard B. Schwartz belongs in the last group, with his own list of approximately seventy favorite writers.

Nice and Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction explores the work of these writers, building upon a reading of almost seven hundred novels from the 1980s and 1990s. By looking at recurring themes in these mysteries, Schwartz offers readers new ways to approach the works in relation to contemporary cultural concerns.

With sensitivity to a culture consisting of frontiers and borders, Schwartz examines the position of the vigilante in art and society, racial bridges and divides, the absence of divine presence and compensating narrative strategies, the unresolved nature of the crime plot and its roots in chivalric romance. The special importance of setting, and the growing importance of grotesque humor in the fiction studied here are addressed by the author, as is the journalistic/ instructional dimension of the field and the importance of crossover narratives.

This book is not only a study and appreciation of an important subgenre and its contemporary practitioners, it also utilizes both literary history and theoretical material. Information has been drawn from fanzines, from discussions with writers, booksellers, agents, and editors, and from the author's own extensive knowledge of literature and American culture.

Nice and Noir is wide-ranging but neither ponderous nor lugubrious.Its language is accessible but not simplistic. The book will have a broad appeal -- both to academics and to general readers with some interest in American studies and popular culture.

Excerpt

Owners of mystery bookshops will tell you that there are several sorts of buyers: those who drift in and buy on impulse or whim, genre addicts who buy paperbacks by the week and by the armful, and, finally, the hard core—those who have caught up on canonical texts and buy new novels by select authors in hardcover. The hardcover hard core all have their favorite writers and they all watch publication dates, leading lives of quiet anticipation. Amazon has increased that anticipation by listing upcoming titles by month on the Mystery and Thriller section of its website. At some points—Thomas Harris's Hannibal is a good example—Amazon has gone so far as to release “reviews” by readers who have not actually seen the book but are so overwhelmed by their anticipation of it that they are driven to share tentative judgments.

As a member of the hard core I have my own favorites. These include approximately seventy writers whose careers I watch and the vast majority of whose work I read. I cannot pretend that my favorite writers are the best writers on some absolute scale, for (a) such scales are questionable, (b) the field is simply too vast, and (c) my own tastes are just that, my own. I can say, however, that most of the writers I regularly read command broad audiences and broad critical attention.

Since my perspective has been shaped by some thirty-five years of college-level English teaching I can say that I demand good writing (sentence by sentence as well as book by book) from the writers I read, and as a sometime practitioner of the fiction writer's trade I have a special love of craft that is rooted in both admiration and envy.

Whether or not the work of my own favorite writers constitutes the best that is being done these days, it is certainly representative of . . .

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