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Hardboiled crime fiction

Related: detective fiction - hard - noir - crime fiction - American literature - 1900s literature -

Novelists: James M. Cain - James Ellroy

Key era: 1930s - 1940s

Hardboiled crime fiction - sometimes also referred to as noir fiction - was a U.S. reaction to the cosy conventionality of British murder mysteries. Writers like Dashiell Hammett (1894 - 1961), Raymond Chandler (1888 - 1959), Jonathan Latimer (1906 - 1983), Mickey Spillane (born 1918), and many others decided on an altogether different, innovative approach to crime fiction.

The seminal American writer in the noir fiction mode was James M. Cainóregarded as the third major figure of the early hardboiled scene, he debuted as a crime novelist in 1934, right between Hammett and Chandler.


Hardboiled crime fiction is a uniquely American style pioneered by Dashiell Hammett, refined by Raymond Chandler, and endlessly imitated since by writers such as Mickey Spillane. Hardboiled fiction is most commonly associated with detective short stories and novels. It is distinguished by an unsentimental portrayal of crime, violence and sex.

The name comes from a colloquial phrase of understatement. For an egg, being hard-boiled is comparatively tough. It's not really very tough at all, but it amused people to refer to a tough guy as "hard-boiled". The other kind of detective, the "armchair detective" or someone who figures out crimes committed by proper ladies and gentlemen in "English country gardens" and who never has to worry about violence, systematic official deceit, having to tell lies to the police in return, or personal contact with the sordid side of crime, would be considered soft. A classic example might be Hercule Poirot. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard-boiled [Feb 2005]

Miami Blues (1990) - George Armitage

Miami Blues (1990) - George Armitage
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Adapted from a 1984 novel by Charles Willeford.

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