Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War

Woody Haut, Author Serpent's Tail $15.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-85242-319-3
In Pulp Culture, Haut sacrifices his purported subjects--crime fiction (of the lurid paperback variety) between 1945 and 1963 and the culture it arose from--to his own tedious and blinkered political agenda. Among other topics, he examines the paranoid fiction of David Goodis, Chester Himes and Jim Thompson; the private eye; women and female writers in hard-boiled fiction; and the crime novel as social critique. While decrying ""the tediousness of mainstream literary criticism,"" he unrelentingly (mis)uses its most cliched buzzwords, especially narrative. His sometimes ungrammatical writing veers from self-conscious cleverness to turgid gobbledygook. His plot synopses are unreliable, his reasoning doesn't follow from one sentence to the next, and his judgments and interpretations are often bizarre-and no wonder. Throughout his analysis, he covertly holds writers to a standard made explicit only near the book's end: ""pulp culture crime narratives generate interest in so far as they reflect state crime--consumerism, militarization, economic and social inequality, the centralization of power."" Few writers fit this procrustean bed. While Haut knows his subject and has worthwhile things to say about the genre's debts to proletarian writing and about its attacks on conformist culture, most of this book is warped by his coy and dreary politics. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
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