Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories

Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories

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The soft side of the American tough guy.

At last, a cultural history of the hard-boiled crime genre from its origins to the present—one that recovers the fascinating link between tough guys and sensitive women. The testosterone-saturated heroes of American crime fiction owe a debt to the women of the nineteenth-century sentimental novel. Ranging from classics like The Big Sleep and The Talented Mr. Ripley to neglected paperback gems, Leonard Cassuto chronicles the dialogue—centered on the power of sympathy—between self-consciously masculine American crime stories and American literature’s most female genre. Cassuto moves smoothly through the twentieth century against the backdrop of the sweeping social changes of the time, and ends with a startling link between today’s serial killer stories and the domestic fictions of long ago.

Crime Novelists and Critics Praise Hard-Boiled Sentimentality:

“A clear-eyed, original, and important study that I found endlessly fascinating. Hard-Boiled Sentimentality is also as well-written and compelling as a good crime novel.”
—Novelist Joseph Finder, New York Times bestselling author of Paranoia, High Crimes, and Power Play

“Cassuto’s thesis is both original and intriguing, and he makes a well-constructed and convincing case for it. I’m looking at crime fiction and film differently since I read this book. Highly recommended.”
— Novelist S.J. Rozan, Edgar Award-winning author of In This Rain

“Leonard Cassuto’s Hard-Boiled Sentimentality opens new possibilities of reading for students of popular crime fiction. A superb work of literary and cultural history, the book captures and holds the reader with fresh insights on every page.”
—Alan Trachtenberg, Yale University

“Leonard Cassuto takes a fresh and deeply informed look at the whole history of hard-boiled fiction, uncovering its links to longstanding American notions of home and family as well as to the shifting pressures and priorities of successive eras. His readings of Dreiser, Hammett, Jim Thompson, John D.MacDonald, and Thomas Harris are lively and constantly alert to unexpected echoes and affinities—from Grandma Moses to The Wealth of Nations.”
—Geoffrey O’Brien, Executive Editor, The Library of America, author of Hard-Boiled America

“Leonard Cassuto convincingly presents crime fiction as American family culture’s truest mirror throughout the decades. Hard-Boiled Sentimentality is a non-fiction epic that reads like the best of genre fiction, tracing the bloodlines of crime fiction from Sam Spade to Hannibal Lecter. Cassuto’s scholarship is impeccable; his narrative voice magnetic. A must-read for every student of genre fiction and the go-to source for the evolutionary history of noir.
—Novelist Julia Spencer-Fleming, Anthony, Agatha, Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe, Dilys, Barry and Macavity Award-winner, and author of I Shall Not Want

“James Ellroy used to claim his books were for the whole family—if the name of your family is Manson. Ellroy’s quip encircles Leonard Cassuto’s study of the American crime novel and American domesticity—part noose, part necklace—as Cassuto tracks and fragments the traditional oppositions of hard-boiled vs. sentimental with wit, daring, and originality.”
—Robert Polito, author of Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson, editor of the American Noir anthologies of crime novels from the Library of America

“Leonard Cassuto has an encyclopedic grasp of the developmental history of crime literature, and he discusses it with refreshing clarity. Hard-Boiled Sentimentality should be widely read and will almost certainly become definitive.”
—Sean McCann, author of Gumshoe America: Hard-Boiled Fiction and the Rise and Fall of New Deal Liberalism

“Cassuto has put together a captivating body of material, a groundbreaking approach, top-drawer scholarly skills and instincts, and a splendid writing style.”
— Catherine Nickerson, author of Web of Iniquity: Early Detective Fiction by American Women

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