Not only in detective fiction the issue of motive and “just how” things were finally done is of interest. The same questions (and more like them) are relevant in the simple analysis of literary traditions the authors of that fiction could benefit from.
Lewis Moore tries to find complementaries, similar behavior and continuing traditions in the ways of the original sleuths as Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin, Collins’ Sergeant Cuff or Dickens’ Inspector Bucket influenced their late counterparts of the first and second generation of hard-boiled detectives.
Viable areas that can be simply scrutinized in the texts are the detective’s local spheres such as his cities, feasible intruder figures (national and international), their apartments and how they are furnished, the existence of (close) friends (mostly policemen), possible romantic affiliations or philosophical ideas about life or justice.
For example, in the early detective fiction, it is only Dr. Watson, who makes moral comments on both Holmes’ methods and the extent of the crimes to be solved. Holmes and Dupin do not bother with questions of morality at all, but concentrate on the crime and its details. The hard-boiled detectives, on the other hand, seem to privatize legality and morality; so does Mike Hammer, The Continental Op and Sam Spade. They employ moral institutions or the police only halfheartedly when they can use them for their own purpose.
Moore, in particular, investigates the topics location, punishment, foreigners, family, politics, money, motive, tradition and character, allegory and performance and how they were (possibly) invented by the classic authors and then transformed by the later generations of fictional detectives. He uses a rough subdivision of times of publication in detective fiction as of the Early Period (1927-1955), the Transitional Period (1964-1977) and the Modern Period (1979 to the present.)
For example, he comes to several intriguing assumptions about the status of the two great inventors of the genre detective fiction (that later gave way to the hard-boiled investigators) namely Poe and Doyle; this starts with the (inaccurate) overall assumption that one author continued where the other left off. Now, this is not the case in terms of story structure and other topics; more so, almost 50 years separate their respective investigators and publications. Before Poe’s Dupin character, there was only one predecessor (Vidocq); whereas Holmes had a number of other fictional British detectives who were published in that gap of closely 50 years.
The later (American) hard-boiled investigators also are linked to each other, while there was actually no gap in the publication of crime fiction from the 1930s onwards. So that Hammet, in fact, did influence Chandler, who in turn influenced Ross Macdonald and so forth.
However, I often missed a section or even links dealing with the excellent African-American crime authors such as Chester Himes or Walter Mosley. They, too, I suggest, are to be placed in a tradition of American crime fiction, particularly the hard-boiled line.
Altogether, this is an informative publication which opens “old capers,” so to speak, when it comes to motives and other important features of detective and hard-boiled fiction. Moore is a retired professor of English (University of the District of Columbia) and has published on the topics of hard-boiled detective fiction and John D. MacDonald before.
Review by Dr. A .Ebert © 2016
Lewis D. Moore. Connecting Detectives: The Influence of 19th Century Sleuth Fiction on the Early Hard-boileds. McFarland, 2015, 203 p.