Wednesday, January 4, 2012
The Dime Detectives by Ron Goulart, reviewed by BL Kennedy
The Dime Detectives
The Mysterious Press
New York, NY
The hare-boiled private eye, cynical, and yet often sentimental, made his initial appearance as a fully evolved character in the 1920s. His first showed up in the untrimmed pages of the pulpwood fiction magazines, but within a decade he was to be found between the covers of hardbound books issued by respectable publishers, on movie screens across the nation, and even in the funny papers.
I have a serious addiction to comprehensive histories of anything literary. I also have an addiction to the writing of Ron Goulart, and I also have an addiction to Mysterious Press. Add all those together, and The Dime Detectives is a junkie’s treat. This is a comprehensive book that takes its title from a school of literature found somewhere between the dime novels of the late nineteenth century and the paperbacks of today. And it’s a book I absolutely love. Here you have the history in rough cut pages of the pulp magazine, and that genre’s contribution to American Mystery Fiction, and the birth of the Private Detective as hero.
Goulart gives a beautiful overview of the wary new breed, wise-cracking, tough detective in such magazines as Black Mask; Detective Fiction Weekly; Crime Busters; Dime Detective; and Spicy Detective. And let’s not forget the dashing writers; authors such as Dashell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, John D. MacDonald, and John Jakes. All these guys first appeared in the pulps.
The Dime Detectives offers a scholarly overview of crime pulp history through the eyes of author and pulp magazine historian Ron Goulart. I love this book and will recommend it to anybody who has a love of literature and its history. Goulart’s writing has covered many critical works on American popular culture. Cheap Thrills: An Informal History of the Pulp Magazine, and his classic The Great History of Comic Books both successfully contribute to our current understanding of American literature.
So in the end, we have a very handsome edition and a book that will seduce any armchair historian of pulp fiction. I love The Dime Detectives and I highly recommend the book to be placed in the library of any serious student of American literature.