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Palgrave Macmillan

Dime Novels and the Roots of American Detective Fiction

ISBN 9781137288646
Publication Date November 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Crime Files

Why is detective fiction so popular? What connects such diverse characters as the 'armchair sleuth', the 'hardboiled dick', and the police detective? Dime Novels and the Roots of American Detective Fiction uncovers the significance of often-neglected dime novels in revealing early examples of the subgenres of detective fiction - drawing-room mysteries, hardboiled 'tough guy' fiction, police procedurals, and postmodern detective fiction - in the genre's first mass instantiation in the dime novels (1860-1915). A study of over 100 dime novel endings shows the prevalence of subversive representations of gender, race and class, while new readings of iconic detectives like Nick Carter and Allan Pinkerton reveal the enormous influence of these figures on future developments in the detective genre. The book argues that inherent tensions between subversive and conservative impulses - theorized as contamination and containment - explain detective fiction's ongoing popular appeal to readers and to writers such as Twain and Faulkner, whose detective writings are clearly informed by dime novels.

Pamela Bedore is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, USA, where she is an award-winning teacher of American Literature and Popular Culture. Her articles have appeared in such journals as Studies in Popular Culture, Foundations, Writing Program Administrator, and she is the book review editor of Clues.

List of Tables
1. The Case of the Missing Detectives; or, Reassessing the American Contribution to Detective Fiction
2. The Happy-Ending Deception; or, Uncovering the Subversive Potential of Detective Dime Novels
3. The Case of the Contaminated Icon; or, Allan Pinkerton's Dangerous Detective Doubles
4. Playing with the Ace of Hearts; or, Mentorship, Sportsmanship, and Nick Carter's Epistemological Dilemmas
5. Faulkner, Twain and the Legacy of Dime Novel Detectives
6. Conclusions and Directions for Future Research


"It is very rare to come across work that one can describe accurately as original. Happily, this is one such occasion. The author makes an original and important argument about the relation between dime novels and American detective fiction that will have a major impact upon the field." - Garyn G. Roberts, Northwestern Michigan College, USA.
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