Crimeways gets it’s name from 1946 novel, The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing and the 1948 film of the same title. The Big Clock is a master piece of Crime Fiction and the Noir/Hard Boiled genres. In the book and movie, Crimeways is the magazine the where the protagonist works. Our 21st century Crimeways is all about Crime Fiction, Hardboiled, Noir, Pulp Fiction, whatever you want to call it.
The earliest known example of a crime story was “The Three Apples“, one of the tales narrated by Scheherazade in the One Thousand and One Nights. In the 19th century novels and stories depicting crime and its consequences came to be recognized as a distinct literary genre. Edgar Allan Poe gave us the “locked room” mystery, and of course Conan Doyle gave us Sherlock Holmes and the professional detective. The “Golden Age” of detective fiction was born in the 1920’s and 30’s led by the British writers Agatha Christie and Dorthy Sayers. These could be classified as “Whodunnits” which, for the most part didn’t involve much in the way of violence.
A U.S. reaction to the cozy conventionality of British murder mysteries was the American hard-boiled school of crime writing (certain works in the field are also referred to as noir fiction). Hard-boiled crime fiction just uses a
different set of clichés and stereotypes. Generally, it does include a murder mystery. However, the atmosphere created by hard-boiled writers and the settings they chose for their novels are different from English country-house
murders or mysteries surrounding rich old ladies. The impetus came from the conditions of American life and the opportunities available to the American writer in the 1920s. The economic boom following the First World War combined with the introduction of Prohibition in 1920 to encourage the rise of the gangster. The familiar issues of law and lawlessness in a society determined to judge itself by the most ideal standards took on a new urgency. The United States has been proud of its image as a land of freedom and opportunity, as a “free country” to all intents and purposes. Among many other things, this kind of all-inclusive freedom includes the right to own, carry, and use
firearms, the relatively unbureaucratic procedure people have to undergo if they want to set up their own business, the habit of moving away without leaving a forwarding address. It is only natural that all this should be reflected in
the fiction of the day.
In his powerful exposé‚ The Jungle, (1906) Upton Sinclair depicts the capitalist entrepreneurs who own the slaughterhouses and meat-processing plants of Chicago. The novel depicted criminals forming giant trusts and
syndicates and exploiting virtually everyone who works for them. This gave way to the hard boiled style of Carroll John Daly, who wrote the first story recognizable as such in 1922. The style was popularized by Dashiell Hammett over the course of the decade, and refined by Raymond Chandler beginning in the late 1930s. Some of the other great writers of the genre include Chester Himes, Mickey Spillane, Ross Macdonald, John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Walter Mosley and James Ellroy. And many many others.
So, what makes a story Hard Boiled, Noir or Pulp Fiction? Hardboiled crime fiction is a literary style, most commonly associated with detective stories, distinguished by the unsentimental portrayal of violence and sex. In Noir, the
protagonist is usually not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. He is someone tied directly to the crime, not an outsider called to solve or fix the situation. They, along with adventure stories, thrillers, horror stories and even westerns all fit in the Pulp category at one time or another, named after the pulp magazines and dime novels where they were first given a stage.