The History of Literature #140 – Pulp Fiction and the Hardboiled Crime Novel (with Charles Ardai)

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In 1896, an enterprising man named Frank Munsey published the first copy of Argosy, a magazine that combined cheap printing, cheap paper, and cheap authors to bring affordable, high-entertainment fiction to working-class folks. Within six years, Argosy was selling a half a million copies a month, and the American fiction market would never be the same. In this special episode of The History of Literature, we’re joined by Charles Ardai, a man who helped to resurrect one of twentieth-century pulp fiction’s brightest stars: the hardboiled crime novel, with its brooding heroes, high-energy prose, fast-paced plots, and seductive painted covers. His publishing line, Hard Case Crime, brings back forgotten and never-published manuscripts of old masters as well as new novels by contemporary authors like Stephen King and Christa Faust– and returns readers to the days when a dangling cigarette and a tumbler of whiskey was almost enough to make you forget the dame who nearly got you killed. Almost.

Authors discussed include Stephen King, Paul Auster, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, E. Howard Hunt, Charles Ardai, Christa Faust, Arthur Conan Doyle, William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Browning, Mickey Spillane, Robert Bloch, Donald Westlake/Richard Stark, Michael Crichton/John Lange, J.K. Rowling, Lawrence Block, Erle Stanley Gardner, Madison Smartt Bell, Robert Parker, Ed McBain, David Dodge, Edgar Rice Burroughs, James Joyce, and Charles Dickens.

For more on writing contemporary thrillers, try Episode 109 – Women of Mystery (with Christina Kovac)

For historical mysteries, try Episode 40 – “A Front-Page Affair” (with Radha Vatsal) or her encore appearance in Episode 99 – History and Mystery (with Radha Vatsal)

For more on the connection between the Romantics and modern-day crime fiction, try Episode 65 – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (with Professor James Chandler)

For another dose of Humphrey Bogart, try Episode 135 – Aristotle Goes to the Movies (with Brian Price)

Help support the show at patreon.com/literatureor historyofliterature.com/shop. Learn more about the show at historyofliterature.com or facebook.com/historyofliterature. Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or via our new Twitter handle, @thejackewilson.

HoL Episode 30 – More Conspiracy!

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What do Edgar Allan Poe, J.K. Rowling, William Shakespeare, Stephen King, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Justice Antonin Scalia have in common? Jacke Wilson connects the dots with another look at conspiracy literature, literary conspiracies, and the people who love them. (Part 2 of 2.) Continue reading

Writers Laughing: A Jacke Wilson Gallery

Peace on earth, good will to all…and a photo gallery of great writers caught in the act of laughing.  Happy holidays!

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Join us on the History of Literature podcast or at the Jacke Wilson blog for more literary delights.

All image credits available on jackewilson.com

 

Writers Laughing: Stephen King

Stephen King! We’ve praised his book on writing and pointed out that he’s probably a great guy. We’ve written a story or two he’d probably like. And now it’s time to take a look at what he looks like laughing.

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Pretty good! He seems like he’d be such a good neighbor….

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…as long as you didn’t build your house over an old forgotten cemetery or something.

Image Credits: Eamonn McCabe via The Guardian; NYTimes

Stephen King, Great Guy

First things first: I’ve never finished a Stephen King novel. I’ve started a few, but in the end I’ve never really enjoyed the genre enough to submerge myself for hundreds of pages. I’m not trying to be hoity-toity about it (I’ll leave that to Harold Bloom), I”m just letting you know: I’m more or less a neutral observer when it comes to Stephen King. I’m not a fanboy.

But I can see why he’s sold a zillion books! I find his prose compelling, and when I’ve encountered the odd essay or short story, I’ve gotten pulled in. I like reading his introductions to his books, and I like reading his accounts of things that have happened to him. I’ve read his book On Writing twice. I didn’t take too many writerly lessons from it, but for sheer enthusiasm about sitting down and the typewriter and opening a vein, it’s hard to beat.

You learn along the way, even through this cursory reading, that King has deep blue-collar roots and a real decency toward the people around him. He’s wrestled with some demons. But he also seems like a genuinely nice guy. I wouldn’t mind having him as a neighbor, which is not something I’d have thought before reading the book.

And then there’s this gem from the recent Vanity Fair article on the Rushdie fatwa: Continue reading

Fighting Discouragement: You Are New!

In an interview with Tinhouse’s J.C. Hallman, Walter Kirn refers to a common anxiety among writers:

J.C. Hallman: Do creative writers have an obligation to act as critics, to offer up alternatives to traditional critical methodologies and assumptions?

Walter Kirn: Creative writers have no obligation do anything, including their own creative work.  That’s what makes them “creative” in the first place, not merely productive.  That being said, a novel or a short story is an implicit piece of criticism.  It suggests that the job – some job; that of telling a story, say, or representing reality with language, or torturing reality with language – can be done better, or at least differently, than it has been done before.

Kirn’s right, of course – but at the same time, we all know how paralyzing this can be. There have been so many authors! Every story has been told! Everything’s been said! Blogging’s one thing, but who am I to presume that I can enter the world of writing a book that belongs on a bookshelf with all those authors I love and respect and admire?

Even the great Dr. Johnson suffered from a version of this internal narrative, giving up on writing poetry out of a belief that Alexander Pope had perfected the art, not to be surpassed.

Continue reading