Named one of Kirkus Reviews' Best Indie Books of 2016.
'Curl up on the analyst's couch with all your favorite mystery scribes, as Karen Huston Karydes sleuths out the neurotic, personal threads that make up the warp and the weft of their greatest fictions. A dark, yet illuminating read.'
- Kim Cooper, author of The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles and The Kept Girl
For close to fifty years, three masters of the hard-boiled detective novel dispatched intrepid gumshoes into upper-crust homes and seedy back alleys, peeling back and exposing all the pretexts of polite society. Or did they? Were there even closer, darker secrets they never quite copped to?
In Hard-Boiled Anxiety, Karen Huston Karydes offers a new and unsettling reading of the classic pairings: Dashiell Hammett and his successive shamuses, the Continental Op, Sam Spade, and Nick Charles; Raymond Chandler and his brooding knight errant, Philip Marlowe; and Ross Macdonald and his 1960s sleuth, Lew Archer.
Each novelist, though celebrated in the American pantheon, harbored ghosts, injuries, and a guilty backstory of his own. Their fictional detectives served as doubles, in ways both flamboyant and subtle, as the authors wrestled inner demons and labored, in Karydes's words, to "write themselves well."
Included are remarkable observations from a memoir kept by Ross Macdonald as he underwent psychotherapy in the 1950s, never divulged at this length until the publication of this volume. Sigmund Freud, welcome to Sunset Boulevard.
Behind the gangsters, corrupt plutocrats, stoic gumshoes, and femmes fatales hovers Dr. Sigmund Freud, who masterminds the mayhem in classic private-eye stories, according to this study in Freudian lit-crit... A shrewd, illuminating, and entertaining exploration of the twisted roots of writerly creativity.
Perusing her compassionate but unsparing accounts of these men's psychic case-histories is often as thrilling an experience as reading their legendary novels. The brilliant Hard-Boiled Anxiety should become a benchmark work in Hammett-Chandler-Macdonald studies.
-Tom Nolan, author of Ross Macdonald: A Biography; editor of Ross Macdonald's The Archer Files; and co-editor (with Suzanne Marrs) of Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald.
Hard-Boiled Anxiety: The Freudian Desires of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, and Their Detectives is especially recommended for fans of detective fiction who appreciate psychological analysis. Three selected classic noir novelists and their characters are surveyed, using Freudian analysis to examine how the particular perspectives and struggles of each author translated into different fictional detective story approaches.
It's important to note that Hard-Boiled Anxiety is no light discussion, providing an in-depth analysis of not just the mental conditions of these genre writers, but how these states of mind translated to their creation of remarkable fictional protagonists. Re-reading their works from this different perspective involves a close inspection of not only each author's writings, but consideration of their life experiences and psyches, requiring both critical skills and an appreciation for history and psychology. Readers with more than a casual familiarity with the noir detective format will thus find Hard-Boiled Anxiety the perfect approach to better understanding these connections.
From alcoholism to unresolved family struggles, each of these writers utilized their characters and detective plots in different ways to express and explore their fractured families, sexual orientations, anger, and beliefs, ultimately producing noir works that were to define a genre with their blend of problem-solving and gumshoe sleuthing.
Readers of noir detective fiction (especially college-level readers analyzing the genre) will find Hard-Boiled Anxiety a key to better understanding not just the choices involved in the literary approaches of these three top detective writers, but the underlying psychology affecting the genre as a whole. All this makes Hard-Boiled Anxiety highly recommended as a thought-provoking analytical accompaniment that should be required reading for any serious study of noir detective fiction.
-D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review