Mysteries Upon Mysteries

In my classes on crime fiction, I’ve sometimes likened literary analysis and criticism to a kind of detection: We read the text for clues, we interpret them and build connections between them, we reveal something new.¬†Fellow critic Sarah Weinman did some real literary sleuthing over the weekend when she unearthed the secret behind Hard Case Crime’s surprise December title. Her account of that adventure is a pleasure in its own right, and Hard Case Crime’s treatment of the classic novel may have many readers looking at it in a new light. As tempted as I am to reveal the name myself, I’ll leave that honor to the woman who discovered it. Check out Weinman’s story here, and Hard Case Crime’s take here.

As for me, I’m deep in figuring out the mystery of the syllabus, arranging the texts for my class in hard-boiled crime fiction at Mason this fall. Already ordered and just needing to be slotted into reading blocks are:

  • Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest
  • James Ellroy’s The Big Nowhere (in honor of his visit to Fall for the Book)
  • Dorothy B. Hughes’ In A Lonely Place
  • Ross MacDonald’s The Underground Man
  • Sue Grafton’s A Is For Alibi
  • Chester Himes’ Cotton Comes To Harlem, and
  • George Pelecanos’ Hard Revolution.

“Where’s Chandler?” you might ask. Well, that’s another piece of the puzzle here. Fourteen weeks and seven books is already enough. What to give up here for Chandler? Or is it OK to skip him this time?