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Dennis Broe

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Class, Labor, and the Homefront Detective: Hammett, Chandler, Woolrich, and the Dissident Lawman (and Woman) in 1940s Hollywood and Beyond

The homefront screen detective of the 1940s often challenged the law, as did his or her counterpart on the assembly line. This challenge became bolder as the war continued and can be seen in the progression of detective adaptations from Dashiell Hammett’s rigorous lawman, to Raymond Chandler’s detective dealing with corrupt or cold cops, to Cornell Woolrich’s errant outsiders, often female, who blatantly transgress the law. Current detective fiction likewise points the way to a new explosion of the dissident detective, whose contemporary journey outside the law questions the way in which the law is used for the profit of the few in the “war on terror.”

detective–hardboiled, labor–World War II history, Class–in the detective film, law–working-class opposition, adaptation–screen detectives

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 32, No. 2 (2005): 167-185.