Named one of Kirkus Reviews' Best Indie Books of 2016.
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.
Praise for Hard-Boiled Anxiety
“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
“Karen Huston Karydes makes a major contribution to mystery-fiction scholarship with her bold and inventive work, Hard-Boiled Anxiety. Don’t be alarmed by its exotic subtitle: This swift-reading book is short on jargon and long on penetrating insight. ‘An existential man in a nihilistic world’ is one definition of hard-boiled fiction; Ms. Karydes’s breakthrough move is to apply the same psycho-literary analysis to the biographies of hard-boiled’s ‘Holy Trinity’ of authors as she does to their private-eye protagonists — scrutinizing real-life ‘family romances’ with the skills of a psychologically-informed fiction-critic.
“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.
"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