As managing editor of Clues: A Journal of Detection, the only US academic journal on mystery, detective and crime fiction, I share Richard Bradford’s concern (“Beaten to a pulp”, Culture, 4 June) about the segregation of crime fiction in academe.
Mystery fiction is often regarded, in my phrase, as “the Rodney Dangerfield of literature” (ie, getting no respect). It may lie in the fact that it is popular, and many academics seem to have an inherent suspicion that there cannot be anything worthy of study in popular culture. I need to point out, however, that Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain do indeed appear alongside Steinbeck and Hemingway – at least in the Library of America volumes. But until the Feminist Press issued its Femmes Fatales series, and Sarah Weinman produced an anthology of female crime writers in the LOA series, we seldom saw corresponding treatment of the work of female mystery writers. Even here, it is the harder-edged female authors (eg, Dorothy B. Hughes) getting the attention rather than the cosier writers (eg, Mary Roberts Rinehart). We also see this with the men; hard-boiled and noir deemed worthy of study rather than the work of someone such as Rex Stout.
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