I've been reading a fair number of crime novels and stories from the 1950s, reissued by Wonder Publishing Group with suitably lurid covers after original publication in magazines of the time, notably Manhunt. Two highlights have been "As I Lie Dead" by Fletcher Flora and We Are All Dead by Bruno Fischer. In each, a first-person narrator relates a tale that takes him exactly where you'd expect from the title, and it's hard to imagine anything more self-involved than imagining one's own death.
Why did these authors have their characters do it? Is lurid embrace of death really more prevalent in American crime writing of the 1950s (and late 1940s) than in that of previous and succeeding periods? If so, why? As a gross generalization, I'd say that characters in 1950s crime melodrama embraced the forbidden when doing so could still exact a tremendous toll in guilt, psychological dissolution, even death, and that this lends stories of the time their giddy, nasty kick. Shed one's inhibitions, as we've all been doing since the 1960s, and you shed the possibility of writing such stories.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012