Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The hunted man in American crime writing, plus some questions for readers

Saturday's post about Gil Brewer's novel The Three-Way Split prompted some thoughts about the hunted-man motif in American crime writing of the 1950s.

The Fugitive was on television from 1963 through 1967, for example, but the idea belongs to the previous decade. The series' creator, Roy Huggins, had written a virtual prototype for The Fugitive as one of three novellas published in 1958 under the title 77 Sunset Strip.

In the 1950s, Gil Brewer wrote novels about men trapped and on the run. So did Charles Williams, Day Keene, and Harry Whittington, and those are just the authors I've been reading recently.

Here are the names of magazines where the stories collected in Brewer's Redheads Die Quickly first appeared: Manhunt.The Pursuit Detective Story Magazine. Hunted Detective Story Magazine. Accused Detective Story Magazine. Trapped Detective Story Magazine.

I had previously heard of none except the celebrated Manhunt, and I have no idea if they were issued by one publisher or several, or of who started the craze. But something about the hunted man captured the fancy of the American public in a big-way for a few years there. Why? If you're up on your crime-fiction and American cultural history, who started the rage for such stories, and who were its leading publishers?

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Blogger Unknown said...

Isn't the "hunted man" motif simply a revision (reversal?) of the prototypical clever sleuth v. hiding criminal model? Poe's sleuth hunts for the killer in the Rue Morgue. Doyle's sleuth hunts for the Baskerville killer. The Continental Op hunts for killers in Poisonville. And on it goes.

April 07, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The hunted man may indeed be such a reversal, but the question remains: Why did it become so popular when it did and to the extent it did?

April 07, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

I don't have any theory, but the discussion made me think of a Geoffrey Household book called Rogue Male which I read fairly recently. But he was British, and wrote the book in 1939. It held up quite well.

April 08, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And the crime writer Craig McDonald has a collection with interviews with crime authors called Rogue Males.

War and economic upheaval are always handy explanations. Does Householder's book invoke World War I?

April 08, 2015  

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