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Hard Boiled Detective in the Pulps

Started in the 1920s and perfected in the 1930s, the hard boiled detective was one of the most popular forms to arise from the pulp fiction magazines.

Dashiell Hammet Hard Boiled WriterThe hard boiled detective was a character who had to live on the mean streets of the city where fighting, drinking, swearing, poverty and death were all part of life. This new type of detective had to balance the day to day needs of survival against the desire to uphold the law and assist justice. Living in the toughest of environments, and required to be tougher than the evil surrounding him, our new heroes had to become "hard boiled".

In this new world, the hard boiled detective began to administer a new form of justice where if need be, he himself would cross the line and break the law, to insure that justice was done. Our hero was thrust into a world where he had to choose between different levels of evil and no one was truely on the side of good. His survival often depended upon a shoot first, ask questions later approach where the ability to reason out a murder is less important than the ability to fight one's way out of a jam.

This ushered in a new era of action packed detective stories where the murder no longer took place off stage and instead took place all around our hero on an ongoing basis. In some respects, the hard boiled detective was in response to the rising crime and gangster activety caused by Prohibition and then the Great Depression. But once Carroll John Daly introduced us to Race Williams, and Dashiell Hammett gave us to Sam Spade, the world of detective fiction changed forever.

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