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American Crime Fiction

Steve Brewer,

Course Description

Since the late 1800s, American authors and readers have been fascinated by crime and criminals. Fiction about crime – mysteries, thrillers, police procedurals, private eye stories – fills today's bestsellers lists, as well as providing a basis for many TV shows and movies. Much of American crime fiction has been a response to changes in American society: Prohibition, the atomic bomb, the rise of women in the workplace and the fight for civil rights all have been portrayed in crime fiction. Often, the imagery from crime fiction and films supersedes the facts to become the way we think about private eyes or crime scene investigators. In this course, we'll study the history of crime fiction/film from Poe to the present and how these hard-boiled stories reflect the attitudes of American society.

Readings and Texts

"The Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction," edited by Deane Mansfield-Kelley and Lois A. Marchino (2005, Pearson-Longman), and "Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories," edited by Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian (1995, Oxford University Press).

Films and Other Course Materials

"The Maltese Falcon," 1941, dir. by John Huston

Course Fee


Student Requirements

Students will be expected to do all the reading each week. Attendance is mandatory, as is participation in classroom discussions. Students will do two short papers (maximum of 5 pages) and one long paper (maximum of 10 pages).

About the Instructor

Steve Brewer is the author of 27 books, the latest being the Duke City trilogy written as Max Austin. His first mystery novel, LONELY STREET, was made into a 2009 Hollywood movie. A former journalist, Brewer has been a full-time author since 1997. He's a long-time instructor in Honors and regularly teaches at writers conferences and mystery conventions.