The Street Was Mine
White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir
By Megan E. Abbott
(Palgrave Macmillan, Hardcover, 9780312294816, 256pp.)
Publication Date: December 2002
This book considers a recurrent figure in American literature: the solitary white man moving through urban space. The descendent of 19th-century frontier and western heroes, the figure reemerges in 1930s-’50s America as the “tough guy.” The Street Was Mine looks to the tough guy in the works of hardboiled novelists Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep) and James M. Cain (Double Indemnity) and their popular film noir adaptations. Focusing on the way he negotiates racial and gender “otherness,” this study argues that the tough guy embodies the promise of an impervious white masculinity amidst the turmoil of the Depression through the beginnings of the Cold War. The book concludes with an analysis of Chester Himes, whose Harlem crime novels (For Love of Imabelle) unleash a ferocious revisionary critique of the tough guy tradition.
Megan E. Abbott is Assistant Professor of English at State University of New York-Oswego.
"Although more revisionist than feminist, this book does damage to white boys."--A. Hirsh, Choice