Tag: Joseph Hansen

Monthly Review – August 2013

Posted August 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

death in the afternoonAs we come to the end of August, it is time once again to have a look at the month’s reading. This month the book club read the non-fiction sports/travel book Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway. While I am against bullfighting, this was an interesting dip into a sport I had no idea what was happening. Next month we are reading one of my wife’s favourite books; The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

I feel very proud of my reading this month; I read some great books and hope this trend continues. Fifteen books read and some of my highlights include Fadeout, Oryx and Crake, The Third Man, The Unknown, Kiss Me First and We Need New Names. There was just so many great books and I feel like I didn’t have any wasted reading time (with the exception of The Suite Life) but the biggest thrill for this month was The Machine by James Smythe a wonderfully dark and complex novel that really deserves more attention.

My Reading Month


Fadeout by Joseph Hansen

Posted August 18, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp / 9 Comments

Fadeout by Joseph HansenTitle: Fadeout (Goodreads)
Author: Joseph Hansen
Series: Dave Brandstetter #1
Published: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970
Pages: 187
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Dave Brandstetter is an insurance investigator who is hired to investigate a death claim of a local celebrity, whose car plunged off a bridge in a storm. In the absence of a body the insurance company needs to send their own investigator before handing over $150,000 (works out to be about $900,000 by today’s standards). As the investigation continues Brandstetter is convinced that Fox Olson is still alive and he must find him before the would-be killer does.

Dave Brandstetter embodies the tough, no-nonsense persona of most classic Hard-boiled detectives with one major difference; he’s openly gay. As most people know, I have a love for the hard-boiled detective and I’m always looking for new and interesting takes on this genre. I’ve found that in Joseph Hansen’s Fadeout. There are a few reasons why I plan to continue the series and I thought rather than talk about the book, it would be nice to mention what will make me continue with the other eleven novels.

First of all, I’ve never read a pulp novel like this before; a homosexual protagonist would have been controversial in 1970. This would have been near the beginning of the gay pride movement and Hansen must have gone through a lot of hardship with writing this character and being a homosexual as well. With all the stigma and prejudices towards homosexuality back then (and let’s face it, it’s still around today) it was refreshing to see a protagonist who is proud and comfortable with his sexuality (I get sick of seeing homosexuals in literature being portrayed as unstable or disturbed) .

From the very first page of Fadeout, we find out that Dave Brandstetter has just lost a long term partner to cancer, so now we have this fresh new angle as well. Joseph Hansen has been quoted in saying the following about this topic;

“There was room in the form to say important things about men and women and how they cope with life.”

So we have this protagonist that is both tough as nails and maybe cynical of life after this tragic loss but we also get to watch him deal with his grief. Throughout Fadeout you witness Dave Brandstetter struggle with loneliness, sexual desire and even alienation and you really get an idea of just how hard it must be for him. It’s something I don’t think I’ve seen in a hard-boiled novel before and it seems to work really well, I feel for Brandstetter and have a better understanding of just what makes this man tick and that connection makes me want to continue the series.

Lastly, something I didn’t see too much of in Fadeout but I feel like this would be an element that Joseph Hansen would work into the series; I can see it coming. Dave Brandstetter is an insurance investigator, in most hard-boiled novels you have the detective hired by someone close to the victim to solve the puzzle. In this series you have the investigator working against the people; working for the insurance company. Mix that with people’s prejudices and you have a protagonist that will have to struggle to solve any mystery because people will close up and refuse to talk to the man. I like the whole idea; sort of like an anti-hero, he wants to solve the crime or mystery but he has the best interest of the insurance company in mind and not the people. If Hansen uses this throughout the rest of the series, it could really open it up to some interesting and new situations.

Judging by the difficulty of getting a hold of this book, I’m inclined to think this series is cult classic but then you look at the blurbs on the book and think this is a series I should have known about and really is a classic in its own right. I’m sure it will be difficult to get a hold of the other eleven books but I think it will be worth the effort. I want to see if my predictions are correct and also see what Joseph Hansen does with the series. Highly recommend Fadeout; it has the makings of a classic hard-boiled novel but then you have added elements to make it stand out.


Guest Post: Brief Overview of Pulp Fiction – Part 3 (1960’s-1980’s)

Posted December 9, 2012 by Guest Post in Guest Posts, Literature, Pulp / 0 Comments

It’s a terribly clichéd expression to use as a title for this chapter I know but when looking at the evolution of hard-boiled and noir fiction it’s hard not to take in to consideration the fact that socially and politically America was in turmoil like never before.

In part two we acknowledged that the bleak outlook adopted by the second generation of noir authors, such as Jim Thompson, was a reflection of societal fears regarding Communism and nuclear war as they moved away from the prohibition era writing of Hammett and Chandler but as the 60s came around the audience for these books found themselves disconnected from the next generation who had radical ideas for changing the world.

The growth in popularity of television, the baby boomers, the Vietnam war, a President assassinated and that guy Nixon are just some of the major changes in American culture which saw the market for the bleakest noir fiction dwindle in size.

First there was the closure of several paperback original imprints whilst the ones that remained tended to focus on recurring characters rather than taking chances on original pulp work, then there was the splintering of the world of noir as it suddenly became a more diverse place. From the 70s onwards we’ve been treated to books about serial killers, forensics experts, hardened cops working within the departmental structure, and the redemption of the lone wolf. Not to mention females, homosexuals, non-whites and just about everything a writer desperate to stand out from the crowd could think of in between.

As mentioned previously several of the second generation of hard-boiled and noir writers kept writing after the death of the paperback original. Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer and Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer were perfectly suited to repeat adventures throughout the 60s and 70s (Blue Hammer the 18th Archer in ‘76 and Black Alley the final real Hammer in ’96) and sat alongside the newcomers as wisened old heads ready to guide the next generation.

One of the most important names in the history of the genre is Lawrence Block, he got started writing short stories during the heady days of the paperback originals (some of which are collected in the highly enjoyable Lost Weekends and One Night Stands) and had his first novels published in the early 60s. Amongst his mixed bag of early work the superb and disturbing Mona AKA Grifter’s Game (1961) has the distinction of being the first novel republished by the excellent Hard Case Crime imprint. He is a man that appears to have adapted quite readily to the need for recurring protagonists with no fewer than six different series created by him since the mid 60s. The Sins of the Fathers (1976) marks the debut of perhaps his most popular character, Matt Scudder.

Swedish born American Donald Hamilton is someone that isn’t so readily known in the 21st century but his character Matt Helm was created for Gold Medal Books in Death of a Citizen (1960) and ran for 27 books until The Damagers (1993.) Helm is a no-nonsense kind of guy, working as an undercover counter-terrorist agent he narrates his escapades with a detached, dead pan style include the many fights, torture sequences and sexual conquests.

“Donald Hamilton has brought to the spy novel the authentic hard realism of Dashiell Hammett; and his stories are as compelling, and probably as close to the sordid truth of espionage, as any now being told.”

Donald Westlake was an incredibly prolific author in the genre who used many pseudonyms to divide up his different work. His most famous being Richard Stark, creator of the hard-boiled Parker, a ruthless master thief willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. Parker first appeared in The Hunter (1962) and went on to star in a further 23 novels until Dirty Money (2008).

The Deep Blue Good-Bye (1964) marked the debut of hard-boiled detective Travis McGee. His creator John D. MacDonald would write one book per year until The Lonely Silver Rain (1985) brought the sequence to a close after 21 adventures. McGee is known for being a misogynist, a character that has dated quite badly and can easily offend some readers. MacDonald has an easygoing approach to the series, his detective lives on a houseboat and would prefer to lounge around drinking to solving crimes, that belies the intricate plotting he uses and misogyny aside this is a great series of third generation hard-boiled fiction.

Robert B. Parker wrote his Ph.D dissertation on Hammett, Chandler and Ross MacDonald and went on to create his own legendary private eye, Spenser in The Godwulf Manuscript (1973). Parker is known for his modern approach to the classics of the genre and including series characters from minority backgrounds as more than just punchbags for his protagonist. Sixkill (2011) was the 40th Spenser outing and was the last novel he finished before his death, making Spenser The Rolling Stones of hard-boiled fiction.

Joseph Hansen is best known for his ground breaking series of crime novels starring his most iconic creation, Dave Brandstetter, an openly gay insurance investigator who still embodied the tough, no-nonsense personality of the classic hardboiled private investigator type of protagonist. His first outing was Fadeout (1970) and he went on to appear in eleven more novels until A Country of Old Men (1991).

James Crumley is a self-declared heir to the Chandler tradition, he defines his own sensibility as conditioned by the disillusionments of the Vietnam War and his vision of justice less clear-cut. His protagonists are environmentalists and sustained by eccentric alliances with criminals and other misfits. Described as the literary offspring of Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson he was another author who found success outside of America long before the Americans took to him. His book The Last Good Kiss (1978) features the alcoholic ex-army officer turned private detective, C.W. Sughrue, as it’s protagonist and has been labelled as the most important crime novel of the last 50 years, influencing much of what will be described as the fourth generation of hard-boiled and noir writing. The Mexican Tree Duck (1993) is the only one of his novels to be acknowledged with an award.

I’ll now break my own rules and mention briefly the British author Derek Raymond. In 1984 he wrote the first book in The Factory Series, He Died With His Eyes Open, a book that seems to have captured both the hard-boiled spirit of Chandler and the blackest, bleakest noir poetics of David Goodis in one wonderful novel. Whilst he wasn’t American he is the closest I have found to true hard-boiled and noir fiction outside of America and deserves to be read by all fans of the genre.

Part four will bring us right up to date with a quick look at some of the shining lights in contemporary American hard-boiled and noir fiction.

This is a guest post by blahblahblahtobyYou can find him discussing books on Goodreads, discussing movies on Letterboxd, tweeting nonsense as blahblahblahtoby and on his blog blahblahblahgay, feel free to say hi.

There are literally dozens of great authors and great novels that could have been suggested as essential reading for this guide. The writer of the article went through agonising decisions over who to leave out and is more than aware that your favourite author probably hasn’t been mentioned but feel free to start a discussion in the comments.

This post is part of a four post series exploring the history of Hard-Boiled and Noir Fiction, for recommendations check out each post;

The 1930’s – 1940’s

The 1950’s

The 1960’s – 1980’s

The 1990’s – Onward