The Hardboiled Era (1929-58)

A Checklist from Geoffrey O’Brien’s Hardboiled America

[This is the appendix to Hardboiled America, by Geoffrey O’Brien (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1981). It’s a very good book on the topic, although much information on writers is now available that wasn’t when it was written.]

The following list is designed to show the hardboiled novel not as a series of isolated literary works but as part of an ongoing cycle. A Finnegans Wake or a Pilgrimage may develop in relative isolation, but the novelists we are considering here were closer to the idea of fiction as an industrial phenemonen. Most of them worked quickly in a highly competitive and innovative area, where each decisive success had its effects on the book that came afterwards. Spinoffs, copies, fusions abounded.

Since contrasts are more interesting than rigid categories (which are untenable anyway), I have thrown together all sorts of dissimilar works–naturalistic novels, political novels, spy thrillers, conventional whodunits–all those books that seem to orbit near the undefinable quantity I have referred to as the hard-boiled novel. The reader can create his own system of values. My purpose has simply been to put the books in their chronological landscape so that new relationships among them can be perceived.

Dates are usually those of first publication in book form. Exceptions include James Cain’s Double Indemnity, which did not appear in hardcover until a long while after its magazine serialization, and Horace McCoy’s Corruption City, a movie treatment which was published posthumously as a novel six years after it was written.

— William Denton (2005)


  • Dashiell Hammett: Red Harvest, The Dain Curse
  • W.R. Burnett: Little Caesar
  • Carroll John Daly: The Hidden Hand
  • S.S. Van Dine: The Bishop Murder Case
  • Ellery Queen: The Roman Hat Mystery


  • Dashiell Hammett: The Maltese Falcon
  • Raoul Whitfield: Green Ice
  • W.R. Burnett: Iron Man
  • Carroll John Daly: The Tag Murders
  • John Dos Passos: The 42nd Parallel
  • Mary Roberts Rinehart: The Door
  • James M. Cain: Our Government


  • Dashiell Hammett: The Glass Key
  • William Faulkner: Sanctuary
  • Raoul Whitfield: Death in a Bowl, Danger Zone
  • Carroll John Daly: Tainted Power, The Third Murderer


  • Paul Cain: Fast One
  • Erskine Caldwell: Tobacco Road
  • William Faulkner: Light in August
  • James T. Farrell: Young Lonigan
  • John Dos Passos: 1919
  • Graham Greene: Stamboul Train (aka “Orient Express”)


  • Nathanael West: Miss Lonelyhearts
  • Erskine Caldwell: God’s Little Acre
  • James T. Farrell: Gas House McGinty
  • Erle Stanley Gardner: The Case of the Velvet Claw
  • Carroll John Daly: The Amateur Murderer, Murder Won’t Wait
  • W.R. Burnett: Dark Hazard
  • S.S. Van Dine: The Kennel Murder Case


  • James M. Cain: The Postman Always Rings Twice
  • Dashiell Hammett: The Thin Man
  • John O’Hara: Appointment in Samarra
  • James T. Farrell: The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan
  • Rex Stout: Fer-de-Lance
  • S.S. Van Dine: The Casino Murder Case


  • Horace McCoy: They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
  • William Faulkner: Pylon
  • Jonathan Latimer: Murder in the Madhouse, Headed for a Hearse
  • John O’Hara: Butterfield 8
  • Erskine Caldwell: Journeyman
  • James T. Farrell: Judgement Day
  • John Steinbeck: Tortilla Flat
  • Carroll John Daly: Murder from the East


  • James M. Cain: Double Indemnity
  • Jonathan Latimer: The Lady in the Morgue
  • James T. Farrell: A World I Never Made
  • Jay Dratler: Manhattan Side Street
  • Richard Sale: Not Too Narrow, Not Too Deep
  • Carroll John Daly: Mr. Strang, The Mystery of the Smoking Gun
  • Rex Stout: The Red Box
  • John Dos Passos: The Big Money
  • Graham Greene: A Gun for Sale (aka “This Gun for Hire”)


  • James M. Cain: Serenade
  • Ernest Heminway: To Have and Have Not
  • Horace McCoy: No Pockets in a Shroud
  • Carroll John Daly: Emperor of Evil
  • John Steinbeck: Of Mice and Men


  • Horace McCoy: I Should Have Stayed Home
  • James M. Cain: Career in C Major, The Root of His Evil (published 1951)
  • John O’Hara: Hope of Heaven
  • Jonathan Latimer: The Dead Don’t Care
  • Richard Hallas: You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up
  • James Hadley Chase: No Orchids for Miss Blandish
  • Dorothy Baker: Young Man with a Horn
  • Eric Ambler: Epitaph for a Spy
  • Gerald Kersh: Night and the City
  • Nicholas Blake: The Beast Must Die


  • Raymond Chandler: The Big Sleep
  • William Faulkner: The Wild Palms
  • Nathanael West: The Day of the Locust
  • Jonathan Latimer: Red Gardenias
  • Kenneth Fearing: The Hospital
  • David Goodis: Retreat from Oblivion
  • Eric Ambler: A Coffin for Dimitrios, Cause for Alarm
  • Graham Greene: Confidential Agent
  • Geoffrey Household: Rogue Male
  • John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath


  • Raymond Chandler: Farewell, My Lovely
  • Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black
  • James M. Cain: The Embezzler
  • Dorothy B. Hughes: The So Blue Marble, The Cross-Eyed Bear Murders
  • W.R. Burnett: High Sierra
  • Jonathan Latimer: Dark Memory
  • John O’Hara: Pal Joey
  • Jay Dratler: Ducks in Thunder
  • James Ross: They Don’t Dance Much
  • Percival Wilde: Inquest
  • Frank Gruber: The French Key, The Laughing Fox
  • Richard Sale: Destination Unknown
  • Eric Ambler: Journey Into Fear
  • Raymond Postagte: Verdict of Twelve
  • Ernest Hemingway: For Whom the Bell Tolls


  • Kenneth Fearing: Dagger of the Mind
  • James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce
  • Cornell Woolrich: The Black Curtain
  • Jonathan Latimer: The Fifth Grave (aka “Solomon’s Vineyard”)
  • Maritta Wolf: Whistle Stop
  • Dorothy B. Hughes: The Bamboo Blonde
  • Nelson Algren: Never Come Morning
  • Budd Schulberg: What Makes Sammy Run?
  • Frank Gruber: Simon Lash – Private Detective, The Navy Colt, The Talking Clock, The Hungry Dog
  • Craig Rice: Trial By Fury


  • Raymond Chandler: The High Window
  • Cornell Woolrich: Phantom Lady, Black Alibi
  • James M. Cain: Love’s Lonely Counterfeit
  • Richard Sale: Lazarus #7, Passing Strange
  • Dorothy B. Hughes: The Fallen Sparrow
  • Jim Thompson: Now and On Earth
  • Kenneth Fearing: Clark Gifford’s Body
  • James Gunn: Deadlier Than the Male
  • W.R. Burnett: The Quick Brown Fox
  • Frank Gruber: The Mighty Blockhead, The Gift Horse, The Buffalo Box


  • Raymond Chandler: The Lady in the Lake
  • Cornell Woolrich: The Black Angel
  • Vera Caspary: Laura
  • Dorothy B. Hughes: The Blackbirder
  • Ira Wolfert: Tucker’s People
  • Margaret Millar: Wall of Eyes
  • James Hadley Chase: Twelve Chinks and a Woman
  • Graham Greene: The Ministry of Fear


  • Cornell Woolrich: The Black Path of Fear, Deadline at Dawn
  • Ross Macdonald: The Dark Tunnel
  • Dorothy B. Hughes: The Delicate Ape, Johnnie
  • Erskine Caldwell: Tragic Ground
  • W.R. Burnett: Nobody Lives Forever


  • Cornell Woolrich: Night Has a Thousand Eyes
  • Dorothy B. Hughes: Dread Journey


  • Kenneth Fearing: The Big Clock
  • David Goodis: Dark Passage
  • Dorothy B. Hughes: Ride the Pink Horse
  • Paul Cain: Seven Slayers
  • John Evans: Halo in Blood
  • Ross Macdonald: Trouble Follows Me
  • Richard Sale: Benefit Performance
  • William Lindsay Gresham: Nightmare Alley
  • James M. Cain: Past All Dishonor
  • Chester Himes: If He Hollers Let Him Go
  • Roy Huggins: The Double Take
  • Jim Thompson: Heed the Thunder
  • Wade Miller: Deadly Weapon


  • David Goodis: Nightfall (aka “The Dark Chase”), Behold This Woman
  • Ross Macdonald: Blue City
  • James M. Cain: The Butterfly, Sinful Woman
  • Mickey Spillane: I, the Jury
  • Cornell Woolrich: Waltz Into Darkness
  • Jay Dratler: The Pitfall
  • Dorothy B. Hughes: In a Lonely Place
  • Eleazar Lipsky: Kiss of Death
  • Irving Shulman: The Amboy Dukes
  • Roy Huggins: Too Late for Tears
  • Willard Motley: Knock on Any Door
  • Nelson Algren: The Neon Wilderness
  • John Evans: If You Have Tears
  • Howard Hunt: Stranger in Town
  • John Steinbeck: The Wayward Bus


  • Horace McCoy: Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
  • Cornell Woolrich: Rendezvous in Black, I Married a Dead Man
  • James M. Cain: The Moth
  • Ross Macdonald: The Three Roads
  • John Evans: Halo for Satan
  • Eleazar Lipsky: Murder One
  • Charles O. Gorham: The Future Mister Dolan, The Gilded Hearse
  • Howard Hunt: Maelstrom (aka “Dark Encounter”)
  • Frank Gruber: Murder ’98, The Lock and the Key


  • Raymond Chandler: The Little Sister
  • Ross Macdonald: The Moving Target
  • W.R. Burnett: The Asphalt Jungle
  • Patricia Highsmith: Strangers on a Train
  • Jim Thompson: Nothing More Than Murder
  • Dorothy B. Hughes: The Big Barbecue
  • John Evans: Halo in Brass
  • Nelson Algren: The Man with the Golden Arm
  • John O’Hara: A Rage to Live
  • Howard Hunt: Bimini Run
  • Roy Huggins: Lovely Lady, Pity Me
  • William Lindsay Gresham: Limbo Tower
  • Hal Ellson: Duke
  • Graham Greene: The Third Man


  • Ross Macdonald: The Drowning Pool
  • John D. MacDonald: The Brass Cupcake
  • David Goodis: Of Missing Persons
  • James M. Cain: Jealous Woman
  • Mickey Spillane: My Gun is Quick, Vengeance is Mine
  • Cornell Woolrich: Savage Bride, Fright
  • Howard Hunt: The Violent Ones
  • Dorothy B. Hughes: The Candy Kid
  • Eleazar Lipsky: The People Against O’Hara
  • Hal Ellson: Tomboy
  • Richard S. Prather: The Case of the Vanishing Beauty
  • Budd Schulberg: The Disenchanted


  • David Goodis: Cassidy’s Girl
  • Ross Macdonald: The Way Some People Die
  • John D. MacDonald: Murder for the Bride, Judge Me Not, Weep for Me
  • Cornell Woolrich: Strangler’s Serenade
  • Kenneth Fearing: The Loneliest Girl in the World
  • John O’Hara: The Farmers Hotel
  • Mickey Spillane: One Lonely Night, The Big Kill, The Long Wait
  • William P. McGivern: Shield for Murder
  • Richard S. Prather: Bodies in Bedlam


  • Jim Thompson: The Killer Inside Me, Cropper’s Cabin
  • John D. MacDonald: The Damned
  • Ross Macdonald: The Ivory Grin
  • David Goodis: Of Tender Sin, Street of the Lost
  • Horace McCoy: Scalpel, Corruption City (published 1959)
  • William P. McGivern: The Big Heat
  • Mickey Spillane: Kiss Me, Deadly
  • Leonard Bishop: Down All Your Streets
  • Dorothy B. Hughes: The Davidian Report
  • Howard Hunt: Whisper Her Name


  • Raymond Chandler: The Long Goodbye
  • John D. MacDonald: Dead Low Tide, The Neon Jungle, Cancel All Your Vows
  • David Goodis: The Burglar, The Moon in the Gutter, The Wounded and the Slain
  • Jim Thompson: The Criminal, Bad Boy, The Alcoholics, Savage Night, Recoil
  • Ross Macdonald: Meet Me at the Morgue
  • James M. Cain: Galatea
  • Ira Levin: A Kiss Before Dying
  • William P. McGivern: Margin of Terror
  • William Burroughs: Junkie
  • Ian Fleming: Casino Royale


  • David Goodis: Black Friday, Street of No Return, The Blonde on the Street Corner
  • John D. MacDonald: Area of Suspicion, All These Condemned, Contrary Pleasure
  • Ross Macdonald: Find a Victim
  • Jim Thompson: The Golden Gizmo, A Hell of a Woman, The Nothing Man, Roughneck, A Swell-Looking Babe, King Blood
  • Evan Hunter: The Blackboard Jungle
  • William P. McGivern: Rogue Cop
  • Kenneth Fearing: The Generous Heart
  • John Evans: Thin Air
  • Richard S. Prather: Always Leave ‘Em Dying, Pattern for Panic
  • Ian Fleming: Live and Let Die


  • John D. MacDonald: A Bullet for Cinderella, Cry Hard, Cry Fast
  • Jim Thompson: After Dark, My Sweet
  • Jonathan Latimer: Sinners and Shrouds
  • Ross Macdonald: The Name is Archer
  • Jay Dratler: The Judas Kiss
  • Chester Himes: The Primitive
  • Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • Margaret Millar: Beast in View
  • Howard Hunt: Unfaithful
  • Hall Ellson: Rock
  • Richard S. Prather: Darling, It’s Death, Everybody Had a Gun, Strip for Murder
  • Edward S. Aarons: Assignment Disaster


  • John D. MacDonald: Murder in the Wind, April Evil, You Live Once
  • David Goodis: Down There (aka “Shoot the Piano Player”)
  • Ross Macdonald: The Barbarous Coast
  • Ed McBain: Cop Hater, The Mugger, The Pusher
  • Patricia Highsmith: The Blunderer
  • Cornell Woolrich: Nightmare
  • Nelson Algren: A Walk on the Wild Side
  • Maritta Wolf: The Big Nickleodeon
  • Wenzell Brown: The Wicked Streets


  • John D. MacDonald: The Price of Murder, Death Trap, The Empty Trap, A Man of Affairs
  • David Goodis: Fire in the Flesh
  • Jim Thompson: The Kill-Off
  • Ed McBain: The Con Man
  • Patricia Highsmith: Deep Water
  • Chester Himes: For Love of Imabelle
  • Ian Fleming: From Russia with Love


  • Raymond Chandler: Playback
  • Ross Macdonald: The Doomsters
  • John D. MacDonald: The Executioners, Clemmie, Soft Touch
  • Jim Thompson: The Getaway, Wild Town
  • Cornell Woolrich: Hotel Room, Violence
  • Ed McBain: King’s Ransom
  • Stanley Ellin: The Eighth Circle
  • Roy Huggins: 77 Sunset Strip
  • Robert Traver: Anatomy of a Murder
  • Patricia Highsmith: A Game for the Living
  • Jack Kerouac: The Subterraneans
  • Ian Fleming: Dr. No
Respectfully submitted by William Denton, who created the Rara-Avis list. Links to come.

One thought on “The Hardboiled Era (1929-58)

  1. Big work, indeed.
    Just a remark: since people like Farrell are in, I believe that Walk Hard-Talk Loud (1940) by Len Zinberg must be there too and I wonder no title from Ed Lacy (i.e. Zinberg) be there. If not before 1957, at last Room to Swing with PI Toussaint Moore, first story with a credible Afro-American PI and Edgar of MWA for that year.

    Roger Martin, from France

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