"The street was mine, all mine. They gave it to me gladly
and wondered why I wanted it so nice and all alone."

- Mickey Spillane, One Lonely Night (1951)

megan abbott, the street was mine

The Street Was Mine considers a recurrent figure in American literature: the solitary white man moving through the city. The descendant 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. "

Table of Contents

Chapter Titles:
ONE: Introduction
TWO: “I Can Feel Her”: The White Male as Hysteric in James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler
THREE: “Another Soft-Voiced Big Man I Had Strangely Liked”: Containing White Male Desire
FOUR: The Woman in White: Race-ing and Erace-ing in Cain and Chandler
FIVE: “Nothing You Can’t Fix”: Hardboiled Fiction’s Hollywood Makeover
SIX: “The Strict Domain of Whitey”: Chester Himes’s Coup
EPILOGUE: “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”


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"...that rare combination--smart and accessible, challenging and downright fun to read. Megan Abbott's analysis ... connects all the dots in relating gender, sexuality and race relations in the popular culture of urban America—it represents the state of the art in contemporary cultural studies." — Lisa Duggan, Professor of American Studies and History, New York University

"Abbott has produced a useful, elegantly simple genealogy of the hardboiled hero that should enable more scholars and teachers to make sense of the genre. This study courageously moves back and forth across gender and race lines, and successfully delineates the need for containment of the violent, anti-bourgeois hardboiled hero both inside and outside the text. ... her categories and tropes have contemporary relevance (and resonances) for any readings of neo-noir films, detective novels, urban thrillers, and the ongoing fascination of American audiences for the white male rebel loners." — Joel Dinerstein, Ithaca College

"The Street Was Mine captures the danger, the aura, the smoky isolation of hardboiled fiction and film noir. Megan Abbott exposes the instabilities of race, gender and sexuality that make the 'tough guy' ... seem not so tough after all. ... Arguing that 'popular literature can be dangerous' Abbott contributes to our understanding of U.S. popular culture from the Depression to the Cold War era, from pulp fiction to Hollywood cinema." — Carolyn Dever, Professor of English, Vanderbilt University