Unwilling Executioner: Crime Fiction and the State

Hardcover | May 7, 2016

byAndrew Pepper

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What gives crime fiction its distinctive shape and form? What makes it such a compelling vehicle of social and political critique? Unwilling Executioner argues that the answer lies in the emerging genre's complex and intimate relationship with the bureaucratic state and modern capitalism, andthe contradictions that ensue once the state assumes control of the criminal justice system. This study offers a dramatic new interpretation of the genre's emergence and evolution over a three hundred year period and as a genuinely transnational phenomenon. From its roots in the tales of criminality circulated widely in Paris and London in the early eighteenth century, this book examines the extraordinary richness, diversity and complexity of the genre's subsequent thematizations of crime and policing - moving from France and Britain and fromcontinental Europe and the United States to other parts of the globe. In doing so it offers new ways of reading established crime novelists like Gaboriau, Doyle, Hammett, and Simenon, beyond their national contexts and an impulse to characterize their work as either straightforwardly "radical" or"conservative". It also argues for the centrality of writers like Defoe, Gay, Godwin, Vidocq, Morrison, and more recently Manchette, Himes, and Sjowall and Wahloo to a project where crime and policing are rooted, and shown to be rooted, in the social and economic conditions of their time. These areall deeply political writers even if their novels exhibit no interest in directly promoting political causes or parties. The result is an agile, layered, and far-reaching account of the crime story's ambivalent relationship to the justice system and its move to complicate our understanding of whatcrime is and how society is policed and for whose benefit.

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What gives crime fiction its distinctive shape and form? What makes it such a compelling vehicle of social and political critique? Unwilling Executioner argues that the answer lies in the emerging genre's complex and intimate relationship with the bureaucratic state and modern capitalism, andthe contradictions that ensue once the state...

Andrew Pepper is Senior Lecturer in English and American literature at Queen's University Belfast. He has written extensively about crime fiction over a twenty year period and is the author of The Contemporary American Crime Novel: Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Class (Edinburgh University Press, 2000) and co-editor, with David Schmid, of Gl...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.1 inPublished:May 7, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198716184

ISBN - 13:9780198716181

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Table of Contents

PrefaceIntroduction: Crime Fiction as Unwilling Executioner1. 'A life of horrid and inimitable wickedness': Crime, Law and Punishment in Early Eighteenth-Century London and Paris2. 'Let us attack injustice at its source': Crime Literature in an Era of Revolution and Reform3. 'A mysterious power whose hand is everywhere': Imagining the State and Codifying the Law in the Mid-Nineteenth Century4. Crime, Business, and Liberty at the Turn of the Century: the Individual, the State and the Emergence of Modern Capitalism5. 'No Good for Business': States of Crime in the 1920s and 1930s6. 'On the Barricades': Crime Fiction and Commitment in an Era of Radical Politics7. From Sovereignty to Neoliberalism: Crime Fiction in the Contemporary WorldConclusionSelect Bibliography