5 Reasons People Wanting to Change the World Should Read Crime Fiction
"Let’s face it: some of the most ideologically committed people rarely read fiction, even socially conscious fiction, which means they’re only getting part of the story.
If you’re writing a research paper on the Great Depression, you’re probably going to start off by reading non-fiction accounts of the events of that decade. But if you want to know what it actually felt like to lose your home to the banks, travel across the country just to work a seasonal job with long hours under appalling conditions, and get assaulted by vigilantes because you dared to speak up, you should look no further than John Steinbeck’s masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath.
The same goes for crime fiction.
1. Crime fiction has the longest tradition of progressive social criticism of any American popular literary genre.
While some of today’s best-selling authors are attracted to the vigilante law-and-order and CIA-assassin type of crime thrillers, American hardboiled crime fiction began as a product of the rampant lawlessness and corruption of Prohibition in the 1920s. Dashiell Hammett, best known for The Maltese Falcon (1930), worked as a Pinkerton detective for several years and witnessed the violent suppression of the Anaconda copper miners’ strike in 1920. His first novel, Red Harvest (1929), draws on that experience, set in a mid-sized western city that is completely controlled by two rival criminal gangs. (One of my favorite lines from this novel: “The room was as dark as an honest politician’s prospects.”)..." —Kenneth Wishnia, AlterNet
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