© 2016

American Crime Fiction

A Cultural History of Nobrow Literature as Art


  • Comprehensively spans the entire twentieth-century, touching upon modernism all the way through contemporary crime writers like Nelson DeMille

  • Pioneers a larger discussion about the importance of lowbrow crime fiction, or what Swirski calls nobrow, within literary studies

  • Presents its argument through highly accessible yet engaging prose that will appeal to audiences of all kinds


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Peter Swirski
    Pages 1-28
  3. Peter Swirski
    Pages 123-154
  4. Back Matter
    Pages 185-222

About this book


This book looks at American crime fiction as an artform that expresses and reflects the social and aesthetic values of its authors and readers. As such it documents the manifold ways in which such authorship and readership are a matter of informed literary choice and not of cultural brainwashing or declining literary standards. Asking, in effect, a series of questions about the nature of genre fiction as art, successive chapters look at American crime writers whose careers throw light on the hazards and rewards of nobrow traffic between popular forms and highbrow aesthetics: Dashiell Hammett, John Grisham, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, Ed McBain, Nelson DeMille, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.


American Literature Crime Fiction Lowbrow Nobrow Twentieth-Century

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Hong KongHong Kong

About the authors

Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic featured in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American studies, and Amazon's #1 Bestseller in American Literature, American History and Criticism, and Canadian Literary Criticism, he is the author of sixteen award-winning books, including the staple of American popular culture studies From Lowbrow to Nobrow (2005); a trio of bestsellers on American literature, culture, and politics: Ars Americana, Ars Politica (2010); American Utopia and Social Engineering (2011), and American Political Fictions (2015); and a tour de force on thinking and creative computers From Literature to Biterature (2013).

Bibliographic information


“American Crime Fiction: A Cultural History of Nobrow Literature as Art has a unique approach to the question of the value of genre fiction and the relationship between high and low culture. …  American Crime Fiction would appeal to a non-specialist or to those specializing in American popular culture more generally … .  For those who enjoy American crime fiction this book is not to be missed.” (Anna Kirsch, International Crime Fiction Association,, February, 2018)

“Swirski is once again to be congratulated for integrating his extensive knowledge of literature, literary theory, and literary aesthetics and his insightful views on culture. American Crime Fiction is fascinatingly challenging in its take on America, on crime, on fiction, and on art. Anyone interested in any of these will have a great time reading it. The book has arguably more to offer to those interested in American history and culture … .” (Iris Vidmar, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 75 (3), 2017)

“With this book, Peter Swirski confirms his reputation as one of the most passionate, perceptive and entertaining analysts of popular/nobrow culture and its relation to American society. After reading it, you will never look upon crime fiction and American culture in the same way.” (Arthur Asa Berger, Professor Emeritus of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts, San Francisco State University, USA and author of “Media, Myth and Society”)

“Those who have not yet discovered Peter Swirski—one of our most challenging, entertaining, insightful, and gloriously outrageous cultural critics—should grab American Crime Fiction, his latest exploration of what he calls “nobrow” literature.  Every page of this delightful excursion through landmark “beachbooks for intellectuals” makes us take new perspectives on many of our favorite unexamined assumptions about culture.” (H. Bruce Franklin, John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies, Emeritus, Rutgers University—Newark, USA)

“Readable, insightful, and thought-provoking, with American Crime Fiction Peter Swirski has given us one of the very best critical studies of popular fiction and the culture of everyday life. Anyone interested in understanding crime fiction, popular fiction, or popular culture in general must read this book. It is a treasure!” (Gary Hoppenstand, Professor of American Studies, Michigan State University, USA)

American Crime Fiction goes a long way toward erasing the artificial distinctions with which we have ring-fenced creative content. If you enjoy a particular work, including Peter Swirski’s, then enjoy it without guilt, without insecurity, without worrying about what the Times or the Man Booker committee might think.” (Aaron Schwabach, Professor of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, USA)