Devil in a Blue Dress:The Doodle Version


Herrrrre we go again.

  1. This lovely little doodle here came from something Jim Groom mentioned in class; something along the lines of “the world of Easy Rawlins that we are viewing”. I really like this idea in general when it comes to literature; that what we are reading and the opinion we are getting is essentially the one reality of our narrator  and there are (or could be) multiple other realities that are influencing this one. I think the fact that we see this world through Easy gives the scenery a much more logical spin. Easy is very methodical with his actions, and I really like that about him. Easy Rawlins is written into many other novels by Mosley, and I think this is because he is such a solid character. The scene and the characters can change around him, kind of like actors walking on and off a stage; but Easy remains steadfast and interacts without losing his own character.
  2. This quote just really struck me, for some reason. I think because it is just so honest. I don’t think I would go as far as applying it to real life, but for the “world” of this novel, it seems accurate. Who has the power? The man with the most money. That’s the person who has the least amount of debt to pay, and therefore the most freedom. So in a sense, money does seem to control things, kind of like a god-figure.
  3. Aside from an attempt at the class “The Who” symbol, this is also a nod to Easy’s ever-present “Voice”. I really like this voice; it never tries to get ahead, it only tries to stay alive. I think it’s less of a conscience and more of an instinct. It’s not exactly telling Easy what’s right and what’s wrong, it’s telling him what he needs to do to stay alive. I think that’s the very heart of this novel, that “dog-eat-dog” outlook and the sheer necessity to stay alive.

Devil in a Blue Dress; Silver Screen Edition.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress my favorite book we’ve read this semester. So I had a very clear image in my head as I read this book. I’m not quite sure the movie lived up to this image. The first thing I noticed was the difference in Allbright. As I read, I pictured him as a sort of classy, upright individual. Obviously he wasn’t even close to “upright” but I saw him in a veranda on the beach (Panama hat lead to this, I think) with the wind blowing and his suit all white and bright. Similar to the scene with Daisy and Jordan and the couch in The Great Gatsby. However, Allbright of the movie was dirty and, not to sound rude, but not as white as I had pictured in my head. I was disappointed in his way of speaking, and of handling himself. In the book, he came off as more confident. Even though he was working for other people, he had an air of being totally in charge and responsible to himself and the powers that be above; no  one else. In the movie, he’s less in charge and more of an asshole as opposed to the classy gangster in white that I saw in my head. This extended to the scene on the boardwalk, which I found really disappointing.

I did, however, quite like the character of Easy Rawlins. I liked the look of him, and how he did seem to know what he was doing. I loved the portrayal of his house, it really did look like something that he should have been proud of. Throughout the movie, he seemed confident and sure of himself, which was how I pictured him in the novel as well. I was disappointed in his relationship with Daphne; there was no chemistry like that of the novel. Where was the bathtub scene, or the small cottage? The small child was also gone for most of the movie, and he didn’t get the happy ending that he did in the book.

The end was not what I had wanted. I was very happy with the  ending in the novel; it gave Easy a future as a detective which threw me back to my Nancy Drew days (which wasn’t a bad thing). It also tied up a lot of strings very quickly, which produced a whirlwind of cause and effect in a very hardboiled way. There was pretty much none of that in the movie.

All in all, I really liked this novel. And I kinda liked the movie. You win some, you lose some.

Final Essay:The Dots and the Lines Between

For my part in the Wikipedia project, I researched the “legacy” portion of The Glass Key. Legacy is a really large part of the Hardboiled genre. Throughout the semester, Jim Groom talked about a lot of different things, but one thing that kept reappearing throughout each discussion was the term “which was an inspiration for…”. In my head, Chandler and Hammett and Fante and Mosley and the Cohen brothers were all good friends who frequented this little cigar lounge and just talked about things like murder and death and women. Maybe they talked a little of Hemmingway as well. The point of this image being that each author took a little bit of inspiration from all of the other authors and added a little bit of their own imagination and their take on the world and then there you go: another Hardboiled novel. Maybe it’s a little bit more formal than this, but that’s the feeling I got as Jim Groom presented these dots (known as novels) and then connected them, to movies and subgenres and other authors, and then got again as I began to research how The Glass Key affected the rest of the Hardboiled (and literature as a whole) genre.


In the research project, I started with the links that Peter (aka Best Librarian Ever) had provided on the Wikipedia research page. I sent Peter an email, explaining the difficulty I was having, and he responded with a suggestion to check out a few links, particularly the Book Review Index Plus, which allowed me to search within book reviews. This was helpful, since many reviewers would connect Hammett to other authors and their work as they reviewed his work. One particular article, “Lead Birds and Falling Beams”, I found brought in an article written by Raymond Chandler (one of the guys in the cigar lounge) and how he related his ideas to ideas that Hammett had also explored (Defino). I knew in my head that all of these authors were connected, but it was really cool to be reading an article and find the names of other authors that we had discussed, kind of like reading the credits to a movie and seeing actors that you recognize. Except it makes me feeling more intelligent than that. Having done that, I then followed Peter’s next piece of advice: check out the preexisting Wikipedia page. This was surprisingly helpful, given the fact that there were a total of approximately five sentences. It pointed me to the two movies that had been produced based on the novel (IMDb), as well as a remake for Orson Welles’ “The Campbell Playhouse” (Layman). I then began to follow up on these leads.


As I was doing the research on the movies, I ran into a few problems. There really isn’t a very official website of movies. I found the IMDb, or the Internet Movie Database, but it wasn’t as official as I would have liked. I was able to find out the basics of each of the screen adaptations, one in 1935 and directed by Frank Tuttle and the remake in 1942 directed by Heisler (IMDb). They were both done by Paramount, and from what I could find, they were neither blockbuster hits nor flops.


From there, I turned to printed sources. The library had about ten or so books on Hammett, and they were surprisingly helpful. Such books we unearthed included The Glass Key by Julian Symons, Dashiell Hammett; a Casebook by William F. Nolan, and Dashiell Hammett by William Marling. I pulled a few facts out of Richard Layman’s “Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett.” Even outside of the actual research part, I really enjoyed flipping through the books and reading what had been written about Hammett’s personal life, or what researchers were able to find out about it. As much as I despise internet research, I adore research done inside a library. In a way, the library is like a much larger version of the Hardboiled genre and the cigar lounge. As we found articles on Hammett, they pointed the way to other articles, and other books. Each new book led us to more books, and if given the time and the patience, these books could lead to other authors and other genres. While researching the movie adaptations of The Glass Key, I discovered the satirical samurai film Yojimbo which was inspired by The Glass Key. I was first surprised to discover that this was even a genre, and then surprised to see the connection. An American Hardboiled novel inspiring a Japanese satire movie was not something that I had expected. This went even further when I saw that this movie had in turn inspired Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars” and its sequel, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” These movies were a part of the genre known as “spaghetti western” movies. This was a term that originated to derogatorily describe western movies produced by Italians. Sergio Leone was one of these such producers, Ennio Morricone produced some of his most famous work in these movies, and Lee Van Cleef, a famous American actor is most known for his work in these western classics. The connection made between Hardboiled novels and Italian produced Westerns just blows my mind. The Glass Key has a few other influences, including a literary award known as The Glass Key Award, which is given to the best Nordic Crime novel each year (Vikings of Brazil). The novel was also adapted for television as part of the West Studio One series in 1949. For one book, The Glass Key had a lot of influence.


Although this research was supposed to teach me more about Dashiell Hammett and The Glass Key, what it really taught me was a point that Jim Groom has been making all semester long; that everything is connected. Not only is this true of the Hardboiled genre, it is also true of the books themselves. In almost every one of the novels that we have read this semester, the characters are almost impossibly intertwined. Just as it seems like Hardboiled authors all know each other, there are hardly any characters in these novels that aren’t connected to someone or other through a mutual friend or a story in their past. Part of the reason these novels are so intricate is this connectivity. Unlike a lot of other novels, in which we get to experience the characters meeting or are at least told from the beginning who knows who, we don’t get that luxury in Hardboiled. We are thrust into the middle of a story and have to figure out for ourselves who knows who. This is very similar to the way that research works. We are thrust in to the middle of time, and have to figure out where the ideas came from, and with the case of legacy, where the ideas ended up. I think this is my favorite part of this genre, and of this research project. The part where everything is connected and we just don’t know it yet. This is also one of the reasons Wikipedia is such a good source. Each phrase highlighted in blue is another link to something else in the world, and thanks to the accessibility of Wikipedia, we are free to follow it. However, this can only be possible if the articles we stumble upon are fleshed out. So in a way, this research project is providing a couple more missing links in the realm of knowledge.

Works Cited

“Best Nordic Crime Novel.” Vikings of Brazil Best Nordic Crime Novel Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.

DeFino, Dean. “Lead Birds and Falling Beams.” Journal of Modern Literature 27.4 (Summer 2004): 73-81. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 187. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 4 Dec. 2012.

“The Glass Key.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012.


“The Glass Key.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012.


“The Glass Key.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.


Layman, Richard. “Chapter 17.” Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981. 183. Print.

A Note on the Murder, Part Two.


Let’s begin part two. It’s very similar to part one, you’ll catch on quick.

  1. This little line up here is a simple question that Jim Groom posed in class, but that has a lot of relevance to this novel, and especially the Zoot Suit riots it started with. Ask any historian and he or she will tell you that history as an accepted fact has a lot of different sides to it. Depending on who you’re listening to, you can get two totally different accounts of the same thing. Take the settling of America. Ask a person of European descent, and you get a story of perseverance and a ‘New World’. Ask a Native American, and you get a story of the time the white men came to take our land. This point applies to the story of the Black Dahlia as well, especially with the strong influence the media played in the investigation. Which history is correct, or will we ever know?
  2. This was just a small point that Jim Groom brought up, to be honest I’m not even sure what he connected it to. But I really like the concept of a conceived reality, and that blurring of the line between reality and fantasy. Who’s to say what’s real and what isn’t, especially since everyone on earth has their own conceived notions and no one can separate their views from the pure reality of the world (which begs the question, does one pure reality even exist?).
  3. This was a term that Jim Groom repeated multiple times in class, “logical extreme”. I think he used this to draw a connection from Nazis to the Japanese imprisonment in the US during World War II. I’m not sure what this has to do with the Black Dahlia, but it’s interesting to look at policies in America, take them to their “logical extreme” and see where we end up. How close would we be to the policies of other countries that we look down upon or flat out disagree with? What do we discover when we take a look at the extremes?

A Note on the Murder.


I used this method of blogging once before, and I was really pleased at how simple it made describing some of the key points we had talked about in class. So I’m doing it again.

  1. This is a representation of the news article that was run after the death of Ellroy’s mother, who was murdered when he was ten. We talked in class about how that shaped his obsession with the Black Dahlia murder, and how this turning point in his life affected his future in writing. The fact that his life was shaped by a murder explains a lot about his life choices and the type of person Ellroy was.
  2. This bullet is dedicated to a theme that has been seen in almost every single one of the books that we’ve read so far; Moral Ambiguity. We talked about the Zoot Suit riots during class, and how it was the “good guys” who were the ones attacking the underdogs. We saw this in Red Harvest, with the Continental Op, who is presented as the ‘good guy’ but then ends up killing quite a few people. Ellroy addresses this theme right up front, in one of my favorite lines of the book; “I was terrified because the good guys were really the bad guys,” (page 5).
  3. This was a small side comment that Jim Groom made during class, but I thought it was kind of a cool point. These four books make up what is called the “LA Quartet”. In case you’re curious (I was), The Big Nowhere takes place in in the early 50s, amidst the Red Scare, which was essentially a big communist freak out. “La Confidential” spans about eight years, and involves heroin, Bloody Christmas, the Nite Owl massacre, and prisoners. Finally, “White Jazz” tells the story of corrupt LAPD officer Dave Klein. They all seem pretty hardboiled, and if you enjoyed the Black Dahlia, I’d suggest checking the other three out.

The Real Story of the Black Dahlia

While doing some initial research of the Black Dahlia, by James Elroy, I stumbled upon the real life murder mystery of Elizabeth Short, whom the media nicknamed “The Black Dahlia”. I thought it would be interesting to do some research on this real life crime, in order to have some background knowledge of the event.

On January 15th, 1947, Elizabeth Shorts mutilated body was found in Leimert Park in Los Angeles,  California.  Her body was severed at the waist, and her mouth cut from ear to ear (a la Joker style). The body had been washed and cleaned, and completely drained of blood. It was “posed” with her arms bent at right angles above her head. She was severely bruised, and the cause of death was pronounced hemorrhage from the lacerations to the face and shock due to blows on the head and face.

What made the Black Dahlia case so sensational was largely the media’s representation. Eager to make a headline out of it, Short became a woman of questionable morals; her tailored suit became a “tight skirt and a sheer blouse”. She was described as an “adventuress” who “prowled Hollywood Boulevard”. As the case went on unsolved, the media continued to sensationalize the story. Short’s past didn’t help much either. Her father was a victim of the stock market crash, and was originally believed to have committed suicide, although he was actually alive the whole time. Short moved around between her mother and her father, and at one point was arrested for underage drinking.

While living in Florida, Short met Major Matthew Michael Gordon Jr., who was in training for deployment. Short claimed that she received a marriage proposal from India, but he died in a plane crash before returning home. Short would later exaggerate the story, claiming that they had had a child who had died.
The most notable part of this murder is the media’s reaction; they were the ones to name it and it took several days until the LAPD to take full control of the situation, up until which reporters were handling (badly) many tips and phoned in information. The popularity of the murder with the public has led to many movie adaptations as well as murder mysteries written about the casert met Major Matthew Michael Gordon Jr. in training for deployment to China Burma India Theater of Operations. Short told her friends that she had received a marriage proposal from India, but he died in a plane crash before coming home. Short later exaggerated the story, claiming that they had had a child who had died.

. Each new publication results in new confessions, and new tips called in. In total, around 50 people have admitted to committing the murder, and many women have claimed to have seen her or known her. The Black Dahlia murder remains one of the most popular unsolved mysteries in America.

The Book is Always Better. Except When it’s Not.

I liked this book. I really did. I loved the setting, and I loved the language. But I really loved the movie. One of the biggest differences for me was the strong 70’s feel. As I was reading the book, I didn’t picture the psychedelic feel that I got with the movie. The scene in which Mabel is killed is much less intense (with a lot more clothes). There’s no gun, instead it’s a toy ship. The movie is more like a comedy than a Hardboiled novel. The characters are less intense, and there’s less sex. The book was on par with Red Harvest, whereas the movie is on par with Madea Goes to Jail. I think I enjoyed the movie more, but only because it was more my personal style. I think it lost a lot of the reputation that the book had, and traded it in for a more Blaxploitation theme.

I see the book as addressing racial segregation and the exploitation of blacks but in a way that is much more serious and questioning. The movie however is more of a satire and instead of making Coffin and Gravedigger seem like badass cops, turns them into laughable characters who make questionable decisions. I think that the era in which each piece was published plays a role in the way in which the issues are addressed. The book, published in 1964 was done in a serious way since it was at the height of the Civil Rights Era, and the issues it was addressing were serious and pressing. This isn’t to say that in 1970, when the movie was released, that the issues weren’t still serious, but at this point it was taking a different turn. Blaxploitation is a far cry from Martin Luther King and his Freedom Marches. Society was changing and the way in which issues were addressed was shifting. I think this is the biggest difference between the book and the movie, just the way in which the same issues where addressed.


Also. That stripper scene with the cotton bale? Yeah. That.

What led to the Hippies?

Last class, we briefly touched on the year in which Cotton Comes to Harlem was published, and how this could have influenced its themes. When I think the 60″s, I think good music, peace and love and hippies. However, there was much more to the sixties. Racial tension was rampant, and the KKK was more powerful than ever. One specific case that I found was the 1964 murder of three Civil Rights workers in Mississippi. These workers were leaving jail, after having been arrested for Civil Rights protesting. These deaths sparked outrage and are remembered still as instrumental in the fight for Civil Rights. Behind the hippies, there was violence and injustice, something that Himes pulled from in his novel.

The Hippies were a subculture in the 1960’s that grew out of opposition to the Vietnam War and the resulting draft. They were against established institutions, rejected middle class values, protested nuclear weapons, promoted psychedelic drugs, and created communes. They were pacifists, and often participated in demonstrations like Civil Rights Movement walks, the walks on DC, and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. In many ways the Hippies came out of a lot of violence, and left us with a good taste in our mouth when in reality it was only the result of a lot of violence. In order for there to be a movement for peace and love, there had to be a time where there was little peace and love available.

Cotton Comes to Harlem: The Etymology of Mother-Raper.

That’s really what I wanted to do this post on. But there was very little information on the subject, and search engines were unhelpful. In my senior year history class, I remember my very knowledgable history professor tell us that it date back to the tradition of slavery and how plantation owners would, you know, force reproduction, for the point of gaining more slaves. The slaves who were forced into this process were known as “mother-rapers” which, as one could predict, became more explicit.

This, mind you, has no verifiably trustworthy source, just my word of a respectable teacher. Simply food for thought.

Instead, I’m going to have to discuss the rest of this book too. I like, looking forward, the impact that social relations will play. It’s not just that there is racism, but there is also trickery and bribe present. It seems like racism at a level of sabotage under the guise of benefactors  is a different kind of hate than discrimination on a basic level.

I think it’s going to be really interesting dissecting the racism, which seems be present throughout Cotton Comes to Harlem in many different ways. There is the basic “no blacks in the white areas” discrimination, but there is also the more nuanced form in which “back to Africa” schemes are staged and direct sabotage is used against them. In this way we have white detectives working to right a wrong performed on a mass of blacks.

Another thing that stood out to me was the idea that the role played by Coffin Ed and Grave Digger seem to be very similar. If I’m not mistaken, Jim Groom told us that this was in fact one role in the movie adaptation.I generally see characters as written in for a reason, but I’m trying to decipher the reason behind these two being separate characters.

Last point. I really like the fact that Himes writes in the vernacular of the time period and location. I enjoy the fact that he isn’t afraid to use the possibly contradictory vocabulary that is a more accurate representation. It also raises the question of narrator, and the type of voice we are being exposed to.

Mildred Pierce: Noir or No?

Last class, we discussed the film version of Cain’s Mildred Pierce. The film is considered one of the top examples of Film Noir, in the same way that the novel is considered one of the top examples of Hardboiled Fiction. However, Hollywood had to improvise quite a few things in the process from the novel to the film (like a murder). That left me wondering, was Mildred Pierce as it was originally written actually noir? To answer this, we need a definitive idea of what noir is. In an attempt to figure this out, I googled the simple question “what is noir”. (When all else fails, Google is there.)




I found this blog, and more specifically, this post. The post, written by a Robert K. Lewis cites many of the authors we have been exploring, including James M. Cain. In a fitting Hardboiled lilt, Lewis provides a few quotes in an effort to put a tagline on an idea; according to Raymond Chandler, “It’s not a fragrant world.”

This is Dennis.

And this here is Raymond.

In the words of Dennis Lehane, “You’ve learned that every good lie is threaded with truth and every accepted truth leaks lies”. By the end of the blog, we’ve heard some quotes and questioned some reality, but have come to no conclusion, as the improvised femme fatal of the story requests a quarter for the jukebox.

And, you know, maybe that is the point of Noir. To say some stuff and question a lot, but not necessarily to focus on the end result. I don’t know if I would say that Noir requires murder. Maybe it’s just that when you get so many emotions and so many bad ass (can I say that here?) people in one novel, something is going to go down, and murder is as good as anything. Red Harvest had a lot of murder, but that didn’t make it any more wrenching and soul searching than Mildred Pierce. Double Indemnity had a lot of shooting, but that didn’t stop us from hating Veda as much as we hated Birnbaum. Although it’s not very noir of me, I think I’ve reached a conclusion to my question. Cain is as Noir as they come, and it probably would have been just as impactful to leave out the murder as it was to include it. So, you know, props to James M. Cain.