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BRUCE CHARLESWORTH AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING HERO

“DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS a man who must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid,” Raymond Chandler wrote of the hardboiled detective novel. “The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything.” But what happens when the hero disappears, when people begin to suspect that maybe there never was a hero in the first place? Without a protagonist to perform the dramatic action or declaim the stirring speech in order to push the story forward, it’s as if the star of a play had suddenly walked off the stage, leaving the other actors to putter about looking busy while they try to figure out what to do next.

With the hero gone, what is left, above all, is atmosphere—the ritually ominous, deliciously dark melodramatic settings and structures of the detective story itself. These are the settings and structures that Bruce Charlesworth employs

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