'"Lost to the Streets": Violence, Space and Gender in Urban Crime Fiction'

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This essay explores the relationship between gender, genre and urban space
through an analysis of the strategies of resistance mobilized by crime writer George
Pelecanos in his novels Hell to Pay from 2002 and Soul Circus from 2003. Beginning
with a brief survey of crime fiction’s long-standing engagement with the city, and the
paradigm-shifting impact of the television series The Wire, the essay explores Pelecanos’ modernisation of the traditional private eye novel. Through a reimagining of detective agency and a multi-perspectival depiction of the counter-cultural forces at play within the city, he offers a textual reinstatement of young black lives lost to the
criminal indifference of American political elites. He also formulates a series of individual strategies of resistance built around the public performance of masculinity; but in so doing, his otherwise radical reinscription of generic form works to reinstate
traditional gender binaries and the archetypal fantasy of hard-boiled masculinity.
There are, then, tensions in these fictions that expose the cost of ‘resistance’, and
which problematize attempts to reimagine agency. In his mapping of Washington DC,
Pelecanos explores the ‘resistant’ bodies of an excluded and demonised counterculture; he also, however, reinstates a nostalgic mythos of family that once again works to exclude women from the city.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResistance and the City
Subtitle of host publicationNegotiating Urban Identities: Races, Class, and Gender
EditorsChristoph Ehland, Pascal Fischer
Place of PublicationLeiden
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9789004369313
ISBN (Print)9789004369290
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameSpatial Practices
ISSN (Electronic)1871-689X


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