> Bless Their Hearts Mom: Book Review: Detecting the South in Fiction, Film and Television, ed by Deborah E. Barker and Theresa Starkey
Monday, November 18, 2019

Book Review: Detecting the South in Fiction, Film and Television, ed by Deborah E. Barker and Theresa Starkey

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book from LSU Press, via EdelweissPlus free of charge, for review purposes on this blog. No compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it, all opinions are my own



Detecting the South in Fiction, Film, & Television, edited by Deborah E. Barker and Theresa Starkey, examines the often-overlooked and undervalued impact of the U.S. South on the origins and development of the detective genre and film noir. This wide-ranging collection engages with ongoing discussions about genre, gender, social justice, critical race theory, popular culture, cinema, and mass media. Focusing on the South, these essays uncover three frequently interrelated themes: the acknowledgment of race as it relates to slavery, segregation, and discrimination; the role of land as a source of income, an ecologically threatened space, or a place of seclusion; and the continued presence of the southern gothic in recurring elements such as dilapidated plantation houses, swamps, family secrets, and the occult. Twenty-two critical essays probe how southern detective narratives intersect with popular genre forms such as neo-noir, hard-boiled fiction, the dark thriller, suburban noir, amateur sleuths, journalist detectives, and television police procedurals.

Alongside essays by scholars, Detecting the South in Fiction, Film, and Television presents pieces by authors of detective and crime fiction, including Megan Abbott and Ace Atkins, who address the extent to which the South and its artistic traditions influenced their own works. By considering the diversity of authors and characters associated with the genre, this accessible collection provides an overdue examination of the historical, political, and aesthetic contexts out of which the southern detective narrative emerged and continues to evolve.


Some of my favorite Southern authors are in this book, either as essay authors, or as subjects. It's an interesting look at not only how the South is presented, but also the ramifications of that. it makes the reader re-think what popular fiction does besides entertain-how it teaches (for good or bad), and can re-enforce ideas, that should be changed. The chapter on the TV show of Mayberry and how it fed an idealic small town concept into our consciousness was very interesting. It's a book to take a chapter at a time, to give yourself time to think on each one, before moving on to new ideas.It would be an interesting gift idea for the mystery lover!

About the Editors:

Deborah E. Barker, professor of English at the University of Mississippi, is the author of Reconstructing Violence: The Southern Rape Complex in Film and Literature and Aesthetics and Gender in American Literature: Portraits of the Woman Artist. She coedited, with Kathryn B. McKee, American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary.

Theresa Starkey is associate director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at the University of Mississippi. Her scholarship and creative work have appeared in the Oxford AmericanMississippi Review, and elsewhere.

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