I’m no scholar, but I take to scholarly stuff. Probably most scribes do. So I’ve pulled together this simple timeline. The idea is nothing fancy, just a plain record of the events and influences that have put the hard-boiled genre on the literary map. If I’m mindful, this ought to be an ongoing document always prone to one more citation and one more tweak. And I invite your suggestions for any critical dates I’ve missed. Sure.
The discovery of gunpowder is made in China. The prevailing theory gives credit to Han alchemists monkeying around, trying to concoct an immortality elixir.
Johannes (Johnnie) Gutenberg constructs his first printing press.
January 19: Edgar Allan Poe born in Boston, Massachusetts. (The Edgar Award is named for him, not the other way around.)
April 20: Graham’s Magazine publishes “Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allen Poe. The yarn introduces literature’s first, fictional sleuth, Auguste C. Dupin.
The City Council of New Albany, Indiana passes a two-fisted amendment prohibiting the carrying or use of brass knuckles.
May 22: Arthur Conan Doyle born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Delivery was elementary.
Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company designs the Colt Single Action Army (famously known as the Colt 45) for the U.S. government. The gat provided the basis for the Snubnosed .38.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s first published work appears, “The Mystery of Sasassa Valley,” in Chamber’s Edinburgh Journal.
December 1: Rex Stout born in Noblesville, Indiana.
Beeton’s Christmas Annual includes the story, “A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle, the first appearance for Sherlock Holmes.
July 23: Raymond Chandler born in Chicago, Illinois, 2,000 miles away from Los Angeles.
July 17: Erle Stanley Gardner born in Malden, Massachusetts.
Sep 14: Carroll John Daly born in Yonkers, NY.
July 1: James M. Cain born in Annapolis, Maryland.
Agatha Christie born in Torquay, England.
May 27: Dashiell Hammett born in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.
W.R. Burnett is born in Springfield, Ohio.
March 9: Mickey Spillane born in Brooklyn, NY
H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan launch Black Mask Magazine.
December: The hard-boiled detective story is born in two, back-to-back tales published in Black Mask: Carroll John Daly’s “The False Burton Combs,” and the mag’s first Dashiell Hammett tale, “The Road Home,” under the pen name, Peter Collinson.
June: Carroll John Daley’s private detective Race Williams debuts in “Knights of the Open Palm” in the pages of Black Mask.
December: Erle Stanley Gardner’s first story appears in Black Mask, “The Shrieking Skeleton.”
October 11: Elmore Leonard born in New Orleans.
“Red Harvest” is published, the first Dashiell Hammett novel.
“Little Caesar” by W.R. Burnett is published.
February 14: Dasheill Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” comes hot off the presses of Alfred A. Knopf, an odd sort of valentine.
December: Black Mask publishes its first Raymond Chandler yarn, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot.” It’s the author’s first detective yarn.
“The Postman Always Rings Twice” is published, the first novel by James M. Cain.
January 11: Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler meet at a Black Mask dinner.
Graham Greene’s “This Gun for Hire” is published.
Knopf publishes Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep.”
Mickey Spillane’s “I, the Jury” is published in hardback.
March 4: James Ellroy born in Los Angeles.
Ross MacDonald’s “The Moving Target” is published.