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Private detectives and detective agencies played a major role in American history from 1870 to 1940. Pinkerton, Burns, Thiels, and the smaller independents were a multi-million dollar industry, hired out by many if not most American corporations, who needed services of surveillance, strike breaking, and labor espionage. Not only is John Walton's account the first sustained history of this industry, it is also the first book to trace the ways in which the private detective came to occupy a cherished place in popular imagination. Walton paints lively portraits of these mythical figures from Sherlock Holmes, the brilliant eccentric, to Sam Spade, the hard-boiled hero of Dashiell Hammett's best-selling tales. There's a great question lurking in here: how did pulp magazine editors shape the image of the hard-boiled private eye, and what sorts of interplay obtained between the actual records (agency files, memoirs) of these motley individuals in real life and the legend of the private detective in mass-market fiction? This history of the private eyes and this account of how the detective industry and the culture industry played off of each other is a first. Walton show us, in clean clear outline, the figure of the classical private eye, and he shows us further how the memory of this iconic figure was sustained in fiction, radio, film, literary societies, product promotions, adolescent entertainments, and a subculture of detective enthusiasts.