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Visions & Voices: True Crime: Detective Fiction and the Film Noir Myth of Los Angeles: Home

About the event

In film noir and mystery fiction, detectives inhabit a troubled moral universe that refuses easy distinctions between police, criminals, and everyone else. In fiction and real life, detectives enter the minds of criminals while retracing their motives and emotional states. They also make use of surveillance, wiretapping, and criminal informants—practices that pose moral quandaries about the boundaries between justice and legality. This research guide supports the exhibition in Doheny Memorial Library tracing the history of detectives in the popular imagination and the interactive, mixed-reality game that will engage students in the practice of detective work. Pick up a Logbook in the "True Crime" exhibit in Doheny Memorial Library to play along!

Exhibit Materials

Death On the Nile - Agatha Christie

The Birth of the Detective

  • Eugène François Vidocq, Mémoires de Vidocq, chef de la police de sûreté (Paris: Tenon, 1828–29)
  • Major Arthur Griffiths, The History of Romance and Crime: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day (London: Grolier Society, 1908)
  • Peter Haining, Mystery: An Illustrated History of Crime and Detective Fiction (New York: Stein and Day, 1977)

Victorian Sleuthhounds

  • Voltaire and Cesare Beccaria, An Essay on Crimes and Punishments (London, 1767)
  • Ian Ousby, Bloodhounds of Heaven: The Detective in English Fiction from Godwin to Doyle (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1976)
  • Charles Dickens, “On Duty with Inspector Field,” from Household Words (June 14, 1851) via Dickens’ Journalism, Volume 2: The Amusements of the People and Other Papers: Reports, Essays and Reviews—1834–51 (Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 1996)
  • Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (New York: George Macy Cos., 1959)
  • Charles Dickens, Bleak House (London: Nonesuch Press, 1938)

Early Tools of the Trade

  • George Combe, The Constitution of Man: Considered in Relation to External Objects (O.D. Spafford, 1845)
  • John Casper Lavater, “Essays on Physiognomy,” from Embodied Selves: An Anthology of Psychological Texts, 1830–1890 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998)
  • Toxicologist and forensic chemist Dr. Alexander Gettler in a laboratory with New York City’s first chief medical examiner Dr. Charles Norris, October 21, 1932
  • Deborah Blum, The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York (New York: Penguin, 2010)
  • Joel Levy, Poison: A Social History (Brimscombe Port: The History Press, 2011)

On the Culprit’s Trail

  • Charles A. Siringo, A Cowboy Detective: An Autobiography (Chicago: W.B. Conkey Company, 1912)
  • Charles Howard Shinn, Graphic Description of Pacific Coast Outlaws (Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1958)
  • D. J. Cook, Hands Up; Or, Thirty-Five Years of Detective Life in the Mountains and on the Plains (Denver: W. F. Robinson, 1897)
  • Thomas S. Duke, Celebrated Criminal Cases of America (San Francisco: James H. Barry Co., 1910). Formerly owned by Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon; On loan from Julie M. Rivett, granddaughter of Dashiell Hammett
  • The Dime Novel Detective (Bowling Green: Bowling Green Univ. Popular Press, 1982)

We Never Sleep

  • Allan Pinkerton, Thirty Years a Detective (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1884)
  • Allan Pinkerton, The Detective and the Somnambulist: The Murderer and the Fortune Teller (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1875)
  • Allan Pinkerton, Professional Thieves and the Detective (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1880)
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, The Valley of Fear (New York: Bantam Books, 1914). On Loan from Leslie Klinger.
  • “Abduction of Charlie Brewster Ross,” printed leaflet produced by the Pinkerton Detective Agency about a six-year-old child, July 1, 1874. On loan from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Seaver Collection
  • Article from The Los Angeles Times (October 15, 1953), about the kidnapping of Charlie Brewster Ross. On loan from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Seaver Collection

*Unless otherwise noted, all items are from USC Libraries

The Game’s Afoot

  • Collier’s, vol. 33, no. 26 (September 24, 1904)
  • The Sherlock Holmes Game (Massachusetts: Parker Brothers, 1904). On loan from Leslie Klinger
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes: Eleven Famous Cases (New York: Bantam Books, 1949)
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (New York: Baker Street Irregulars, 1948)
  • The Original Illustrated Strand Sherlock Holmes (Lombard: Mallard Press, 1990)

Down These Mean Streets

  • Raymond Chandler Mystery Map of Los Angeles, 1985. On loan from Los Angeles Public Library
  • Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely (New York: Knopf, 1940)
  • Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (New York: Vintage Books, 1976). On loan from Ned Comstock
  • Film still from The Maltese Falcon (1941). On loan from Julie M. Rivett, granddaughter of Dashiell Hammett
  • Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon (New York: Modern Library, 1934). On loan from Julie M. Rivett
  • Photograph of Dashiell Hammett (labeled “Papa”) with Pinkerton Agency Detectives, ca. 1915–1922

Hardboiled Dicks

  • Dick Tracy press book, 1945
  • Pocket Detective Magazine, vol. 1, no. 6 (May 1937). On loan from USC Warner Bros. Archives
  • Ed Lacy, Moment of Untruth (New York: Lancer Books, 1964)
  • Mickey Spillane, Vengeance is Mine (1952). On loan from the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries.
  • Dashiell Hammett, Too Many Have Lived, from The American Magazine (October 1932). On loan from Julie M. Rivett.

To Live and Die in LA

  • Jim Heimann, Sins of the City (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999)
  • Leslie White, Me Detective (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1936)
  • Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress (New York: W.W. Norton, 1990)
  • Craig Rice, Los Angeles Murders (New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1947)
  • Film still from Chinatown (1974).

Just the Facts, Ma’am

  • Jack Webb, The Badge (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall Inc., 1958)
  • Los Angeles Detective Badge, ca. 1935–1940. On loan from the Los Angeles Police Museum
  • Press book for Dragnet (1951). On loan from the USC Warner Bros. Archive
  • James Ellroy and Glynn Martin, LAPD ’53 (New York: Abrams Image, 2015)
  • Press folder for L.A. Confidential (1997)

A Dame Named Agatha

  • Lobby card from Murder Most Foul (1964)
  • Film still from Murder on the Orient Express (1974), featuring detective Hercule Poirot
  • Film still of Margaret Rutherford and Agatha Christie on the set of Murder She Said (1961)
  • Agatha Christie, The Clocks (New York: Pocket Books, 1964)
  • John Curran, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making (New York: Harper Collins, 2009)

A Life in the Shadows

  • Watabe Yukichi, A Criminal Investigation From the Wilson Centre for Photography (Paris: Editions Xavier Barral, 2011)
  • Careers As A Private Detective: Your Own Detective Agency (Chicago: Institute for Research, 1976)
  • LAPD Daily Training Bulletin, vol. 1 (1948). On loan from the Los Angeles Police Museum
  • B.W. Gocke, Police Sergeants Manual (Los Angeles: Legal Book Store, 1967)
  • LAPD Daily Report Detective Officer, 1943. On loan from the Los Angeles Police Museum

Nancy Drew, Girl Detective

  • Press book for Nancy Drew Detective (1938). On loan from the Warner Bros. Archive
  • Carole Kismaric and Marvin Heiferman, The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988)
  • Nancy Drew Sleuthing Kit (2007). On loan from Warner Bros. Corporate Archive
  • Carolyn Keene, The Secret of the Old Clock (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1959)

Vigilante Justice

  • Charles. A. Siringo, Two Evilisms: Pinkertonism and Anarchism (Chicago: Charles A. Siringo, 1915)
  • Press book for Shaft (1971)
  • Press book for Dirty Harry (1971)
  • Report of the Senate Interim Committee On Collection Agencies, Private Detectives, and Debt Liquidators (Sacramento: Senate of the State of California, 1957)
  • William Ruehlmann, Saint with a Gun: The Unlawful American Private Eye (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1984)
  • Lobby card for In the Heat of the Night (1967)
  • Collection Agencies, Private Detectives, Debt Liquidators (Sacramento: Senate of the State of California, 1957)

*Unless otherwise noted, all items are from USC Libraries

Gumshoe Gals

  • New York City detective Mary Agnes Shanley pulling a pistol out of her handbag, 1937, New York World-Telegram and Sun newspaper photograph collection, Library of Congress
  • William Stephens Hayward, Revelations of A Lady Detective (London: The British Library, 2013)
  • Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote (1984–1996)
  • Publicity still for Charlie’s Angels (1976)
  • Clerk views a footprint in a vandalism case, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (June 19, 1956)
  • Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (London: Time Warner Books UK, 1998)
  • Rhonda Wilcox, Investigating Veronica Mars (Jefferson: McFarland & Co., 2011)
  • Veronica Mars Crime Scene Photo and Folder (2006). On loan from the Warner Bros. Corporate Archive

It Takes Two

  • Arthur Conan Doyle, Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, (London: George Newnes, 1915)
  • Richard Castle, Heat Wave (New York: Hyperion, 2019)
  • Richard Castle, Naked Heat (New York: Hyperion, 2011)
  • Richard Castle, Heat Rises (New York: Hyperion, 2012)
  • Two detectives examine dead woman’s dentures in Riverside County, Los Angeles Examiner (1955)
  • Franklin W. Dixon, The Hardy Boys The Secret of the Old Mill (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1962)
  • Film still from Dragnet, featuring Sergeant Joe Friday and his partner Officer Frank Smith (1951). On loan from the Warner Bros. Archive
  • LAPD detective badge from the film Gangster Squad (2013). On loan from the Warner Bros. Corporate Archive

Caught Red-Handed

  • Police dusting for fingerprints on a bloodied handprint, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (March 30, 1956)
  • Fingerprinting kit, ca. 1935. On loan from Los Angeles Police Department Museum
  • Ronald R. Thomas, Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999)
  • Colin Beavan, Fingerprints (New York: Hyperion, 2001)
  • Crime lab technician examines blood spot in car, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (January 15, 1961)
  • J. A. Radley, Photography in Crime Detection (London: Chapman & Hall, 1948)
  • Suzanne Bell, Encyclopedia of Forensic Science (New York: Facts on File, 2008)
  • A Bloody Mess: How Bloodstain Pattern Analysis Works, created by

At The Scene of the Crime

  • Crime and Its Detection, vol. 2 (London: Gresham Publishing Co., 1932)
  • Investigator blows on a sheet of writing, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (July 25, 1943)
  • Reginald Morrish, The Police and Crime Detection Today (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1945)
  • Diagram of a crime from California Bank branch robbery, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (May 5, 1945)
  • Diagram of a Bank of America heist from Vermont and Florence Avenues, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (April 28, 1931)
  • Men investigate illegally exported gold in New York City, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (February 17, 1951)
  • A book and heel of a boot used for smuggling, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (November 3, 1942)
  • Scrapbook, 1930–32. On loan from Los Angeles Police Department Museum

Mug Shot

  • Detective Rudy Diaz examines a bullet-riddled door, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (August 11, 1960)
  • “How to Book Property—Firearms,” Los Angeles Police Department Daily Training Bulletin (August 14, 1950). On loan from Los Angeles Police Department Museum
  • Brian H. Kaye, Science and the Detective (New York: VCH Publishers, 1995)
  • Homemade gun fired by Van Nuys girl, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (August 10, 1961)
  • Kodak Kodex No. 1 Six-20 Series III. On loan from Howard Smith.
  • Gail Buckland, Shots in the Dark: The Crime Pictures (Boston: Bulfinch Press, 2001)
  • Sketch of man who attacked Hollywood mother, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (February 26, 1956)
  • “Can You Identify Her?” Los Angeles Herald Examiner (October 30, 1951)
  • Gangster Book, 1930–1955. On loan from Los Angeles Police Department Museum
  • Sculpted bust of suspect, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (February 6, 1960)
  • Man sculpts bust of possible suspect, Los Angeles Herald Examiner (February 6, 1960)

Who Dunnit?

  • Michael Connelly, Crime Beat: A Decade of Covering Cops and Killers (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2004)
  • LAPD police jacket. On loan from Los Angeles Police Department Museum
  • Miles Corwin, The Killing Season (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997)
  • Randall Sullivan, Labyrinth (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2002)
  • Norman M. Klein, Bleeding Through Layers of Los Angeles, 1920–1986 (ZKM Digital Arts, 2003)
  • L.A. Noire video game instruction booklet
  • Clue board game, ca. 1949
  • Film props from Gangster Squad (2013). On loan from Warner Bros. Corporate Archive

*Unless otherwise noted, all items are from USC Libraries


True Crime Noir from USC Libraries on Vimeo.

For decades, armchair sleuths and professional investigators have tried to solve the mystery surrounding the death of Jimmy Salaro and the $500,000 in gold police believe he stole with Charlie Crawford’s gang. Their efforts have taken them through twists and turns, down dark alleys, and into the Doheny Library stacks—but with every clue, they’ve only uncovered more questions. You hold in your hands a notebook containing information previously gathered about the Salaro case. To this day his murder is believed to remain unsolved and the whereabouts of the gold unknown. However, a $500 cash prize is being offered to the first USC student who can solve the mystery. Teams working together will split the money.

If you take up the case, leave no stone unturned—your pursuit of the killer and their loot may require you to visit the True Crime exhibition, the online library research guide and other tools like the USC Digital Library, and even various USC Libraries locations.
If you have yet to review the archival film footage related to this case, be sure to watch it before you begin