Social Issues in Fiction

Otto Penzler with some thoughts on popular fiction

Charles Dickens, most of whose books involve murder, kidnapping, blackmail, robbery, and other crimes, wanted to change society; his novels were more instrumental in shining light on the wretched state of the poor in Victorian England than all the pamphleteers, speech-makers, and journalists of the era combined. Irritated with anti-Asian racism, Earl Derr Biggers created Charlie Chan, a wise and likable Chinese-Hawaiian policeman. John le Carré has in recent work attempted to show that Western democracies were as morally depraved as Eastern Communist regimes. Carl Hiaasen, for all the humor in his novels, has been on a mission to identify the catastrophic damage being done to Florida’s environment.

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