British Association for American Studies


Book Hour with David Watson’s Truth to Post-Truth in American Detective Fiction


The next U.S. Studies Online Book Hour will take place 28th April 2023, at 4pm GMT/12pm EST with Dr. David Riddle Watson and his first monograph, Truth to Post-Truth in American Detective Fiction (Palgrave Macmillan Crime Files Series, 2021).

Dr. Watson teaches at Central Carolina Community College. He completed his Ph.D. in 2019 from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His work focuses on the intersection between rhetoric, literature, and real-world events. He is currently working on his second monograph Surveillance Noir, which will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2024.

Truth to Post-Truth traces the networks of thought about what is real and what is not from the Vietnam War through the end of the Cold War and the rise of the “post-truth” moment of our present day. The book is a philosophical journey through post-truth America. Furthermore, the book examines questions of truth and relativism, turning to detectives, both real and imagined, from Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin to Robert Mueller, to establish an oblique history of the path from a world where not believing in truth was unthinkable to the present, where it is common to believe that objective truth is a remnant of a simpler, more naïve time. Examining detective stories both literary and popular including hard-boiled, postmodern, and twenty-first century novels, the book establishes that examining detective fiction allows for a unique view of this progression to post-truth since the detective’s ultimate job is to take the reader from doubt to belief. David Riddle Watson shows that objectivity is intersubjectivity, arguing that the belief in multiple worlds is ultimately what sustains the illusion of relativism.

Dr. Watson’s book explores the oblique philosophy of truth and what that means for our understanding and relates this theory to famous detectives from literature such as Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, as Dr. Watson argues: ‘we can learn much about truth, order, and the possibility of closure by examining detectives, successful and not, from Poe to present’[i] as his ‘project attempts to trace the understanding of truth throughout twentieth- and twenty-first-century American fiction, thought, and political history by studying detectives, both real and imagined, in hopes of establishing a focused lineage whereby historical and philosophical forces can be mapped and their implications followed’.[ii]

With such a deep concept and niche insight, it is no wonder that in her review of Truth to Post-Truth, Clare Rolens calls Dr. Watson’s research an ‘impressively ambitious project’[iii] and ‘a compelling take on the current deadlock in US politics’.[iv] Dr. Watson himself describes the book project as having had humble origins during a very serious personal time dealing with health and healing, wondering if he would ever be able to finish his PhD. Spoiler alert – he did! Which is why, it will be particularly interesting to hear Dr. Watson’s talk with us about making collaborative connections across disciplines and with senior scholars along with tips for writing a dissertation that can be turned into one’s first book. Vitally important and interesting topics especially for our postgraduate and early career academic audience, and for those of us planning on publishing our respective, innovative research!


The Book Hour is free to attend but registration is required in order for organizers to send you a secure Zoom link.

Registering is available until 2pm Friday 28th April.

You can reserve a spot for the Book Hour with Dr. David R. Watson here!


When registering, please ensure to include a current email address in order to receive a secure Zoom link prior to the talk. After the talk, there will also be a Q&A open for all attendees.



End notes:

[i] Watson, David R. Truth to Post-Truth in American Detective Fiction. (Palgrave Macmillan Crime Files Series, 2021), 3.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Rolens, Clare. ‘Truth to Post-Truth in American Detective Fiction by David Riddle Watson (review).’ symploke, Vol. 30, No. 1-2, 2022, pp. 501-503. University of Nebraska Press, https://doi.org/10.1353/sym.2022.0035, 501.

[iv] Ibid, 503.



The U.S. Studies Online Book Hour is a regular book talk among scholars, postgraduates, early-career researchers, and the public about recently published work in wider sense of American Studies.

#USSOBookHour is an opportunity for scholars to share their most original voices and connect with young researchers and readers, and we are pleased to offer an honorarium for our invited speakers. Anyone is welcome to join the talk.

We invite scholars in American Studies to introduce their latest publications that generate heated debates, innovative ideas, meaningful conversations, and spark thought. Each talk lasts for about 30-40 minutes, followed by a Q&A session (or a roundtable discussion).

Get in touch with Aija Oksman, the Book Hour Organizer and Book Reviews Editor at usso@baas.ac.uk if you would like to co-host, to take part with your book, or ask questions about #USSOBookhour in general.