This article tracks a distinguishing feature of a strain of late modernism, namely, the fascination on the part of comically inclined American writers with crime fiction. The structure of the inquiry is genealogical. Beginning with a discussion of the convergence of formal experimentation and parodic motifs in slapstick film, the article identifies a comic impulse in the work of the major practitioners of the detective story, which it follows with an account of S. J. Perelman's farcical treatments of the popular phenomenon—“Farewell, My Lovely Appetizer” in particular. The crucial point is the latter's use of satire to make explicit what was already implicit in its precursors: an impulse toward burlesque. Perelman's mimic repetition brings to light a comic sensibility operative in the originals. The article concludes with a survey of post–WWII manifestations of the crime novel as modernist comedy.

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