RARA-AVIS: The Dain Curse

Victoria Esposito-Shea (vmes@northnet.org)
Thu, 28 Oct 1999 22:10:22 -0400

: What makes "The Thin Man" a better novel than "The Dain Curse"? As far
: as I'm concerned, "The Thin Man" is almost unreadable - there's no
: coherence at all and it wasn't a serial like the Dain book. Without
: the charming Nick and Nora films I'd like to forget that "The Thin Man"
: even exists.

Honestly? When I read The Dain Curse--and I've probably re-read it twenty-some times over seventeen (or so) years--I always get the feeling that Hammett was stretching the book too thin. Just look at the locales--he's going from mainstream San Fransisco to the interior of a cult to rural California--and the characters: escaped convicts, fake preachers, insane writers, a seriously dysfunctional family, magicians' stage hands. .

Certainly Red Harvest is a model of chaotic plotting, but it's all in one place, with a fairly consistent set of people (up till they get killed off, anyway) and one final destination. The Dain Curse doesn't even have a final destination or, as James said, a convincing denouement--it was all Alice's fault! Whoops, now it was all Joseph's fault! Whoops, maybe it really was Gabrielle all along! Sometimes it feels like one of those really bad monster movies, where you think the creature's dead and then it rises again and kills some more people, and then someone else doesn't quite finish it off, and you sit there going, "Come on already, let's get this thing over with!"

I think that the consistent characters & locale in Thin Man are what keep it together also. You've got one set of people and one setting, and that helps keep the reader reasonably together & focused, no matter how odd it all gets. The Dain Curse just doesn't have that kind of grounding. It's fun--the Op is my favorite Hammett protagonist--but that's about it.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Thu 28 Oct 1999 - 21:44:45 EDT