Re: RARA-AVIS: Style vs Attitude

From: Greg Swan (
Date: 10 Feb 2000

From: <> (edited)

> These were not a bunch of existentialists sitting around in a cafe,
> expounding on their philosophies. They were the fictional equivalent
> of newspapermen, which many of them were. Don't get me wrong, a hell
> of a lot of them were very intelligent, and their personal
> philosophies came out in their work. But they were pragmatic writers
> who understood the medium. I think to understand the H-B writer, you
> have to realize they were writing for a market, and for a living. I
> wouldn't reduce it to a formula, but as far as getting published, they
> knew what sold.

I think this turns us back to Hammett being essentially a pulp writer best understood in the context of his time and his market, a point I'd agree with. I was disappointed to discover Hammett wasn't a newspaperman. I also agree you've probably correctly pegged the prevailing philosophy of the time: American Pragmatism. :-) The only point I disagree with is NOT reducing it to formula. You're far too kind. Most pulp writing was exactly that: formula, often imposed by the editor.

Greg Swan

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