RE: RARA-AVIS: Re:Hammett & Chandler & Burroughs/Black Mask Hard Boiled

From: John & Carrie (
Date: 12 Apr 2000

Keith sed:

> For instance, James M. Cain repeatedly told me that he did not
> consider himself
> a "hard boiled writer" because, even in his darkest work...He disliked
> associated with Hammett and Chandler, and never published a tale
> in Black Mask.

That Cain didn't "consider" himself hard-boiled really matters little whether or not he is. Hell, James Joyce always maintained that he wrote for the so-called "common man." Reading the first page of Finnegan's Wake shows that his saying that is horse doo doo.

Whether Cain likes it or not, he's squarely within that hard-boiled tradition. Now, at the same time, Cain, like Horace McCoy and Cornell Woolrich, sort of stand outside traditional hardboiled. And that distinction is the difference between noir and hard boiled, which has been hashed and re-hashed here.

The fact that Hammett and Chandler were "worlds apart" in style is likewise makes little difference in whether or not they are within the hardboiled realm. IMHO, hardboiled, as well as noir, are terms that are broad enough to encompass plenty of different styles without leaving the genre.

As for Burroughs, while I'm one of those who don't consider him to be within the hard boiled tradition (notwithstanding the very hardboiled Junky and Queer), in all fairness I do recall a mention in his biography (Literary Outlaw?) that he was very much influenced by a particular pulp writer whose name I forget.

By the way, when do you expect the Black Mask website to be up?


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