Re: RARA-AVIS: RE: Gunsel and Hardboiled Music

From: William Denton (
Date: 15 Apr 2000

On 14 April 2000, Dick Lochte wrote:

: My guess is that it never had common usage before Hammett put it into
: print. After that, everyone, like Hammett's editor and publisher,
: assumed it meant someone who toted a gun. Certainly moviegoers made
: that assumption. I think it was probably Ellery Queen, in his/their
: magazine, who identified the original meaning in an entertaining essay
: about the games Hammett played with obscure underworld argot
: (gooseberry lay, etc.).

A while back Eddie Duggan gave me a copy of Erle Stanley Gardner's article
"Getting Away with Murder," and I put up an excerpt at

which talks about "gunsel," "gooseberry lay" and so on. This might be the bit you were thinking of.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : : Caveat lector.

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