RARA-AVIS: Walking and Talking--Two Different Things?

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 19 Dec 2000

You guys were talking about the toughness and credibility or lack of them, in Hammett and Chandler's real worlds. While Hammett certainly played up the mean streets angle of his life with the Pinks (it was, after all, a great marketing tool), how rough and tough was it really? Did he ever actually get involved in a murder case? Even back then, although it was probably a bit more hands-on, I'm sure most
"real" P.I. work was about as thrilling as it is these days.

On the other hand, for all the horn-tooting Hammett engaged in, pumping up his Pinkerton days, surely none of it could ever compare with the violence and sheer horror of Chandler's days as an infantryman with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the trenches of WWI, which Chandler himself, perhaps tellingly, never seemed to talk about, or try to capitalize on. Hiney's bio goes into those days a bit. Hammett never even left the States in his army days, as far as I know.

But of course, none of this proves anything. Fantasy is, indeed, the great equalizer. Chandler and Hammett made their fictional worlds seem real, and that's what's important, not whether Hammett ever really investigated a stolen ferris wheel. For all the rather silly posturing and back cover photo ops (remember those paperbacks with Ross Macdonald in a fedora or Spillane posing with a .45?), most hard-boiled writers are definitely not living the lives of their heroes.


Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.thrillingdetective.com
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