RARA-AVIS: What's the best Hammett bio?

From: Doug Bassett ( dj_bassett@yahoo.com)
Date: 27 May 2001

Been re-reading RED HARVEST -- really, an amazing book
-- and all of a sudden I'm curious to learn more about Hammett's life.

Brief reading notes: modest thumbs up for W.R. Burnett's HIGH SIERRA, a very decent retelling of the old "a not-unlikable crook flirts briefly with a chance at redemption, only to realize that he belongs in the gutter" chestnut. Predictable, of course, but Burnett is masterful at characterization and is appealingly unromantic about the whole thing. (And before anybody asks, no, I haven't seen the movie.)

Big thumbs down for Shane Stevens BY REASON OF INSANITY. I know Stevens is a cult author for some people, but I don't see the appeal. DEAD CITY is a pro forma gangster novel, a bit more graphic than most, but otherwise highly by-the-numbers. INSANITY alternates passages of real power with some absolutely awful, hackneyed writing, as bad as anything I've seen. After about 150 pages I declared "surrender".


===== Doug Bassett dj_bassett@yahoo.com

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