RARA-AVIS: The '20s

From: abc@wt.net
Date: 10 Oct 2002

Just to be able to say something dealing with the theme of the month, I got out my copy of the Pronzini/Adrian-edited HARD-BOILED, a highly selective anthology (James Reasoner has a story in it; I don't) that conveniently has the stories arranged chronologically. There are only two from the '20s: Hammett's "The Scorched Face" (1925) and W. R. Burnett's "Round Trip" (1929).

The Hammett story, as you'd expect, is sharp and fresh. The close connection that the Op has with the cops (mentioned in Bill Denton's earlier post) is prominent. It's a fast-moving story, with plenty of violence, but there's also some methodical detective work. A great little surprise in the last lines, too. This is a good one.

It's telling, I guess, that the Hammett story was in BLACK MASK, while Burnett's appeared in HARPER'S. "Round Trip" is a gangster story, and it reminded me a little of Hemingway's
"The Killers," except that it's funnier. You can see why Hammett's story would never have been published in HARPER'S.
 Too much sex, for one thing.

I liked Burnett's story well enough to consider re-reading LITTLE CAESAR one of these days.

Bill Crider

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