I just re-read "The Big Knockover and Other Stories" and was
thinking exactly the same thing. I really enjoyed "The
Gutting of Couffignal," but
"The Scorched Face" stands out not just because of the slam-bang-wow ending, but because of the wonderful pacing, the strong characterization, and the ability Hammett demonstrated to deftly paint a portrait of one of his characters with an economy words.
Truly an American original.
At 03:08 PM 10/10/02 +0000, you wrote:
>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.
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