Re: RARA-AVIS: revolt of the shorties

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 31 Dec 2002

Jim wrote:

"While I don't share your disdain (or at least preference) for short stories in general, I think I'd generally agree with your comment about Hammett."

Although I do have a preference for novels, I certainly don't have a disdain for short stories. As I said, I'm about to reread Chandler's, and I'm looking forward to it.

Similarly, long before they were as available as they are today, I spent a lot of effort tracking down those Hammett Mercurys and mapbacks to read as many of his short stories as I could.

Jim again:

"On the other hand, THE MALTESE FALCON is still the best PI novel ever written, so he must have had SOME competence with novels."

While recognizing your understatement for effect, I don't think I was in any way demeaning Hammett's "competence" at novels -- I agree that Maltese Falcon is a masterpiece (and Red Harvest and Glass Key come damn close), although maybe not the best PI novel in my estimation (I'd go with Chandler) -- when I said I wouldn't expend much effort negating the argument (although not making it myself) that Hammett's shorts were better than his novels.

Does everything have to be either/or? Just because I prefer one of my favorite authors in one form over another does not mean I don't think he was still awfully damn good in that other area. By that logic, you were telling Mat that Chandler's shorts were no good, which you clearly were not.


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