Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir

Date: 13 Feb 2003


Re your response to Graham's below:

> >The group of hardboiled writers that formed around
> > Black Mask in the '20s (including Hammett, Daly,
> Paul Cain, as well as
> > editor Joseph Shaw) clearly felt that they were
> part of a movement, that
> > they were doing something new and different.
> More likely, they just felt they were part of a
> group of writers whose
> manuscripts were being accepted regularly. Without
> exception, Black Mask
> writers were simply journeymen freelancers, working
> for a couple of cents a
> word; unpretentions down-to-earth scribes with an
> understanding of their
> market. I'd guess they'd be honestly puzzled by
> being categorized as
> artistes in any particular literary movement.

I certainly think they regarded themselves as professional writers first and artists second, but it doesn't follow that they weren't cognizant of just how different their crime fiction was from what had gone before. Carroll John Daly may have lacked the self-awareness to realize that what came to be called
"hard-boiled" was truly different from more traditional crime fiction (then again, maybe he was chock-full of self-awareness), but writers like Hammett, Cain, Chandler, Nebel, etc., knew exactly what they were about.

If you need proof, read the mystery reviews Hammett wrote for publications like SATRUDAY REVIEW. He continually drew distinctions between traditional writers and hard-boiled writers, and was often contemptuous of the traditional form, the form that has lately come to be referred to as the "cozy." He was particularly virulent in his criticism of the most successful "traditional" mystery writer of the day, S.S. Van Dine.

For further proof, read his response when "Cap" Shaw invited him to submit a novel-length work to BLACK MASK. He talks about the filed being wide-open, and welcomes the chance to do something new and different in the mystery field. He absolutely knew what he was doing. He was leading a revolution.

Just a few years later this would be recognized by Hammett's most successful disciple, Raymond Chandler, who wrote about the revolution at some length in his article "The Simple Art of Murder."


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