Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir

Date: 15 Feb 2003


Re your comments below:

". . . I rather think they [reviews by Hammett and other pieces on the 'hard-boiled movement' by other writers] were written by authors who had GRADUATED
[emphasis mine] from the ranks of free-lance writers, who started by cranking out hard-boiled tales for BLACK MASK . . ."

In fact, Hammett's review of S.S. Van Dine's first book, THE BENSON MURDER CASE, (a savage pan, by the way) appeared while he was still making his living writing short stories for BLACK MASK and other publications. His first book was several years away. His first novel-length work, BLOOD MONEY, had not even been serialized, and perhaps not even written, yet. In fact, I think "Cap" Shaw's invitation to submit a book-length work for BLACK MASK serialization came AFTER Hammett's review.

The point isn't whether or not Hammett and the other pulpsters saw themselves as craftsmen creating a commercially saleable product. Clearly they did, as you've ably demonstrated in several subsequent posts. Even those who "took themselves more seriously," as Bill Crider put it, approached the craft of fiction with workmanlike professionalism rather than with the dilettantism of an "artiste."

The point is that, in approaching story-telling with professional craft, they were, as Graham pointed out, aware that their approach to detective fiction was something very different from what had traditionally been the form to that point. Which is to say, though they might not have put it in so many words, that they knew they were part of a "movement."

To say otherwise would be similar to saying that '50s rock and rollers had no idea that the songs they were playing were in any way different from mainstream popular music.


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