Re: RARA-AVIS: Chandler or Hammett? -- Plus A Glance At John Morgan Wilson

Date: 02 Dec 2003

<< the fact that
 Hammett wrote in a style that came naturally to him
 and Chandler had to develop his style (even going so
 far as to compile a glossary of American slang terms
 so he could use them in his work) >> It's not easy to write naturally. In the development of a naturalistic American prose style Hammett anticipated and in my view surpassed Hemingway (who took it too far and made it, paradoxically, artificial). The care that Hammett took in perfecting this so-called natural style can be seen in his extensive stylistic revisions to the original version of Red Harvest, mentioned on this list just recently. While Chandler's more ornamental (some call it baroque) style is charming, it's a smaller achievement and one which led to self-parody in his own work and cliche in those that imitated him. And, of course, Hammett didn't need to make glossaries of slang terms, he knew them first-hand. Hammett's influence may be less visible because it's more pervasive, extending far beyond detective fiction.

As far as the private detective convention goes: The Maltese Falcon was published in 1930. Chandler started publishing in 1933. Does anyone know whether anyone preceded Hammett in this?

Alan H

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