Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Hammett or Chandler

From: Mario Taboada (
Date: 02 Dec 2003

Perhaps the impression that Hammett has been less influential is due to a fact: Hammett's style is today the standard style for good writing --what Jacques Barzun calls
"simple & direct" in his handbook of rhetoric. In contrast, Chandleresque is now a retro language.

Here, off the top of my head, are some prominent Hammett heirs: Joe Gores, Richard Stark, Donald Westake and Lawrence Block (their hardboiled and noir work), Elmore Leonard (the only writer who combines Twain, Hemingway and Hammett in his style), Jason Starr, Michael Connelly (his Chandlerisms are few, feel forced, and are only a veneer to his simple & direct core), Bill Crider, Harold Adams, Michael Collins (Hammett & Macdonald, not at all Chandleresque).

I think that Chandler was at some point (the sixties, probably) replaced by Ross Macdonald as a model for PI writers. There are still Chandler imitators, but mid- and late Macdonald makes for a much more imitable model for those who want to appeal to the modern reader. The risk in imitating Chandler is that the wisecracking and the similes become purely comical --they were not that in Chandler, whose stories are serious dynamite. Robert B. Parker's Spenser series is a sad example of this type of ineffectual pastiche.

Best, and please excuse the length of this.


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