Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Another Heresy -- The Black Mask and other pulp fiction

Date: 07 May 2005


Re your comment below:

> You missed my point. I didn't say Hammett was
> imitating Daly or trying
> to be Daly, but I did feel he was reacting to Daly.
> When I read Red
> Harvest it was my gut reaction that Hammett was try
> to show the Black
> Mask audience how a Race Williams,
> fight-fire-with-fire style plot
> should be handled or how it would have been handled
> with the Continental Op at the helm.

But that kidn of fast-action, whiz-bang, fight-fire-with-fire plot was a feature of the Op series almost from the very beginning. "Corkscrew," sort of a short story dry run for RED HARVEST, predates HARVEST by some three years, for example.

"The Gutting of Couffignal," at one level, is nothing but one long sustained shoot-out closing with a dress rehearsal for FALCON's renunciation scene.

"One Hour," as its title suggests, is a story of the Op getting involved in a fast-moving criminal plot that he has to resolve in 60 minutes, and the action never flags.

Hammett didn't include fast-action simply to compete with Daly. I'm not sure he was even that aware of Daly. He was writing the kind of stories he wanted to write and that he felt particularly qualified to write. If there was an outside influence moving Hammett to include action scenes (and, occasionally, it could get excessive in a Daly-like way; see BLOOD MONEY), it was, as you also suggested, the editorial hand, first of Phil Cody then of Cap Shaw.

Finally, Hammett was so much better at the action scenes than Daly, that if anyone influenced ANYONE, it was Hammett influencing Daly.

Indeed, Daly's Williams seems to continually be trying to one-up the Op in derring-do. If the Op shoots the gun out of the bad guy's hand and shrugs it off as not that much of a trick for anyone who's a fairly good shot, Williams will outdraw a man who's already got the drop on him and shoot him five times before the bad guy gets a shot off, or fires simultaneously from his matched set of .44's, both slugs making a single hole in the bad guy's head.

And that points up why Hammett was so much better at that stuff than Daly. Hammett wrote scenes you could believe, and he wrote them with the air of someone who'd been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. The improbable feats of Daly's heroes were the work of someone overcompensating.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 07 May 2005 EDT