RARA-AVIS: Re: Marxism and Hardboiled?

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 03 Sep 2006


Re your comments below:

"Isn't Hammett considered a Marxist and Red Harvest a Marxist work?"

Hammett became a Marxist, or at least became sympathetic to Marxism, after he met Hellman, which was, for practical purposes, after he stopped writing
(or, more correctly, stopped being able to write), RED HARVEST is often pointed to as a Marxist work, but it's really quite free of any political commentary. It's no more Marxist than Horace McCoy's short story,
"The Mopper-Up," or Daly's novel BETTER CORPSES, or Hammett's own "Corkscrew," all of which follow similar themes.

It's possible, of course, to retroactively impose Marxist beliefs on the book, but it's simply assuming way too much to conclude that Hammett was including Mrxist philosophy in a book that was written long before he ever developed Marsixt philosphy.

This is not to say that, had Hammett continued to write once he'd developed a more specific political viewpoint, that those viewpoints wouldn't have found their way into his fiction, it's just to say that those viewpoints hadn't developed yet at the time he wrote HARVEST.

"I don't see any problem with the broad themes of Marxism in hardboiled - in fact, I would think most Marxists would enjoy the view of capitalist society that the genre (generally) promulgates - corruption, crime etc. I can't really think of a work that actually and nakedly promoted Marxism as a political theory but materialism, a determinist view of history and the idea of conflict in the dialectic can all sit nicely within the genre."

Certainly many hard-boiled writers are left-of-center to Marxist, including Dennis Lynds, Gordon deMarco, and, if you leave the state and include procedural writers, the Wahloos.

The thing is, there are just as many conservative to extreme right-wing writers, Mickey Spillane, Richard S. Prather, Warren Murphy, etc.

Hard-boiled is just a mode of story-telling, not a political philosophy, and it's just as for a writer from either end of the political spectrum to use it as an avenue of expression. And, for that matter, to use it to tell a story that has no real political ax to grind whatsoever.


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