Re: RARA-AVIS: Best Endings

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 27 Mar 2007

For Hammett's short stories, I thought the endings of "The Scorched Face," "Fly Paper," "Dead Yellow Women, and especially "$106,000 Blood Money" surpass the pretty good ending to "The Gutting of Couffignal."


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Tim Wohlforth
  Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2007 9:47 AM
  Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Best Endings

  Let's go classic! Is there a better ending in hardboiled fiction than
  the one in Hammett's "The Gutting of Couffignal?" The last line of
  which is: "Didn't I steal a crutch from a cripple?"


  On Mar 26, 2007, at 5:56 PM, Nathan Cain wrote:

> I've gone through the Rara-Avis archives, looking for a discussion
> on the best endings for noir novels, and I've found a lot of separate
> discussions about the endings of various novels, but no discussion (
> at least recently) of endings in general, and what makes a good
> ending. It's been said that ending a work of fiction may be the most
> difficult part of writing it, so I want to open up the floor as to
> what makes a good ending, and what novels have them.
> I'm not just talking about twist endings, either. I just finished
> Jason Starr's The Follower tonight, and it got me started thinking
> about this. In terms of plot it is a fairly conventional thriller
> (think Fatal Attraction where the genders are reversed and everyone is
> young and single), but the denouement is anything but conventional. A
> less skilled, or more conservative writer would have made it a happy (
> or at least happier) ending, but Starr writes a scene that shows the
> reader the severe psychological damage the main character has endured
> and raises questions about whether a happy ending will ever be
> possible. It's a simple and devastatingly effective scene.
> To talk about a book that's actually out, I think the ending to
> Starr's Hard Feelings is also a great one. It had me laughing out loud
> and, if you've read the book, you know that that is just wrong. I
> still remember the last words of that book. It made that kind of
> impression. The EMT's words to Richie Segal, were again, simple and
> effective.
> I think a great ending is one that offers the reader a surprise,
> but not in a "The butler's twin brother did it!" kind of way. It's one
> that plays with the readers expectations, like the end of Thompson's
> The Getaway. I think it can be as elaborate as Thompson's ending, or
> it can be as simple as the single line of dialogue at the end of Hard
> Feelings.
> Now, what does everyone else think?

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