RARA-AVIS: Re: James M. Cain

From: jacquesdebierue ( jacquesdebierue@yahoo.com)
Date: 01 Oct 2007

On the subject of breackneck speed, I don't think Hammett was one of the most prolific pulp writers. Certainly not when compared to writing machines like Frederick Faust, Robert Leslie Bellem or Erle Stanley Gardner. I recall seeing a total figure for his short stories and it was not that high. I am sure someone here (is Eddie still around?) can cite chapter and verse on this.

Now some comments about the quality of Hammett's stories and novels. I think Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key are all masterpieces. The Dain Curse reads like a series of pulp stories, nothing wrong with that. And The Thin Man is a good traditional mystery, not a masterpiece when compared to earlier and later mystery writers, but respectable enough. The stories, in my opinion, are of very high quality, including my favorite hardboiled short story, The Gutting of Couffignal. If Hammett had written nothing but short stories, he would be just as great a writer.

Sometimes I get the impression that readers value the novel much more than the story; with me, it's the other way around. For example, I don't think Chandler ever surpassed his best stories with any of his novels, good as they are. A long short like _Bay City Blues_ is a masterpiece of the genre. It's perfect. Its cannibalization did not improve it.



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