Re: RARA-AVIS: Hammett and... Henry James

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 23 Nov 2007

Patrick King wrote:

>While nowhere as prolific as Henry James, I do think
>Hammett is coming into his own. In his modest way, he
>may have been America's strongest 20th Century
>influence on world literature. Fitzgerald, Hemingway,
>Steinbeck, Faulkner, Lewis, not to mention
>Robbe-Grillet, all were among his readership. Several
>of them cited him as an artistic influence.

I bow to no one in my admiration for the work of Dashiell Hammett, but I have to question the broad assumptions expressed in the above statement.

I don't see Hemingway so much influenced by Hammett as being a fellow-traveler on the post-Twain/Crane realist tide. If you're talking "influences" where Hemingway was concerned, you'd be better able to prove "The Kansas City Star"'s stylebook/Ring Lardner/Twain/Crane/Sherwood Anderson/a bunch of French impressionist paintings.

I also fail to see any substantial *stylistic* influence by Hammett's work on either Fitzgerald or Faulkner.

All four of these men were giants, no question, and their writing bears some similarities that can be chalked up to them being (as I mentioned above) "fellow travelers."

Your Mileage May Vary-


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