> As far as I can tell, however, no Hammett character appears in more than one book, so while a
> chronological reading might shed light on Hammett's development as a writer, there wouldn't
> seem to be any narrative aspect lost if read out of publication order.
With Hammett it matters not that you read them in order, but with Chandler you definitely see an improvement with each novel in his ability to tell a story. To be honest, it's difficult to follow The Big Sleep at times, as are some of his early short stories.. But each novel is better than the previous.
You might want to consider adding Horace McCoy to the list of must read hardboiled novelist from the early period of the genre, oh, and, W. R. Burnett. And Cornell Woolrich really belongs to that period as well. His career, like Cain's lasted into the 60s.
For Woolrich, the "Black" novels are worth reading, as well as Phantom Lady and I Married a Dead Man.
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