Re: RARA-AVIS: Hammett: How he made it new?

From: jacquesdebierue (
Date: 28 Jan 2009

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    I don't know if Eddie Duggan is still around, but he has vast knowledge of Hammett's work and his contributions are in the archives. Eddie used to have a Maltese Falcon FAQ which right now doesn't load for me. If it still exists, check it out.

    On the Twain connection, I think it is clear and leads both to Hemingway and Hammett -- and to several other early practitioners that we tend to forget, such as Whitfield and Erle Stanley Gardner. Gardner's fantastically supple dialogue in his pulp stories sounds Twainian to me. Probably Twain was the great liberator, the one who created dialogues that are both credible and telling and lead the story (not viceversa). He was also notable for eliminating extraneous stuff from his tales. His work made many authors unreadable, including contemporaries of his. Twain was one of those writers that appears only once in several generations. The same happened in the Spanish language with Borges: after Borges, you can't get away with writing heavy paragraphs of bullshit. His work made it obsolete.

    So back to Hammett: his style has become the standard style in hardboiled literature. That is why we notice that James Lee Burke is different (because he follows Faulkner-O'Connor). Setting the standard hardboiled style is not a small feat. Even in the world of the cozy, his influence can be felt (stylistically, not thematically).



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