RARA-AVIS: Re: Gores missed the synedoche

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 27 Feb 2009

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    On Feb 27, 2009, at 4:07 AM, rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com wrote:

    > Check the copyright though: @2009 by Josephine Hammett & Joe Gores.
    > So Joe is splitting the take, eh? Dash would of approved; he was
    > always a
    > sucker for his girls ... when he was around. So I got no complaints
    > that
    > Gores got lots of money. Dash's progeny gets half. (Maybe.)

    Well, at least this time it won't be Hellman screwing the heirs.

    It's interesting to see all the Hammett-related stuff (the Gores book, the Atkins book, etc.) starting to come out now. The romantic in me hopes it might have to do with the 80th anniversary of the first appearance of THE MALTESE FALCON in BLACK MASK, but the skeptic in me realizes a lot of this stuff, including the Sam Spade character, is now wandering into public domain. Which makes Gores' copyright gesture rather generous and honourable and maybe even heroic. Or at least the right thing to do.

    And Patrick wrote:
    > As first novels go, Red Harvest hits the themes Hammett will explore
    > in his mature work...
    > While certainly not as good as The Maltese Falcon or The Thin Man, I
    > found Red Harvest enjoyable as a thrilling read, and informative as
    > the first link in an evolving writer's style.

    A curious notion, at best, since if you look at the arc of Hammett's writing career, it essentially lasted only a dozen or so years in total, from about 1922 to 1934. And both the "immature" RED HARVEST and allegedly "mature" THE MALTESE FALCON, separated by less than two years, fall pretty squarely in the middle of those years.

    By the time RED HARVEST was published in book form, Hammett had already written a couple of dozen stories featuring the Continental Op, so while it was, technically, his first book, it betrays little of the typical "first novel" affectations usually attributed to rookie writers, while most of the themes Patrick attributes to a maturing writer were already present and pretty well accounted for in the Continental Op stories.

    The second half of his career, the post-Falcon years, say, would be a study in rapidly diminishing production and rapidly increasing alcohol consumption (he was probably bummed about Kathy Griffin's book, too), a bitter taste of what the next thirty years of Hammett's life would be.

    That he managed to crank out THE THIN MAN and particularly THE GLASS KEY (arguably his greatest work) before he more or less pulled the plug is testament to his talent, but overall, most of the acclaim for Hammett rests on what he achieved in that first (immature) half of his brief writing career.

    It's almost as if Hammett burned so hot and fast in those twelve years because he thought a beam with his name on it (TB?) was heading his way. And then the beam didn't fall, and unlike Flitcraft, he couldn't figure out what to do with the rest of his life.

    Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

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