RARA-AVIS: Hammett

From: Fred Willard (fwillard@bellsouth.net)
Date: 09 Jun 2009

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    I wanted to jump into the Hammett thread, but being a tough guy, had lost a fight with myself and was laid up.

    I threw myself onto the large fieldstone hearth in the living room and was knocked silly.

    Here are a few late thoughts.

    I think you need to place Hammett's political leanings in the context of the times.

    The labor struggles of that era were both polarized and brutal and as a Pinkerton, he was likely engaged in some rough stuff in suppressing union organizing.

    He felt very badly about this in his later life.

    Add to that the feelings in the 30's that capitalism may have failed and the Russians 'were the only people standing up to the NAZIs,' and I can understand the leftward drift of many people at the time.

    Of course, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (39) and the slow economic recovery of the west made both concepts suspect by the 40's` to all but the most dogmatic, but there was a lot of fear in the 30's that our system may have failed and likewise the rise of NAZI Germany was truly frightening.

    One of the things I find interesting about noir and hard-boiled fiction is that it addresses the problems of success in the same ways that science fiction addresses the problems of progress and yet it is written by people all across the ideological spectrum. In that sense, it is a subversive literature even if apolitical.

    It's a lot more fun that political theory, too.


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