Ellroy on Hammett

As I am in between both writers right now, done with The Dain Curse and not quite done with Ellroy’s Clandestine, this article where the modern writer discusses the pioneer of the genre seems an urgent addition.   The entire piece can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/sep/29/crime.fiction

But I’d like to draw some excerpts that highlight the qualities I like in Hammett too.

“Hammett’s male-speak is the gab of the grift, the scam, the dime hustle. It’s the poke, the probe, the veiled query, the grab for advantage. It’s the threat, the dim sanction, the offer of friendship cloaked in betrayal. Plot holes pop through Hammett’s stories like speed bumps. The body count accretes with no more horror than pratfalls in farce. It doesn’t matter. The language is always there.”

“Hammett’s workday men risk peril for trifling remuneration and never question the choice. The great satisfactions of the job are the mastery of danger and the culling of facts to form a concluding physical truth. These facts comprise the closing of the case and thus the story. Hammett’s men stand hollowly proud in their constant case conclusions. They are in no way affirmed or redeemed. They have survived. They are hopped-up versions of the schmuck clerk who got through one more shift at Wal-Mart.”

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