Archive for the Dashiell Hammett Category

Sam Spade/Blond Satan

Posted in Dashiell Hammett with tags , , , , , on February 20, 2011 by gustravis

A flicker of thought at the end of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon:

Bogie wasn’t mean enough. No way. Sam Spade, a.k.a. a blond Satan, has yet to be realized on screen, perhaps something that is impossible. It’s too tough for the pictures.

By the way, the part when he takes O’Shaughnessy in the bathroom and makes her take off all her clothes: true pulp moment.

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Ellroy on Hammett

Posted in Dashiell Hammett, James Ellroy with tags , on July 5, 2010 by gustravis

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.”

Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse

Posted in Dashiell Hammett with tags , on June 27, 2010 by gustravis

Dashiell Hammett

Hammett is probably the best.  I say probably and mean most definitely.  He only wrote five novels, the son of a bitch.  He drank a lot and cared more for that than anything else.  He also liked prostitutes quite a bit, black ones and oriental ones. This was said about him: his “behaviour could be accounted for only by an assumption that he had no expectation of being alive much beyond Thursday.”

What he brought to pulp was the first-hand knowledge of a detective.  He worked for Pinkerton before he wrote; he knew the ins and outs of the worlds he created.  He also perfected a style: terse, vivid but lean.  It’s like Hemingway’s but without the feeling of “art”.  It is pure damn storytelling.

The Dain Curse

The Dain Curse is a crazy novel.  I wouldn’t ever put a first-time Hammett reader onto this one.  He goes everywhere with this one.

First, he’s got his Continental Op character from Red Harvest.  Through a staggering mystery, he comes up against stolen jewels, a girl with weird pointed ears, rival sisters, a religious cult, phantoms, a French ex-con, warring back-country police officials, morphine-addictions, homemade bombs, and the title “curse” to spin it all together.  Somehow he does it.  I don’t know how the hell he does and I don’t even care to try an’ tell you.

Here is a quote from the book.  It not only serves the novel’s tone but explains the hard-boiled detective, his perspective, his purpose and position in most pulp novels.

“It sounds normal as hell to me.  Nobody thinks clearly, no matter what they pretend.  Thinking’s a dizzy business, a matter of catching as many of those foggy glimpses as you can and fitting them together the best you can.  That’s why people hang on so tight to their beliefs and opinions; because, compared to the haphazard way in which they’re arrived, even the goofiest opinion seems wonderfully clear, sane, and self-evident.  And if you let it get away from you, then you’ve got to dive back into that foggy muddle to wrangle yourself out another to take its place.”