Been reading up on some old school noir and came across a few interesting articles I thought were worth passing along.
The first takes a long and thoughtful look at what is possibly the first true noir novel and one that helped define the genre: The Maltese Falcon. The article correctly hits upon what sets Dashiell Hammett's work apart from so many others, the struggle of morality. Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, while living in something of a more complicated world, is, most times, a much less complicated man. He is morally just, the knight fighting through the filth of LA crime. Sam Spade, Hammett's short lived protagonist, straddles a much hazier moral line. This following article does a good job picking around these scabs HERE.
The second, is a timely review of the new book: The World of Raymond Chandler, In His Own Words, by Barry Day. More than a biography, Day's book pieces together not only the influences and events of Chandler's life, but also takes the effort to reconstruct 1940's LA, and the people and events that helped form the basis of so many novels. Though I already know a good portion of the man's life, this book takes so much from his own words and correspondences I promptly ordered a copy after reading this review to find out more. The article on the New York Times Website is linked HERE.
Finally, heading back to The Guardian and Hammett, and I guess as a way of wrapping up the two men that have influenced pretty much anyone in this field or with even a passing interest in the genre, "The Dean of Hard-Boiled Fiction" goes knee deep into the author's history and, unlike the above glimpse into Chandler's life, we get some nice early comparisons to Hammett's contemporaries (Hemingway being one of them). The author also delves into the sad but fascinating tale of Hammett's writer's block and crippling alcoholism. How much of Sam Spade was actually pulled from Hammett's real life will never be known completely, but his inability to produce more work beyond his five stellar years from 1929 - 1934 is rooted in his life previous to his writing (a Pinkerton and lawman) and ultimately informs his typewriter's paralysis. A lasting quote from Hammett is one all writers fear but most never heed:
“I stopped writing because I found I was repeating myself. It is the beginning of the end when you discover you have style.” You can find this article HERE.
A special shoutout to Ed Lynsky for the Times article, I popped by his Google+ page as I often do (and you should too) and found it through there.
One other quick note, I lifted the above picture from another great article published nearly a year ago which recounts the one and only time these two men met, and I think this picture is the only one ever with the two of them. The LA Times write up is a great quick read HERE.
Somewhere a year or more ago I wrote a blog about my top Chandler novels. I may dig that out and re-publish it here. In the meantime, visit some of the above links and learn up on these interesting dudes.
Blog Author Bios:
J. J. Sinisi started TDC and is a professional out of New York but spends what little free time he has strolling dark alleyways creating and reviewing crime fiction. His work has appeared at Spelk Fiction, Yellow Mama, Spinetingler Mag, Near to the Knuckle, Dead Guns Press, All Due Respect, Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, The Flash Fiction Offensive and others.