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Hard-boiled investigators

Chapter from Lee Horsley, The Noir Thriller (Palgrave, 2001)

At the end of The Maltese Falcon  (1930), Brigid O'Shaughnessy asks Sam Spade whether he would have treated her differently if he had received his share of the money from the sale of a genuine falcon.  '"Don't be too sure I'm as crooked as I'm supposed to be,"' Spade replies.  '"That kind of reputation might be good business  - bringing in high-priced jobs and making it easier to deal with the enemy."'   His answer suggests the ambivalent position of the archetypal hard-boiled  investigator .  Self-aware and self-mocking,  he acknowledges that he is often seen as indistinguishable from the crooks with whom he has to deal.  However, while he readily admits looking after his own financial interests, he is not ultimately motivated by greed.  In spite of his apparent amorality and tough cynicism, Spade does have at least some standards - a personal code against which unscrupulous 'enemies' and the disorder they create can be judged.   The label 'hard-boiled' is often used synonymously with 'noir'. [i]   Although this is to some extent misleading, there is substantial overlap, and much of the best noir crime fiction is unquestionably hard-boiled.  Both labels connote the use of the crime story to provide insights into the socio-political  disorders and moral dilemmas of the time in which they're written;  they look critically at the illusions and hypocrisy, the rotten power structures and the brutal injustices of a superficially respectable society.  Protagonists tend to be isolated and estranged, existing on margins of society and, as outsiders, capable of seeing with a satirist 's  eye.  As much as anything, it is the investigator's ability to strip away pretence and reveal the sources of corruption that gives him his effective agency , enabling him to survive in (and giving him a kind of freedom within) a hazardous environment.

            'Hard-boiled' and 'noir' can both refer to narratives that have as their protagonists predators or victims  as well as investigators.  It is the tough, independent investigator , though, who is most strongly associated with the hard-boiled  tradition. Most accounts of this figure begin with the Black  Mask,  which from 1923 on printed the kind of tough crime stories in American settings that became one of the key points of origin for American hard-boiled writing.  The focus of these stories is on the activity of exposure, but this activity involves much more attendant danger and moral uncertainty than there is in the orthodox detective  story, with its puzzle-solving sleuths analysing clues and providing rational solutions.  The hard-boiled investigator not only enquires into entrenched power structures but engages in combat against them and can choose to  inflict punishment.  This enforcer element, the individualist ethic of taking things into one's own hands, is particularly marked in some of the early Black Mask  stories.  In the retrospective investigations of the 'Golden Age' of crime fiction, the detectives of Agatha Christie , Dorothy Sayers  or S. S. Van Dine  are themselves insulated from the crime that has taken place.  In the characteristic Black Mask story, on the other hand, every case becomes part of an ongoing sequence of violent events.  The time of the crime and the time of the investigation are no longer separate.  Narratives are commonly, though not invariably, in the first person, and the narrator's own sense of control is always open to challenge:  he is 'caught in a narrative that writes him as much as he writes it', [ii]   and thus cannot have the aloofness and detachment of the classic detective.  There are, however, a variety of positions from which such an investigation can be conducted, and narratives can be classified in terms of the psychological and moral distance of the protagonist from the world of crime investigated. 

            The archetypal hard-boiled  character is, of course, the private eye .  He is the figure most often analysed in comparisons between hard-boiled crime fiction and classic detective  fiction, to the extent that comparisons with the white male hard-boiled tradition (for example, in analyses of female-authored or black  crime fiction) are generally constructed solely with reference to Hammett 's Sam Spade or Chandler 's 'crusader/knight' of the mean streets.  The private eye, in a way no less than the traditional detective, can function as a very positive figure.  Many private eyes, adhering to an individualistic core of values, are distanced from the world investigated by qualities that ultimately distinguish them from those 'on the wrong side of the fence'. [iii]   Their characterisation can be seen as based in 'romantic  images of the lone male - strong, brave, independent - a compendium of the macho values apparently so popular in American society'. [iv]   This summing up of the nature of the private eye is a fair enough description of the kind of protagonist popularised by Chandler and his heirs (for example, Howard Browne , Richard S. Prather  and Robert B. Parker ) and by such contemporaries as Frederick Nebel , Carroll John Daly  and George Harmon Coxe .  These are writers who created a gallery of breezily macho action heroes whose hard-boiled manner gives a tough veneer either to fairly traditional detection or to high-spirited adventure  tales, rather than compelling us to enter the despondent, morally insecure world of noir. 

            The romantic  crusader image does not, however, apply nearly so well to other investigative  figures of the thirties.  Hammett , for example, can be credited with the inauguration of an altogether less comfortable kind of crime fiction.  He introduced characters who much more nearly conform to the description of the private eye  as 'half gangster ' - a man whose innocence has become so tarnished as to be no longer visible, and who is a close relation of the crook-as-investigator  protagonists who emerge in other thrillers of the early thirties.  The range of investigators, then, is considerable.  At one end of the scale, often presented in a lightly comic  manner, is the Marlowe -like private eye of unshakeable integrity, together with such honourable private eye substitutes as tenacious reporters and newspaper photographers, and the triumphantly pugnacious action hero.  At the other end are Hammett's  decidedly unknightly Continental Op on his more turbulent days and other protagonists who lack even the legitimate credentials of private eyes and news hounds - the ex-cons or the hard-bitten strong-arm men to be found in the work of Raoul Whitfield  and Paul Cain .  As is evident even from the cover art of the period (see Fig. 2), criminals and investigators can often appear to be indistinguishable.

From Pulp Heroics to Poisonville

            The divergent possibilities within hard-boiled  fiction - in terms of tone, narrative resolution, characterisation and moral vision - are apparent from the outset in the work of 'the Black Mask  boys', sometimes within the work of a single writer.  So, for example, Frederick Nebel , a good friend of Hammett 's and one of the most popular of the early Black Mask contributors, [v] uses grim urban  settings and writes in a tough style ('"Now pipe this, you eggs..."' [vi] ).  His stories and novels often darkly delineate a Depression  America that is greedy, politically corrupt and morally chaotic, in which only the tough can survive.  In his first novel, Sleepers East   (1933), a journey brings together people involved in concealing a murder that has serious political  ramifications, leaving characters caught up in 'a vast contraption whose existence depended on the co-ordination of all the other cogs' (113).  One of his stories was adapted as a film, The Bribe  (Robert Z. Leonard , 1949), which contains enough noir elements (pervasive corruption, a sense of defeat and betrayal) to bring it within canonical film noir . [vii]   His 'Tough Dick ' Donohue can be counted as one of the main successors to Hammett's  Op:  a man who 'had seen crime in its many strata', [viii] Donohue is the protagonist in a series of violent and cynical stories published in Black Mask in the early thirties.  In many of Nebel's stories, however, especially those using the series characters of MacBride and Kennedy , his light-hearted prose carries him towards a more thoroughly comic  world of knockabout antics and whimsical humour .  Humour (the wisecrack in particular) is a basic ingredient of much hard-boiled writing, but when the dominant tone becomes genially comic the effect tends to be protective and reassuring.  Kennedy, ace reporter and falling-down drunk, reels through more than thirty droll Black Mask tales in which he alternately aids, annoys and is propped up by Captain John MacBride and his fellow policemen:  'The reason I'm holding him up, Cap, is that the souse can't stand.  He fell out of a taxi, fell over the curb and started crawling up the path...'. [ix]  The same combination of pulp heroics and a jaunty, humorous tone is to be found in Nebel's later Cardigan stories, published in Dime Detective , one of Black Mask's most important rival magazines, which first appeared in November 1931.  'Kick Back' (April 1934), for example, begins with a grey-coated gunman disarmed after he slips on a banana peel and ends in an exchange of light comic banter, with the good guys 'bickering all the time, like a couple of kids'. [x]

            Another of the early Black Mask  writers whose work shifts between different hard-boiled  tones is Carroll John Daly , Hammett 's most important co-contributor and at first the more popular of the two. [xi]   His stories are crudely written and, for the most part, are not notably akin to noir.  They do, however, break sharply from traditional detective  fiction in being more violent and urban  and in establishing a partial prototype of the hard-boiled investigator . [xii]   Daly's December 1922 story, 'The False Burton Combs', is often taken to be the first of Black Mask's hard-boiled stories.  It contains, like most Daly stories, little by way of serious social criticism, partly because what is represented is the intrusion of a gang into an orderly community , rather than (as, say, in Hammett) a whole community that is corrupt.  But 'The False Burton Combs' does offer its share of cynical one-liners - as when the narrator observes that 'There ain't nothing in government unless you're a politician.  And as I said before, I ain't no crook.' [xiii]   Also, though he is an 'adventurer' rather than a detective, the narrator uncovers wrongdoing from a position that he locates between the crook and the policeman.  It is this 'middleman' position that is most obviously related to the development of hard-boiled detection.  Daly's investigative  figure, the nameless first-person narrator, is both morally ambivalent and dangerously implicated.  Guilty and vulnerable, he occupies, at different stages of the story, the three roles  kept carefully separate in most classic detective fiction, that is, victim , murderer  and detective.  He is paid to impersonate a potential victim (the 'false' Burton Combs).  Although he is wrongly accused of being a professional killer, he believes that it is 'good ethics' to shoot a man down after he has been duly warned (if 'you happen to have my code of morals' [xiv] ).  By the end of the story, however, his public image has been transformed from that of 'desperate criminal ' to heroic detective, credited with the confident agency  of the traditional heroic protagonist.  When the narrator tells the reader, '"I guess I'll take that job - if it pays enough to get married on,'" [xv] it is clear that the story has been resolved by an optimistic and romantic  conclusion which henceforth disqualifies the hero from the role of the lone investigator.

            In Daly 's writing,  rather than the light-hearted, resilient humour  that characterises Nebel 's stories, it is all-conquering, two-fisted action that distances his protagonist from the corrupt world he enters.  His first series character and his most famous creation, Race Williams , can be regarded as 'the true progenitor of the American private eye '. [xvi]   Well-armed and well-paid for fearlessly tackling brutal gangsters  and master criminals, Race dispenses rough justice when the situation seems to call for it: '"Call it murder if you like - a disregard for human life.  I don't care.  I'll run my business  - you run yours."' [xvii]   The Race Williams stories (over thirty, published in Black Mask  between 1923 and 1934) occasionally probe sources of socio-political  corruption, but the boastful exploits and rugged individualism  of the hero are closely connected to such traditional action heroes as the frontiersmen and gunfighters of the American West . [xviii]   For Race Williams, being situated between cops and crooks mainly implies a willingness to resort to violent means and to proceed without formal legal sanction.  His violence  of response in  part functions as a critique of violence in society, and as means of bringing to light hidden corruptions (in such a society, the implication is, only violent means are effective).  But, like the earlier American dime novel heroes, Race acts out fantasies of revenge  against popular scapegoats, like foreign master criminals.  Excessive evil is routinely vanquished, as in the Race Williams novel The Snarl of the Beast  (1928) [xix] , which ends with the dispatching of 'the Beast', a 'notorious English criminal ' with 'flaming eyes' and 'great hairy hands' (49 and 280).  

            From the point of view  of literary noir, the more interesting Daly  series character, appearing in Detective Fiction Weekly  from the early 1930s [xx] , is Satan Hall , a policeman, but  one whose methods isolate him within the force in much the same way that the private eye  is isolated.  Published at the height of the public obsession with gang warfare and city  corruption, the Satan Hall  series aims for a degree of verisimilitude in its social and political  references.  At the same time, though, the stories contain strong elements of ironic  inversion and satiric  fantasy .  In contrast to the Race Williams  stories, the nature of the crimes portrayed has shifted towards contemporary relevance and the investigative  figure is pushed much further towards moral ambivalence.  Instead of concentrating on devious criminal  masterminds and foreign villains, Daly focuses on the corruption of local politics .  Society is shown to be at war  because the forces of destabilisation and threat are within.  In Satan Sees Red (1932), for example, 'the system' and 'the racket' are treated as synonymous, and the cause of both is said by the world-weary captain to lie in 'crooked politics, stupid laws and human nature' (40).  Bowers, a big racketeer closely involved in the political life of the city, is in origin just a local 'gangster  and gunman' hunting his enemies in the 'dark alleys'.   The description of the grotesquely caricatured Daggett, in Satan Laughed (1934), epitomises the way in which Daly represents the relationship between city political power and organised crime :  the ironised  'great man' has 'worked his way into control.  Gangster, racketeer, politician.  Now a power behind the throne; the throne of evil that dominates all too often in many large cities' (220-1). 

            Satan Hall , as his name suggests, is also a larger-than-life figure.  All of the details of his appearance and manner associate him with his evil namesake, from the sinister curves of his thin lips to his hot breath and a 'steady tread' - the 'Footsteps of Doom' - associated with the inexorable fate that awaits malefactors (16, 31).  His character, in contrast to that of more ordinary detectives, is defined in terms not of duty but of passion and obsession, the embodiment of a barely contained 'pent-up force' capable of sweeping away the corrupt (52).  Daly  plays sardonically with the metaphoric possibilities of 'Satan' Hall , the fallen angel who is without the blessing of those who sit in judgement, as the only effective opponent of 'the infernal system' (14), the 'lower city ' controlled by Bowers and his kind.  The predecessor of later avengers like Mike Hammer  and Dirty Harry , Satan has to go into the dark doorways and dismal streets, keeping 'close to the gutter'  and dispensing his own form of justice:  it might be murder in the eyes of the state law but not in the light of 'The criminal 's law.  Satan's law' (92-3).

            In spite of Daly 's greater renown at the time, it is, of course, Dashiell Hammett  whose reputation has survived and who has much the stronger claim to be seen as the progenitor of literary noir. In 1923, eight years before Daly's creation of Satan Hall , Hammett introduced in Black Mask  a protagonist, the Continental Op, who was a much more plausible inhabitant of the territory 'close to the gutter'.  The Op was followed in 1929 by Sam Spade and in the next year by Ned Beaumont, an investigative  figure who is himself the associate of racketeers and corrupt politicians.  Hammett's immense influence is due in part to his superior ability in creating a distinctive voice, a true 'hard-boiled ' style that is in itself an implicit rejection of bourgeois hypocrisy and conventional  values.  His spare, unembellished prose is appropriate to his no-nonsense protagonists.  Hammett is often praised as a realist, and unquestionably part of his superiority to a writer like Daly lies in his greater verisimilitude.  His flawed, vulnerable narrators and his hard, direct representation of contemporary material give him an ability to lay bare the 'heart, soul, skin and guts' of a corrupt town  (Red Harvest  12).  As a phrase like this suggests, Hammett does share something of Daly's fondness for mythologising [xxi] , though not for the kind of insistent patterning that characterises the Satan Hall  stories.  What really distinguishes Hammett from Daly, however, are the qualities which have led critics to label him a modernist  and which also identify him as a more obviously noir writer:  his development of more sophisticated ironies , his ambiguity and complexity, his disruption of reliable narrative and of binary oppositions between good and evil, order and disorder.  The ambivalence of Hammett's stories is not produced (as it is in Daly's Satan Hall stories) just by playing with moral inversions but by injecting into his writing a thoroughgoing scepticism that affects themes, structure and narrative techniques. 

            In creating his most famous protagonist, Sam Spade, Hammett  uses the image of a 'blond satan' (Maltese Falcon , 375) which may well, of course, have influenced Daly 's creation of Satan Hall .  Spade (like Satan) is the 'good guy' who is also capable of killing without much compunction, and the emphasis on his satanic appearance leads us to reflect  from the outset on his 'wicked' side.  In contrast to Daly, however, Hammett uses the image in passing, rather than as a means of shaping and colouring the whole story.  The comparative subtlety of Hammett's narrative methods is evident in the fact that it is only in the final pages of The Maltese Falcon that we discover the full deviousness of Spade's character.  It is only at this juncture that the reader realises not just that he was hired by the woman who murdered his partner but that he has been aware of her guilt from the beginning and has nevertheless made love to her and played along with her until the end.  It is typical of Hammett that this crucial piece of information emerges without comment or explanation, so that it is readers themselves who must work out what has been revealed (that is, if Spade knows now he must have known all the time) and who must think through the implications for their assessment of Spade's character.  Repeatedly in Hammett novels the protagonist's closest alliances turn out to be with those who are most guilty and who have most to conceal.  In Red Harvest , the Op is working for the Willsson family , hired by the son of the man who is at the centre of the town 's corruption and who himself hires the Op only when he is persuaded that his gangster  associates mean to murder him as well.  In The Dain Curse  (1929), it turns out that the Op has been collaborating with the murderer , Fitzstephan, and it emerges that Ned Beaumont, in The Glass Key  (1931), is working for Madvig, who in turn works for the murderer.  Nick Charles, in The Thin Man  (1934), is relying on the information of another friend and killer, Macaulay.  All of these are connections that are hidden from the reader until the end.  

            What the reader is certain of from the first in Hammett 's novels are his protagonists' imperfections, their human weaknesses and self-distrust.  Fat and middle-aged, the Op often has to cope with things that undermine his strength and competence.  In 'The Gutting of Couffignal' (Black Mask , 1924), for example, his loss of masculine effectiveness is imaged in his lameness - a defect for which he compensates by stealing a crutch from a cripple.  More like Conrad 's Marlow than Chandler 's Marlowe , the Op has no higher motivation than dedication to his job.  His work ethic makes him painstaking, patient and dogged.  Tough when necessary, the Op never glorifies toughness:  he admits that there is a certain attraction in brutality, but is self-doubting enough to be worried by this.  There are arguably some 'knightly' qualities in the Op, particularly in The Dain Curse , in which his compassion for and rehabilitation of the mistreated damsel in distress (Gabrielle) is much more to the fore. But on the whole he is deliberately created as the antithesis of a knightly hero.  In the 1927 Black Mask stories later published as Blood Money, [xxii] for example, he is situated between characters who represent opposing types of ally, the romantic  boy, Jack Counihan, and the hardened criminal , Tom-Tom Carey, a contrast used to define the choices the Op himself has to make.  The young operative Counihan, at first teased by the Op for his self-image of 'youthful gallantry' (382), must ultimately be condemned for the romantic vanity that leads him to think he can play the part of 'a desperate suave villain' (411), so betraying the Op, who goads him into a response that ensures his death.  Carey, on the other hand, traffics in guns, booze, dope and illegal immigrants, and is capable of torturing information out of a man in a most grizzly fashion ('ribbons of flesh had been cut loose' [387]).  He is, however, a much less treacherous ally because honest about his greed and villainy.    In Red Harvest , where the Op's own character is 'infected' with the poison of violence , he plays all factions against one another and abandons himself to the violent atmosphere in full awareness of the corruption of his own character and motives:  'It makes you sick, or you get to like it' (139).   Ned Beaumont, in The Glass Key , lacks even the partial legitimation of the private eye , since he is merely the henchman of a prominent racketeer and politician.  Beaumont is a gambler  who is capable of being thoroughly unscrupulous, for example, of planting evidence; he is a man of dubious values and cloudy motives, telling harsh truths about some things and lying about others.

            One of the essential characteristic of noir is a preoccupation with the problems of seeing and speaking the truth, evident in its exploration of new narrative forms and its tendency towards narrative fragmentation, subjectivity  and unreliability.  This tendency is fundamental to Hammett 's novels.  Instead of simply (as Daly  and Nebel  do) aiming to expose the falsity of public discourse and to bring out the hidden connections between the criminal  and the official, Hammett creates narratives in which lying and deceit undermine and erode all human relations and all of the fictions sustained by respectable society.  Like Conrad , Hammett depicts society as a network of secret agents , men and women concealing their true identities and past crimes, telling false stories that leave them entangled in a web of lies.  Macaulay, one of the more accomplished deceivers in The Thin Man , only succeeds as well as he does because so many others are also dishonest, so acting as his unwitting accomplices.  False narratives are not just the means by which the powerful establish their ascendancy, but are often the only way for victims  to try to protect themselves and for the investigator -protagonists to gather information and survive.  The duplicity is so pervasive that it appears to typify the whole nature of discourse in the modern world.  

            Hammett 's involvement in leftist politics  in the mid-thirties, a few years after he published his last novel, has led some critics to read back into his novels (particularly Red Harvest ) a Marxist political  agenda. [xxiii]   The critique he develops is in many respects left-wing, for example in its hostility to the greed and exploitation he associates with unrestrained capitalism .  The economic  structure of capitalism appears, however, to be more an effect than a cause.  Hammett expresses a pessimistic vision that is essentially political without being programmatic.  In this he again resembles Conrad , conveying a sense of irremediable human flaws, abuses of power, inescapable violence  and death, rather than a hope that changing the structure of society will bring a utopian transformation.  The atmosphere of ubiquitous deceitfulness is such that moral chaos and betrayal seem the norm rather than the exception.  Anarchic human appetites - sometimes sexual, but more often the lust for wealth or power - disorder all relationships from the most personal to the political and economic.  In Blood Money,  the title itself underlines the symbolic coupling of money and violence.  Surreal confusion follows the gathering of one hundred and fifty gangsters  in San Francisco for an assault on The Seaman's National and The Golden Gate Trust , after which (with trust shattered) murderous greed seems to infect the houses of the city , filling them with death and betrayal:  'All the house held was fourteen dead men' (340);  'Larrouy's home  was pregnant with weapons' (354).  In Maltese Falcon , the initial pretence of a quest for the restoration of family  harmony - 'Miss Wonderly's' search for a sister whose loss would kill 'Mama and Papa' (376-7) - is rapidly replaced by the real names and actual motivation, the quest for fabulous wealth.  The all-devouring Gutman, whose history of the Falcon is a tale of the universal pursuit of riches, is the father-figure of a grotesque family group constituted by its lust for the Falcon.  In seeking its possession Gutman will do anything, whether it is killing others or quite readily agreeing to the sacrifice of his surrogate son Wilmer. 

            In other novels, instead of creating treacherous criminal  confederacies as analogues for the unchecked materialism of the larger society, Hammett  devises narratives in which those who are most apparently respectable maintain their position in conventional  society.  They do so by creating intricate lies to conceal their exploitation of everyone associated with them, so revealing their readiness, like Gutman, to betray those closest to them.  All bonds of trust disintegrate, making orderly, sustaining social relationships impossible.  Whether it is in the tortured relationships of The Dain Curse   or the broken families of The Thin Man , family  members in Hammett novels routinely damage one another.  Men of power safeguard their careers by sacrificing their children:   Senator Henry, in The Glass Key , betrays his daughter by using her attractions to secure the support of Paul Madvig, and, having killed his own son, shows himself willing to kill Madvig so that he would carry the blame for the earlier crime.  Children cannot conceive of the perfidy of their fathers.  In Red Harvest   an idealistic son begins a newspaper campaign against the corruption of Personville, unaware of how deeply involved his own father is in these crimes.  None of these are problems that seem susceptible of a solution.  The powers of destruction are too entrenched.  If the end of the novel appears to bring resolution, it is a brief point of equilibrium after which things will return to the same sort of conflicts which set the plot in motion.  At the end of Red Harvest, when the Op leaves Personville after a frenzy of cleansing and retribution, he has merely given the town  back into the same hands as before.  Personville is 'all nice and clean and ready to go to the dogs again' (181), and the Op is under no illusion that he has achieved something of lasting value.  Similarly, at the end of The Glass Key , as Ned Beaumont prepares to depart, he stares 'fixedly'  through an open door, and we are left pondering the open question of whether Madvig stands any chance of 'cleaning house' and ultimately managing to 'get the city  back' (783).

            Instead of remediable political -economic  ills, there is a sense of deep-seated moral disorder in the patterning of Hammett 's novels, reinforced by symbolic suggestions of randomness, disorder and loss of control.  So, for example, the town  of Personville has an element of historical specificity.  A mining town of about forty thousand people, it had a strike in 1921 that led to the influence of criminal  elements.  The resident criminals have helped to put down the strike but cannot be kept in check by Elihu Willsson, himself implicated in their corrupt methods.  Hammett also, however, makes extensive use of the naming of the town, which is known by two names, both metaphoric.  As 'Personville' it suggests a representative population and, in terms of the power structure, one man's presumption in taking over the whole town, making it in every respect his personal property ('Elihu Willsson was Personville').  The insidious nature of the corruption he presides over gives rise to the town's other name, 'Poisonville', with its suggestions of crookedness and violence  spreading like a toxin through the body politic, not just in one small town  but (given the representative nature of the name) through the whole of American society.  Hammett's titles very often point towards a symbolic reading:  the horrific violence of a 'red harvest';  the 'glass key' [xxiv] that suggests a liminal passage into darker experience through a door which,  once opened, cannot be locked again;  the fetishised falcon which, valueless in itself, is invested with meaning by those who seek to possess it ; the 'thin man' who symbolises man reduced to a financial resource, 'as thin as the paper in that cheque', alive only 'on paper', as an asset to those whose greed leads them to feed off him.  Meanings are amplified by inset dreams and parables, hinting in one way or another at the dark truths that cannot be contained: the falling beam in the Flitcraft parable, which makes it seem as though someone has 'taken the lid off life';  the snakes that cannot be locked up again in the dream Janet Henry tells Ned Beaumont; the story of cannibalism  in The Thin Man ,  which supports the wider theme of insatiable greed by describing in gruesome detail an isolated man's reversion to primitive impulses, to a savagery that cannot ultimately be concealed by his 'conflicting stories'.

Beautiful manners and flawless English

            Hammett 's most famous successor, Raymond  Chandler , started writing for Black Mask   in December 1933, shortly after Hammett published The Thin Man , his final novel.  Aside from the tale of cannibalism , The Thin Man has a lightness of tone that has led critics to dissociate it from the body of his earlier work.  This dissociation was strengthened by the series of 'Thin Man' films  originating with the novel, in which the 'thin man' came to be identified as Nick Charles, so that the darker implications of Hammett's imagery of rapacity were forgotten.  The work of Chandler is characterised by a much more consistent lightness of tone.  Chandler combines witty detachment with an underlying sentimentality that is also there in some film adaptations, heightened, for example, in a romanticised  adaptation like The Big Sleep  (Howard Hawks , 1946).  Hawks' film foregrounds the relationship between Marlowe  and Vivian Sternwood which, like that between Nick and Nora Charles, seems capable of withstanding the threatening and corrupting forces of the noir underworld. [xxv]  

            Of other Hollywood  adaptations of Chandler  novels, the most 'canonically noir' is Murder, My Sweet  (Edward Dmytryk , 1944), adapting Farewell, My Lovely  (1940), and it is in a way this film that best suggests why Chandler is usually regarded as Hammett 's heir. [xxvi]   The place of Hammett and Chandler within the film noir  canon has led many critics to overemphasise the relationship between the two, and their names, of course, are routinely linked as creators of the private eye , with the image of Bogart  playing both Spade and Marlowe  acting as iconic confirmation of their union.  The novels themselves, however, are very different in style, themes, narrative patterns and attitudes to action.  There are unquestionably noir elements in Chandler's work, and these are accentuated in Dmytryk's film adaptation.  Dmytryk underscores the 'quintessentially noir' role of the femme fatale  and the immersion of a vulnerable protagonist in a world gone wrong, peopled by grotesque characters.  He creates an atmosphere of paranoia , heavy with threat and violence .  An 'uncompromising vision of corruption and decay' is intensified by surreal , expressionistic distortions. [xxvii]   Murder, My Sweet  is, however, a film that destabilises Chandler's world, undercutting the comparative detachment and superiority that Marlowe preserves in the text through verbal wit.  Limits to his masculine competence and insight are suggested, for example, by expressionist  shooting, with its attendant sense of disorientation and vulnerability, as well as by Marlowe's symbolically bandaged eyes in the framing interrogation.

            Wider social and political  concerns of the sort voiced in Hammett 's novels are sometimes more evident in the stories Chandler  published between 1933 and 1939 than in his novels.  'Finger Man ' (Black Mask , 1934), for example, an early story which Marlowe  narrates, does little to develop the character of the private eye , focusing instead on the machinations of 'a big politico' who is willing to go to great lengths to 'fix' things in his territory. [xxviii]   Another short story, 'Guns at Cyrano's' (Black Mask, 1936), ultimately reveals the consequences of the unscrupulous behaviour of 'that thin cold guy', a corrupt state Senator. [xxix]   And in 'Trouble is My Business ' (Dime Detective , 1939) the real villain of the piece is old man Jeeter, who ruined people during the Depression  'all proper and legitimate, the way that kind of heel ruins people', driving them to suicide while never having 'lost a nickel himself'. [xxx]   The crimes of power-hungry politicians, the clandestine alliances of government officials with gangsters  and the criminality of 'legitimate business ', often supported by brutally corrupt policemen, are preoccupations to be found in Chandler's novels as well, where such themes provide a public dimension to the narrative.  Chandler has not, however, always convinced his readers of his serious commitment to exposing corruption in high places.  Docherty, for example, argues that the 'big bosses' - the corrupt businessmen and political manipulators - are often perceived by Marlowe as 'presentable and decent', Chandler perhaps being more inclined to exculpate gangsters than to imply that all businessmen are really gangsters.  It is certainly true that, in comparison to Hammett, the reader is not immersed in a sense of nightmarish urban  corruption, and figures like Eddie Mars and Laird Brunette do remain 'civil' and 'presentable'.  It might be said that the key word here, though, is 'presentable'.  A characteristic Chandler trope is the picture of a beguiling surface, of a scene that can remain 'presentable' even after we have returned from the subterranean horrors of finding the body in the  lake.  Part of the point about his smooth businessmen-gangsters is that they retain their fa?ade of gentlemanly respectability, and having succeeded in this they do, in fact, go unpunished, because that is the nature of the society portrayed.  Chandler depicts a world of 'respectability', but one should not underrate the disturbing elements lurking just out of sight.  The suburban  Dad that Marlowe conjures up in The Little Sister  (1949) is sitting 'in front of a picture window', but it gives him no view of 'the big money, the sharp shooters, the percentage workers, the fast dollar boys...' (202-3).  Even those who play down the socio-political dimension in Chandler's novels see in them a modernist  sense of urban anomie and moral disintegration.

            There are, however, several aspects of Chandler 's work which muffle his critique of American society.  Most important is his use of the same first-person narrator, which, combined with some recurrent features of style, means that his novels are considerably more homogeneous than those of Hammett .  When Marlowe  develops beyond the sketchily realised narrator of 'Finger Man ', the fictional world created is always reliably mediated by the voice of a protagonist who unfailingly combines honourable conduct with penetrating judgement and self-mocking humour .  Though Marlowe is caught up in plots of notorious complexity (and is significantly less in control than, say, the figure of the classic detective ) he continues to provide the reassurance of a stable and trustworthy perspective.  His detachment places him much closer to the masculine competence and 'rightness' of traditional detective fiction, and so moves him away from a noir sense of uncertainty.

            The protective presence that Marlowe  establishes is above all stylistic.  The witty, ironic  aloofness of his narrative acts to evaluate and to contain the moral disorder of the society he investigates.  When Hammett 's Op is shot in Red Harvest , he issues a declaration of war  on Poisonville and on 'fat Noonan', the chief of police:  '"Now it's my turn to run him ragged, and that's exactly what I'm going to do.  Poisonville is ripe for harvest.  It's a job I like, and I'm going to do it...I've got a mean disposition.  Attempted assassinations make me mad'" (64).  This mood of aggression, leading the Op to fight the corruption in Poisonville by means of violence  and brutality, provides Red Harvest with the distinctively noir element of immersion in a world gone wrong.  It is very unlike Marlowe's response to extreme provocation.  Both Marlowe and the Op speak with a satirist 's  mocking insight, but Marlowe's insights are not the savage ironies  of the Op.  Instead, his habitual form of self-defence is teasing, elegantly phrased and ironically  guarded.  In Farewell, My Lovely , for example, when Marlowe tries to make Anne Riordan see the rottenness of Bay City, he says, '"Sure, it's a nice town .  It's probably no crookeder than Los Angeles.  But you can only buy a piece of a big city .  You can buy a town this size all complete, with the original box and tissue paper.  That's the difference.  And that makes me want out"' (295).  The effects of this quip are characteristically double.  Marlowe is urging Anne (and the reader) to see the realities of local corruption, and his irony  underscores his fastidious taste and the weary cynicism of his disillusioned gaze.  The sarcastic use of 'nice' (a recurrent feature of Marlowe's style) and the reductive image of the whole town gift-wrapped combine to satirise  the deceptiveness of decent appearances and the ease with which powerful coalitions can buy and sell influence.  The satirical  diminishment and the arch manner also, however, provide a distancing humour , removing both Marlowe and his audience from the brutal scene just experienced and making it clear why he 'wants out'.  Indeed, even when he is being physically coerced, Marlowe's self-ironising  manner simultaneously acknowledges his limitations and draws attention to his separateness:  '"Don't make me get tough," I whined.  "Don't make me lose my beautiful manners and my flawless English"' (Farewell, My Lovely, 289).  Marlowe's superiority to his environment is not, though he is resilient, a matter of physical prowess but of a subtle intellect that can manage a self-deprecating joke even when he's been sapped and imprisoned and 'shot full of dope and locked in a barred room' (288).  Unlike the Op, Marlowe would never 'go blood-simple'.  What we most remember in Chandler 's novels is not the narrator losing himself in a violent, crowded scene but the wry voice of the satirist, scathing, defensive, or appalled, but ultimately disengaged.

            The high degree of stylistic control, it has been argued, goes with an 'authoritarian romantic  core'. [xxxi]   It can be seen as reflecting the bourgeois individualist's distaste for and essential separation from the sordid world he investigates.  As critics have often observed, when Marlowe  does enter into conflict with the depraved society around him, his preferred role is that of the questing knight.  This sentimentalised figure engages in encounters that simultaneously propel him on and test his skill in arms, challenging his fearlessness and integrity and leading him to a more sophisticated understanding of his moral make-up.  Marlowe's knightly qualities are everywhere apparent, from the history of his naming ('Mallory' in the early Black Mask   story, 'Blackmailers Don't Shoot', with 'Marlowe' as its 'coded version') to Chandler 's own description of the man of honour, 'good enough for any world', who must go down 'these mean streets'. [xxxii]   When Marlowe contemplates the stained-glass window in the Sternwood house, he reflects that the knight rescuing the lady looks so ineffectual 'that if I lived in the house, I would sooner or later have to climb up there and help him' (3).  Chandler is seen as promoting the positive side of the 'Great Wrong Place' myth, the American dream  of the 'last just man' whose alienation  is the guarantee of his integrity.  In addition, however, his idealised representation of the private eye  has led many to psychoanalyse the 'real' nature of both Marlowe and his creator and to search for unintentional revelations of Marlowe/Chandler's own obsessions and neuroses.  One might in fact argue that it is this inadvertent revelation of inner weaknesses that has been most responsible for making adaptations of Chandler's work of such interest to critics of the classic film noir  cycle.  Marlowe's isolated knightly superiority can be interpreted as a hedge against his own neurotic unease.  His inner-directed, intellectualising defensiveness in such a reading acts as a compensation for paranoid fear and inadequacy. [xxxiii]   Murder, My Sweet , in particular, with Dmytryk 's expressionistic suggestions of paranoia , its strongly subjective  flashback structure and its shadowed, dreamlike distortions of perception, can be taken to reveal personal aversion and crisis - noir sexual anxiety, the destabilising of masculine authority and the placing of the protagonist in a situation of impairment and powerlessness.  The romantically admirable knight, then, can be read as an ideal of mastery generated by a tortured self whose fears of losing control are projected, for example, in the fascinated disgust he expresses for effeminate men like Marriott, Lavery and Geiger. [xxxiv]

            Marlowe 's neurotic alienation , his fears about loss of agency , about violations of self and fragmenting identity  are expressions of characteristically modernist  anxieties.  In comparison to Hammett 's modernism , however, Chandler 's involves shifting the focus of his thrillers away from wider socio-political  disorder and corruption, and towards terrors that are more inward.  His novels bring together the public and the personal:  the crimes of crooked policemen, businessmen, and politicians provide an outer structure within which more private crimes are enacted.  Part of Chandler's point is that these personal wrongs are inextricably related to the larger controlling forces at work in early twentieth-century society:  as Marlowe says in The Big Sleep , 'it all ties together' (158-9).  But it is equally evident that the intrusive forces of urban  criminality function more as background than as foreground.  The kinds of intrusion Marlowe himself seems to find most disturbing and repellent are those that surface in personal relationships, particularly those which threaten bodily violation, as encounters with sexually attractive, dynamic women do.  Chandler  is one of the few writers of this period to make substantial use of the figure of the femme fatale  - in fact, to habitually place the femme fatale at the centre of his plots.  Critics often take this to be an individual neurotic response to the sexy manipulative woman. [xxxv]   Women are always associated with 'the nastiness' of which Marlowe fears he has become part, and against which he protects himself both with humour  ('"I'm the guy that keeps finding you without any clothes on'"; 'It wasn't  a game  for knights') and, at times, with astonishing ferocity:  'I put my empty glass down and tore the bed to pieces savagely' (Big Sleep , 163-4 and 111-13).

'The hardest of the hard-boilers' [xxxvi]

            Chandler  often refers to Marlowe 's marginality .  It is part of his claim to integrity that, for no more than 'twenty-five dollars a day and expenses', he is willing to risk getting himself 'in Dutch with half the law enforcement of this country' (Big Sleep , 81). But however at odds he is with 'law-abiding society', Marlowe does not occupy any position outside the law other than that of lowly independence.  Unlike many another 'loogan' ('a guy with a gun'), though he may sit on the fence, he never falls on to the wrong side of it (Big Sleep, 105).  Chandler did allow one or two protagonists who were more tarnished than Marlowe [xxxvii] , but on the whole his chosen perspective is poor but ostentatiously honest.  Amongst Chandler's fellow Black Mask  writers, on the other hand, there were some who gave much more scope to morally ambiguous protagonists, to men whose position 'outside the law' gave them an angle of vision very different from that of the essentially pure Marlowe.  Like Daly 's Satan Hall  and Hammett 's Ned Beaumont, such figures are characteristic of the early thirties - of a time, that is, when the gangster  (both real and imagined) had become one of the most easily recognisable emblems of the changes afflicting urban  America.  One of the significant developments in the Black Mask writing of this period is the creation of investigative  figures who are more clearly tainted by the corrupt milieus they are investigating.  In terms of respectable society, they are marginalised  by their criminal  connections rather than by their shabby integrity.  Corruption is judged, but there is no secure position within the text constituting a moral high ground.

            Two of Chandler 's most notable Black Mask  contemporaries, Paul Cain  (George Sims) and Raoul Whitfield , [xxxviii] both moved their investigative  figures nearer to criminality, emulating the 'tougher' strains in Hammett 's writing, particularly in Red Harvest  and The Glass Key .  Their protagonists fulfil the functions of the private eye  and are not altogether without scruple.  But they are exposing the underside of a society from which they cannot themselves be dissociated.  Whitfield, who wrote nearly a hundred stories (of varying quality) for Black Mask between 1926 and 1930, published (starting in December 1929) 'The Crime Breeders', a story sequence reissued in 1930 as a novel called Green Ice .  The narrator, Mal Ourney, is an ex-con.  As in Hammett's Woman in the Dark  (1933), in which the protagonist, Brazil, has just been released from prison, the status of the ex-con creates a dubious kind of freedom.  He is a character technically free but unable to dissociate himself from the way in which society has defined him.  Unlike the private eye, who is often said to be a man without a past, the ex-con has a past that is of determining importance.  Ourney, like Brazil, is not a true criminal , having gone to jail because he has taken the blame for a death caused by the driving of his drunken girlfriend, but neither is he blameless ('She'd been drinking my liquor').  He is, in relation to real killers, an outsider , that is, 'not a crook' in comparison to those 'inside' the criminal fraternity.  On the other hand, much more like the Op or Ned Beaumont than Marlowe , he has criminal connections and risks becoming a crook by using unscrupulous methods.  For example, he taunts and psychologically torments a hospitalised criminal in order to get a name out of him:  'It wasn't easy to do - not with the woman-faced fence dying on the bed' (142-3). 

            Mal Ourney sees himself as a crusader, but of rather a rough and pragmatic kind.  Crimes are interpreted and judged from the perspective of the aggrieved underdog rather than from the moral vantage point of the knight errant.  Whitfield  shares what was, in the Depression  years, a common conviction that the source of many social ills lay in the exploitation of the small and weak by the large and greedy.  The object of Ourney's crusade is to bring down some of the big crooks who are 'the breeders - the few who rope in the dumb ones, the weak ones' (31).  He generalises his objectives to include exposure of all those who use others, making explicit the 'greed and exploitation' theme that lies behind much of the writing of this period:  'I got the idea that just a few humans were using a lot of other humans as they wanted, then framing them, smashing them...I'd like to smash some of the ones who use the others up' (65).  A cynical and not overly optimistic friend of the underdog, Whitfield's protagonist identifies with the small crooks, the human debris that is presented as the cost of profit-making on the part of the criminally rich and unscrupulous:  'It's a dirty street all the way, but some of the debris is important - to me' (29). 

            What Green Ice  shares with Hammett 's fiction is a narrative movement that draws the protagonist ever deeper into a densely crowded scene of corruption.  As the earlier title, 'Crime Breeders', implies, there is a proliferation of the forces of corruption.  In contrast to Chandler , who confessed that a 'crowded canvas' bewildered him [xxxix] , Whitfield  uses the frenetic, apparently disconnected movements of his large cast of characters to express the nature of a society in which deceit and betrayal, framing and double-crossing, are the norm.  The intricacy of the connections in itself suggests the web of urban  corruption and the intractable difficulty of knowing the truth:  'I spent most of the time trying to separate lies from truths.  After a while I gave it up' (159).  The movement associated with Ourney is 'blundering' (133), and the confusion of his quest is underscored by the image of 'green ice', the emeralds that everyone is after.  Fetishised by those who greedily compete for them, they are in reality cold and deadly.  The pursuit is ultimately of death itself, of stones that are 'perfectly cut.  Something like a coffin' (179).  The trope of the emeralds as coffin/death is an irony  compounded by the fact that the 'five big ones' are, like the falcon in Hammett's novel, fake - intrinsically worthless symbols of the fabulous wealth that motivates treachery in remote places and an endless chain of betrayals.  This 'unending' quality is one of the most noir aspects of the novel.  The climax of the plot is a shoot-out at a funeral, which is again heavy with the sort of irony that attaches to the theme of wealth and death.  Gunmen rise out of the flowers and kill for emeralds that are 'fused glass...Cold as - death' (191).   In the end, Ourney thinks back over the list of the dead and acknowledges that he has only stopped two of the 'crime breeders'.  As the 'New York dick' says, '"You didn't do so damned much reforming, Ourney"' (191).

            The stories of Paul Cain  are similarly grim and downbeat, centring on morally dubious protagonists who are closely involved with the corruption they investigate.  Cain, whose real name was George Sims, started writing for Black Mask  a year before Chandler 's first story appeared.  William F. Nolan  dubbed him 'the hardest of the hard-boilers'.  The effectiveness of his stories, however, is due to more than just their sheer toughness.  What is most unsettling is the use Cain makes of morally equivocal perspectives to disorient the reader.  This is reinforced by his use of delayed recognition.  Cain often suppresses, for example, the identity  of the narrator and his relationship to the violent scene he is investigating, which, when ultimately revealed, is invariably compromised.  The protagonist is never just a detached investigator .  Through first- or close third-person narration, Cain provides fragmented descriptions of violent scenes, encounters with both criminals and corpses that are made strange by a focus on what at first seem to be disconnected details or disconnected body parts.  In 'Black', for example, we first witness three apparently unrelated people:  a dying man, the narrator and a cabby.  These men seem to have been thrown together by chance but are, we eventually learn, all players in the same violent and complicated set of rivalries.  The way that the reader and the protagonist find out information is fragmentary and apparently haphazard: the narrator looks through a small window, with the rain drumming, hearing the conversation inside as a buzz that doesn't mean anything.  As in Hammett , the corrupt interests controlling a small town  are a microcosmic version of big city  corruption, and, like the Op, the narrator controls the unravelling of guilt and stage manages punishment.  In contrast to the Op, however, this narrator is not employed as an investigator but as a hired gun, sent by his boss to seek revenge .  His function, as he moves silently through the small town , is to bring together those who are corruptly and secretly connected.  Having offered to work for each of the rival factions, the narrator forcibly brings the parties in the dispute together and then ironically  proposes that he accept money from both and kill them both: '"I'm auctioning off the best little town in the state..."...I was having a swell time' (12-13).   As elsewhere, the hallmarks of Cain's writing are black  humour  and a laconic manner, the stylistic equivalent of the narrator's blunt vision and methods. 

            Images of showmanship and game -playing dominate Cain 's stories, with the implication that success and indeed survival in such a world are entirely dependant on luck, cunning and an ability to manipulate appearances, though Cain avoids suggesting that a tough masculinity  and aggressive individualism  will invariably prevail.  In 'Murder in Blue', for example, the protagonist, Doolin, is a young man retained as a bizarre kind of showman to organise a violent entertainment for a dying villain.  He orchestrates assorted killers to perform in his show with the same element of playing both ends against the middle as in 'Black'.  His plans as a showman, however, are made in ignorance of secret connections, and he finds himself an unwilling actor in a grotesque, dehumanised final scene of violence .  This denouement is presented to us as Doolin sees it, like strips of motion picture film, with surreal  laughter and automaton-like characters killing and dying.  Doolin himself only fortuitously survives to tell the tale.  Cain develops in an extreme form the undermining of trust that is a recurrent feature of the thrillers of this period.  The ironies  of his stories spring from a widespread tendency to trust the wrong people, or to distrust 'everybody except the guy who was holding the knife' (181).  Characters often make errors of this sort, and there is always someone with a knife.  Paranoia  is on the whole structural rather than clinical:  if someone has come to the view that everyone was trying to double-cross them, then 'Everybody probably was' (184-5).  As readers, we cannot even feel sure that the narrator is trustworthy, since he is as likely as any other character to be guilty.  In 'Parlor Trick', for example, we appear at first to be reading another narrative describing the entry of the narrator-protagonist into what we suppose is an alien and threatening environment.  We share what we think is his shock at seeing Frank with 'a thin knife-handle sticking out of one side of his throat' (52).  The first twist in the story comes with the revelation that the narrator himself has put the thin knife in Frank's throat; the second reversal occurs when he has resigned himself to being taken away for execution by 'the boys' but finds that the gun is turned instead on one of his supposed executioners:  'Frank's number has been up for a long time' and McNulty was 'in it with him' (61).  Cain thus turns what at first looks like an investigative  structure  into the narrative of a criminal . 

            This transformation of the protagonist into the criminal  is much more than an isolated narrative trick for creating suspense and surprise.  In September 1930, Black Mask 's editor, Joseph T. Shaw, argued, in defence of his magazine, that Black Mask had published only one story, the serialised parts of Hammett 's The Glass Key , in which 'the gangster  was in any sense "the hero,"' and this, he said, was justified as a representation of the alliance between corrupt politicians, public officials and organised crime .  It was a demonstration of 'one of the most serious illnesses, to put it mildly, that our body politic has ever suffered from'. [xl]   During the course of the thirties, however, in Black Mask and elsewhere, the use of criminal protagonists and very often the abandonment of an investigative  structure  became increasingly common in narratives of both private and public crimes.  The next chapter looks at the stories of the very public careers of gangsters .  In these narratives, the tensions apparent in Paul Cain 's 'Parlor Trick' are often central, with the business  rivalries of powerful gang bosses and the powerlessness of the small-time crook epitomising the imbalance and 'illness' of Depression  America.



[i] For example, in the Introduction to Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian (eds), Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 6, and in Geoffrey O'Brien , Hardboiled America: Lurid Paperbacks and the Masters of Noir (New York: Da Capo Press, 1997).

[ii] Dana Polan, Power and Paranoia : History, Narrative and the American Cinema, 1940-1950 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 238.

[iii] Chandler , The Big Sleep  (1939), 105.  Foster Hirsch, Film Noir: The Dark Side of the Screen (San Diego: A.S. Barnes , 1981), 170, argues that this sharper distinction between hunter and hunted makes the private eye  investigative  framework thematicaly the least rewarding of the various noir story types.

[iv] Anne Cranny-Francis, 'Gender and Genre: Feminist Rewritings of Detective Fiction', Women's Studies International Forum, 11 (1988), 69.

[v] For further discussion of Nebel , see:  David Geherin, The American Private Eye: The Image in Fiction (New York: Ungar, 1985), 36-42; John M. Reilly (ed), Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers (New York: St Martin's Press, 1980; 1985), 666-7; Lee Server, Danger is My Business: An Illustrated History of the Fabulous Pulp Magazines: 1896-1953 (San Francisco, 1993), 67-9; Pronzini and Adrian, 83-4.

[vi] 'Backwash' (Black Mask , May 1932), reprinted in Pronzini and Adrian, 93.

[vii] Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward  (eds), Film Noir (London: Secker and Warburg, 1979; 1992), 43.

[viii] Nebel , 'Death's Not Enough', in Six Deadly Dames  ([1930s; 1950] Boston: Gregg Press, 1980), 159.

[ix] 'Backwash', 88.

[x] The Adventures of Cardigan  (1933-5), New York: Mysterious Press, 1988, 127.

[xi] See Reilly, 234-7; Geherin, 8-16; and Philip Durham, 'The "Black Mask " School', in David Madden (ed), Tough Guy Writers of the Thirties (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1968), 67-8.

[xii] Durham, in Madden, 54-5:  Daly  was 'short on style' but created 'the type' of the hard-boiled  hero and, in many of his stories, established the moral ambiguity of this central figure.

[xiii] 'The False Burton Combs', in Herbert Ruhm (ed), The Hard-Boiled Detective: Stories from "Black Mask " Magazine, 1920-1951 (New York: Random House, 1977), 4.

[xiv] 'False Burton Combs', in Ruhm, 17.

[xv] 'False Burton Combs', in Ruhm, 29-30.

[xvi] Geherin, 10.

[xvii] Daly , The Third Murderer (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1931), quoted by Geherin, 12.

[xviii] See Richard Gid Powers, G-Men: Hoover's FBI in American Popular Culture (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983), 77, whose analysis makes it clear how far Race Williams  was part of a very strongly established nineteenth-century tradition of action heroes; see also Ron Goulart, Cheap Thrills: An Informal History of the Pulp Magazines (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1972), 118-19.

[xix] Published in Black Mask  in June-September 1927.

[xx] All of the Satan Hall  stories mentioned here are collected in The Adventures of Satan Hall   (New York: Mysterious Press, 1988):  page references for individual pieces are to this edition.

[xxi] There are often unmistakable echoes of the Wild West .  Indeed, the basic plot of Hammett 's first novel, Red Harvest  (1929), has served as the basis both for Sergio Leone's spaghetti Western, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), and more recently for the gangster  Western, Last Man Standing (Walter Hill , 1996).  The shift to a Western setting is facilitated by the fable-like quality of Hammett's tale of a representative town , metaphoric of national corruption.

[xxii] Blood Money is Hammett 's first novel (not published as a novel until 1943), which couples two stories - 'The Big Knock-Over' and '$106,000 Blood Money' (1927) - now most readily available as the concluding stories in The Big Knockover and Other Stories .

[xxiii] See, for example, William F. Nolan , Hammett : A Life at the Edge (Congdon and Weed, 1983), 77-8, excerpted in Christopher Metress (ed), The Critical Response to Dashiell Hammett (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1994), 5.

[xxiv] For various other interpretations of the symbol of the glass key (for example, as emblematic of impotence and guilt-ridden sexuality and as signifying Ned himself as a 'hollow man' and moral failure) see the extracts from reviews and articles in Mettress, 109-31.

[xxv] See Annette Kuhn's discussion of The Big Sleep  in Kuhn, The Power of the Image: Essays on Representation and Sexuality (London: Routledge, 1985), 74-95.

[xxvi] It is telling that Chandler  himself wanted Cary Grant  for the role of Marlowe  in Murder, My Sweet .  See Ian Ousby, The Crime and Mystery Book: A Reader's Companion (London: Thames and Hudson, 1997), 115.

[xxvii] See Silver and Ward , 192.

[xxviii] Reprinted in Fingerman, 50.

[xxix] Reprinted in Trouble is My Business , 134-7.

[xxx] Reprinted in Trouble is My Business , 22.

[xxxi] Stephen Knight, Form and Ideology in Crime Fiction (London: Macmillan, 1980), 148.

[xxxii] Brian Docherty (ed), American Crime Fiction: Studies in the Genre (Houndmills: Macmillan, 1988),  77; Chandler , 'The Simple Art of Murder', Atlantic Monthly (December 1944), quoted in Tom Hiney, Raymond  Chandler: A Biography (London: Vintage, 1997), 101-2.

[xxxiii] See Knight, 142-3.

[xxxiv] Frank Krutnik, In a Lonely Street: Film, Genre, Masculinity (London: Routledge, 1991), 128; Silver and Ward , 192; Knight, 142-3 and 158.

[xxxv] This can plausibly be linked to the repeated motif of Marlowe  sinking into unconsciousness and to his many losses of control and erectness, the feeling he has of 'fragmenting'.

[xxxvi] William F. Nolan , of Paul Cain , Introduction (July 1987) to Seven Slayers  (Los Angeles: Blood and Guts Press, 1987).

[xxxvii] Ted Malvern, for example, in 'Guns at Cyrano's', is connected to the criminal  world by his parentage and (predictably, since this is Chandler ) feels guilty about being 'a guy who lives on crooked dough and doesn't even do his own stealing'.Fingerman, 247-8.

[xxxviii] Paul Cain  (who also wrote as Peter Ruric for his film and television  work) wrote for Black Mask  in the period 1932-6.  Some of his short stories were republished in 1946 in a collection entitled Seven  Slayers.  Whitfield  wrote for Black Mask between 1930 and 1933; his first novel, Green Ice , was published by Knopf  in 1930.  See Reilly, 135-6 and 898-900.

[xxxix] Knight, 145-6.

[xl] Joseph T. Shaw, 'A Letter to the Editor of Writer's Digest ' (September 1930), in Metress, 111-12.