I've been reading Stephen Crane since I was in Seventh grade. The nun assigned me a short story of his to appraise for my weekly reading assignment. Even then I new he was my kind of writer.
In college one of my English profs said that the line of American Lit went from Twain to Crane to Hemingway. That was the connective tissue that spawned the greatest writing in the first half of the last century.
Every once in awhile I hear the argument that Hammett actually pre-dated Hemingway and so the line should include him. I hadn't thought about any of this for a long time--I have other things to do, dammit; Dancing With The Stars is in finals this week!--unti the other night when for no particular reason I picked up Crane's Collected Stories and read The Blue Hotel.
Man, my prof was right. Twain's there in the rough humor; Hemingway's there in the bleakness and fatalism; and Hammett is all over it. especially in the dialogue, that blunt anxious male talk that made Hammett the master (for my taste, much more than Chandler).
I think Blue Hotel is one of the best stories in the language. If you can find a copy of the old PBS TV version of it, take an hour and watch it. The savage weather, the paranoia, Crane's obsession with Nebraska as a kind of mythic graveyard...A brutal mesmerizing story that you can still hear echoes of in hardboiled fiction.
I received an even dozen letters about my post last night inquiring about my health. Yes, I have incurable cancer but right now I'm doing pretty well. I'm going on seven years with a cancer that has claimed the lives of eighty per cent of the people who were diagnosed with it the same day I was. So I've been blessed. The prognosis is another three-five years. And who knows maybe I can beat even that. I have some very bad days but most of the time I do ok. Not great. That'll never happen for me again. But decent. And I'm alive to see my grandkids grow and spend my days with my beautiful wife Carol and to be in the running for the Histler Man of The Year Award. What more could a Democrat ask for? Thanks for the letters, friends.