Sunday, January 12, 2014

When Hammett Met Chandler

When Dashiell met Raymond, or the day Hammett met Chandler




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By Carolyn Kellogg
January 11, 20146:03 a.m.

Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, the two masters of classic noir fiction, met just once. That was 78 years ago today, Jan. 11, 1936, in Los Angeles.
The occasion was the first West Coast get-together for Black Mask Magazine. A photograph taken at the end of the meal shows 10 pulp writers gathered patiently around the end of a table. Chandler and Hammett are both standing: Chandler has the pipe. Hammett, the tallest, is at the far right.
Of the 10, it was Hammett and Chandler whose work would become the most enduring. But there was no way of knowing that at the time -- while both authors contributed to Black Mask, the two were at very different places in their careers.
Hammett was the more successful, by far. He'd published his first Continental Op novel in 1929 and "The Maltese Falcon," featuring detective Sam Spade, in 1930. "The Maltese Falcon" wasn't yet a film, but his novel "The Thin Man" was. Released in 1934, it was a commercial and critical success. "The Thin Man" was such a hit that Hammett had been persuaded to come to Hollywood to help write the sequel.
By comparison, Chandler was a novice. He'd published a half-dozen short stories and that was it. He was much less accomplished than Hammett, and on top of that, six years older. Chandler didn't begin writing until he was in his 40s -- and then only after getting fired from his job at an oil company.
No wonder Chandler didn't make much of an impression on Hammett -- who, apparently, never bothered to write a word about him.

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