Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ennis Willie--Sand's Game; Hammett and Hemingway

I turned another year older this past Monday, and with the usual Amazon gift card I placed an order for Sand's Game, the "Sand" omnibus by Ennis Willie you may have read about elsewhere on the Internet. This hot little pulp story collection sounds very promising. I have read a lot of interesting articles about Willie and his creation, so I'm looking forward to seeing the stories myself. I think Sand, in some ways, based on what I've read so far, has a little bit in common with my character Pierce, so I'm doubly excited to see if Willie will inspire me the way he's apparently inspired other crime writers. If you've read the Sand book, I'd appreciate your comments.

In other news, I visited the local Half Priced Books on my birthday and made a heck of a haul. Back in the 1990s a book company published Ian Fleming's James Bond books in hardcover. For the longest time I've had all but two of the books, and somebody had turned the entire set into Half Price, so I grabbed what I needed. It's too bad the company didn't publish the last two Fleming books, but I guess they couldn't get the rights to them.

I also picked up a neat paperback called "The Essential Hemingway". I've spoken of Ernest before, I believe, but I've never owned any of his work. "Essential" gathers one novel, portions of other novels, and a bunch of short stories, and I must say I'm enjoying Ernest like never before. I may be one of the few who doesn't care for "The Killers"--I think the movies may have ruined it for me, even though it has a hopeless echo at the end which suggests Hemingway would have been a top-notch noir writer had he tried that--but "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" almost made me cry. You don't often see a writer capture raw emotion, and in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" Hemingway did it in spades. You don't get much description, so the writing seems a little thin and hollow in some places, but the characterization and emotion that he communicates through wonderful dialogue carries the story and leaves you stunned. If you haven't read it, go read it, even if you must stand in the bookstore and read it there. I think he tapped into a genuine human fear (that of having nobody to go home to) and it resonated with me very loudly. Hard-boiled? Sure. In the purest, unsentimental sense.

Of course, reading Hemingway makes me think of the old debate about whether or not Hammett influenced Hemingway or was it the other way around? So far I'm not 100% sure, but I would guess the answer is neither. Hammett used descriptions better and really gave you a sense of a story's environment; granted I'm not very far into Hemingway's canon, but I haven't seen much of that in his work. But I will also take this opportunity to add that Hammett's non-crime stories, as printed in his "Lost Stories" collection edited by Vince Emery, shows that while his crime tales are what he's known for, his stories about regular people were better, and when you compare them to Hemingway's stories about regular people, I think I prefer Hammett. I think that if Hammett had been able to keep writing after The Thin Man, he would have eclipsed Hemingway. Bold statement, yes, but one I confidently make.

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