The Usual Suspects

Carroll John Daly (1889-1958) created the first hard-boiled detective in his 1922 story The False Burton Combs. black_mask Daly’s most famous detective, Race Williams, was the prototypical hardboiled detective made of equal doses of street toughness and quick thinking action. Race always managed to escape impossible situations, usually by shooting his way out. Daly’s other main characters, Vee Brown and Satan Hall, were made from the same hardboiled genre. the first appearance of Williams predated the debut of Dashiell Hammett‘s Continental Op character by several months.

Dashiell Hammett

Samuel Dashiell Hammett (May 27, 1894 – January 10, 1961) has long been considered the most important writer of hard-boiled fiction. Not only did he give the genre its hallmarks in his short stories, but he also wrote three of its masterpieces in his novels. He was recognized immediately for lifting a previously disreputable style of fiction into literary prominence. “Sam,” as he was known before he began writing, left school when he was 13 years old and held several jobs before working for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. He served as an operative for the Pinkertons from 1915 to February 1922, with time off to serve in World War I. However, the agency’s role in union strike-breaking eventually disillusioned him. His work at the detective agency provided him the inspiration for his writings[His novels were:

Among his best short stories were The Continental Op stories and Sam Spade stories.

Raymond Thornton Chandler (July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959)raymond-chandler_1214443c

Without him, what we know today as the hard-boiled crime tale might be quite different–probably less literary in aim, if not always in execution. Chandler took the raw, realistic intrigue style that Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and others had begun cooking up in post-World War I America, and gave it an artistic bent, filling his fiction with evocative metaphors and sentences that refuse to shed their cleverness with age (“It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window”; “She sat in front of her princess dresser trying to paint the suitcases out from under her eyes.”). Like Ernest Hemingway, Chandler had an idiosyncratic prose “voice” that is often imitated but rarely duplicated. Although he was born in Chicago on July 23, 1888, Raymond Thornton Chandler moved with his divorced mother, Florence, to England in 1895. After attending preparatory school in London, he studied international law in France and Germany before returning to Britain and embarking on a literary career that produced, early on, mostly book reviews and bad poetry.

In 1907, he was naturalized as a British subject in order to take the civil service examination, which he passed with the third-highest score. He then took an Admiralty job, lasting just over a year. His first poem was published during that time.[3]Chandler disliked the servility of the civil service and resigned, to the consternation of his family, becoming a reporter for the Daily Express and the Bristol Western Gazette newspapers. He was an unsuccessful journalist as well.

In 1912, he borrowed money from his uncle (who expected it to be repaid with interest), and returned to North America, eventually settling in Los Angeles with his mother in 1913.[5] He strung tennis rackets, picked fruit and endured a lonely time of scrimping and saving. Finally, he took a correspondence bookkeeping course, finished ahead of schedule, and found steady employment. In 1917, when the US entered World War I, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, saw combat in the trenches in France with the Gordon Highlanders, and was undergoing flight training in the fledgling Royal Air Force (RAF) in the United Kingdom at war’s end.[2]

After the armistice, he returned to Los Angeles. He soon began a love affair with Cissy Pascal, a married woman eighteen years his senior. Though, he had many affairs, he remained with Cissy until her death.

His first story, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot”, was published in Black Mask magazine in 1933; his first novel, The Big Sleep, featuring his famous Phillip Marlowe detective character, was published in 1939, which cannibalized, in Chandler’s words, some of his earlier short stories. Literary success led to work as a Hollywood screenwriter: he and Billy Wilder co-wrote Double Indemnity (1944), based upon James M. Cain‘s novel of the same name. The prototype noir classic screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. His only original screenplay was The Blue Dahlia (1946).

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