Rediscovered: When Hammett Met Chandler

Vince Emery just popped me a link to an LA Times article covering the one time Hammett and Chandler met at the dinner for Black Mask writers — nicely documented by the famous photo — 78 years ago today. Hop over and check it out.

The article is reasonably good — the writer doesn’t know (or doesn’t want to take up the wordage needed to explain) about the 1931 film version of The Maltese Falcon with Ricardo Cortez, and so refers to the 1941 Bogie version as the only version. By the date of that dinner, Hammett had several films adaptations and screen treatments to his credit — and every novel he would write already in print. Chandler had only been trying his hand in the pulp jungle for three years by that point, with the novels and screenplays that cinched his fame still off in the future.

One thing the writer doesn’t know is that a typewritten copy of Chandler’s essay “The Simple Art of Murder,” labeling Hammett “the ace performer” of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction, was among the items found in the boxes of photos and memorabilia that Hammett’s wife kept — the discovery of this trove detailed in Jo Hammett’s Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers.

I got to look through the boxes at the time they were found, and couldn’t help think that there must be some significance to Hammett retaining — or leaving with his wife for her to retain — a copy of the essay. As I remember, it was typed out single space — presumably by Hammett (or more likely by one of his secretaries, on his instruction).

It’s nice to know that Hammett was aware of the tribute, and seems to have appreciated it enough to keep a copy around for awhile. From one ace performer to another. . . .

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