Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thinking about The Thin Man

Nostalgia time again, me hearties.  Back to the classic days of Noir/Hard Boiled detecting and writing.  Today we're gonna look at a real classic.  Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man.

(Eunice!  Dammit, quit throwing those over sized sauce pans at me!  I'll mow the damn yard later--you daffy dandelion!)

Women . . . .jeeesh!

As I was saying, Hammett's The Thin Man.  Written, if my mind serves me still, around 1934 and was Hammett's last book.  To my way of thinking it was his best.  Much better than his legendary The Maltese Falcon.

Better in a number of different ways.  First, reading the book, you immediately get a real sense of the era it came out of.  American in the middle of the 1930's was still a nation suffering through the Depression.  And like many of the movies coming out of that time frame, the theme of the book didn't dwell on the down side of American society.  It dwelt in a society of luxury and ease;  of money and casual, pleasant, existence.  Of course throwing in a couple of murders and a mystery in the process.  Nick Charles, the main character in the book, an ex-private eye, has the great good fortune of marrying into money.  Lots of money.  On top of that his wife is much younger than he is (he's in his forties) and when it comes to wit and intelligence and basic toughness, she's his equal.

That's great good fortune, boyos.

Secondly, this book is Hammett's best because of the way the words flow across the page.  Smooth and easy.  It's like sitting down with an old friend and having a long, pleasant chat; a chat so pleasant time simply ceases to exist.  Brother and sisters, that's the hallmark of good writing.  Not just good writing.  That's the stamp of a master story teller.

Thirdly, there is this unsaid sense of respected equality between Nick and Nora Charles.  Man and wife.  Partners.  More than that actually. Just damn good friends.  I think that aspect of the novel has been sadly overlooked by many critics.  The idea--coming out of the middle 30's in American history--of absolute equality between a man and a woman.  Still rare today, if you ask me.

Without question a lot of Nick Charles--the character--in the book reflects Dashiell Hammett--the man--in real life.  Go up and clink the link I've provided about The Thin Man and read for yourself.  Hammett's life wasn't easy.  Hammett was both tough and fragile; both reclusive and famished for affection.  He trusted no one--until he found the one person in life he truly could identify with.  From that relationship came The Thin Man.

Read the book.  Read it a couple of times.  It is a very pleasant experience.  The book is an American classic that is going to be remembered for a long, long, long time.  It is a yard-stick on how to write a good yarn for wannabe Noir/Hard Boiled writer like myself.

(Eunice!  You bounce another pan off my head one more time, and I'm gonna get up outta this chair and send you to the moon.  Yes dear; I love you too.)

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