“…scenes that seemed never to have been written before.”
Hammett is said to have lacked heart; yet the story he himself thought the most of is the record of man’s devotion to a friend. He was spare, frugal, hard-boiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before.
The Simple Art of Murder, Raymond Chandler
Chandler believed that the American language, as he termed it, was capable of saying anything, and that the task of the writer was to find the story that could combine the power of the language with the important themes of our life and loves. The traditional form of the mystery, he contended, gave the most unsophisticated reader access to these themes. The result was populist, and popular, in the best sense of the word.
Hammett was the first writer to validate the marriage of the form and the language, Chandler said. It was high praise for a man who was chased by demons, came late to writing, was always fighting money problems and found his health failing as he came to the height of his powers.