Google just released "a corpus of digitized texts containing about 4% of all books ever printed" (about 500 billion words) along with what they call an "Ngram viewer" to search with, and one thing you can do is graph how often certain terms appear over time, dating back to the 1500s and through to 2008, so just for kicks I compared the name of Dashiell Hammett to Raymond Chandler to compare how often they got mentioned in books over time, and you can find the graph here:


As you may know Chandler started publishing first and thus had the early lead. Around the time of their deaths in 1959 (Chandler) and 1961 (Hammett) they crossed paths for the first time and Chandler's name became more popular. He's steadily held the lead since the mid 70s, and their overall popularity seems to wax and wane together. Hammett's closing the gap as of late, or more accurately, Chandler's been dropping as of late.


Go to the bottom of the graph and there are tons of Hammett and Chandler links.


There are all kinds of crime fiction fun you could have here, comparing other authors and genres and subgenres, etc., not to mention subject matter.

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I ran my own little UFC, battle of egos, championship between William Faulkner and Ernst Hemmingway.  I won’t tell you who I was rooting for, but good old Bill armed with his southern rye whisky did better than I expected.  Now if Google could only devise compiling software that would determine who the bigger chauvinist was.   

Crime fiction has been a more popular topic than literary fiction since 1980 ...

This is because the reading public in 1980 realized that crime writers work harder than the literary types.

How do you know that?

I don't ;)

Ah!  :)

Hammett's running mate, Lillian Hellman, had some very popular books writing about the relationship. Ray never got similar assistance.

Elmore Leonard kicked the crap out of John Brown.  Smart street dialogue prevails over the absurd.  Leonard has of course been writing longer than Brown, but who cares.  This is a win for the good guys.

To paraphrase another writer (I can't remember who, but it wasn't me): 'Hammett gave the detective back to the people.' Doyle and Christie wrote about crimes among the elite solved by the elite. Hammett made his detectives (Sam Spade, Nick Charles, The Continental Op, etc.) real people with real flaws and concerns. He refined the genre and made all future advances in detective/crime fiction possible.


Chandler clearly had a much longer, productive career and made the genre grittier and real. While both men battled booze their entire lives, I think Chandler worked harder at the quality of his writing. The beginning of Chapter 8 of The High Window is one of my favorite passages in the noir genre.

Of course, I had to get my copy of THE HIGH WINDOW from the shelf and read the beginning of Chapter 8. Beautifully done. I particularly like "old men with faces liie lost battles." I know guys like that, know exactly what he's talking about.


It was Chandler who said that about Hammett. From THE SIMPLE ART OF MURDER:

Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse

Thanks for the clarification, Dana. I was pretty sure it was Chandler, but I didn't have time to double check before I typed it out. Glad you re-read and enjoyed Chapter 8.

Pretty sure you're paraphrasing Chandler there. Hammett was a serious student of fiction and philosophy based on what we know he read (e.g., Henry James, Hemingway, Ford Madox Ford) and what appears in his writing. The famous Flitcraft parable in The Falcon is clearly inspired by a philosopher, Charles Sander Peirce, and I think Sam Spade was an existentialist.


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