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:

 

http://tinyurl.com/35jrkl8

 

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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Thanks, Eric. Hammett was certainly deeper than some casual readers give him credit. I'm glad you're aware of that fact. I only wish his demons hadn't robbed him of his ability to write more.

The chart is interesting, but does the "mention" of a writer indicated his or her quality or just the popularity?

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