Why were Chandler and Hammett not just great mystery writers, but great authors and literary stylists? It wasn’t that they initiated the hardboiled style of detective novels. It was because they invented language and prose to go with the detectives. Some of the words are still with us today and some have taken a deep six only to be found at Miskatonoic University’s site, Twists, Slug and Roscoes: A Glossary of Hardboiled Slang.
Those two palookas initiated language that knocked the public on its keister. Being a pug myself, reading their stuff, knocks me out like someone slipped me a Mickey Finn. Their language is for the top draw, the critic’s critic.
When I tried to use words in a way that emulates theirs in my novel, my mind takes a Broderick, and I wind up behind the eight ball. I wish they were still around so we could drink out of the same bottle, be like buds. But they’ll always be the top dogs in my book when it comes to creating atmosphere and prose. When they come to a writer’s diction fight, they carry the bulge. I feel like a rube compared to those two.
I tried to write newer versions of their type of language in my manuscript and ran it by my critiquing group. They thought I was flim-flamming them and running a con job. They were as confused as a bunch of jingled-brained bimbos.
But I ain’t no chiseler; I’m on the level. Still like some flat-footed fuzz, they policed my writing and told me that it was off the tracks (violently crazy) to think that today’s audience would be wise or respond to those words. The meaning would be like dust to them. My friends spilled that I was playing my readers for a boob and would get so mad that they would ask that the author get the electric cure, frying on the hot seat.
I doped it out that maybe they had the low-down dirty truth. I needed a gunsel or hatchetman who could change their opinion with Chicago lightening, burning powder with his gat. My cupboard was bare, so I just asked them to breeze off, do the heel and toe. That left me doing the-me-and-my-shadow, sitting in stir, but gave me time to crank it mentally. I figured the group was on the square, and giving me the straight dope. So I dealt with the legit facts, no one today would get it straight. They’d think I was playing a Chinese angle.
I didn’t want our argument to lead to a gashouse rubbarb. Things like that can lead to wearing a Chicago overcoat and doing the deep six. You know what I mean, the big sleep.
The difference between the average mystery writer and those boys (Dash and Ray-Ray) is the difference between a hash house and the Four Seasons. It’s a cinch that you would rather chow down wearing a monkey suit than at a dump or dive bar surrounded by fakeloo artists whose chin wagging is meant as a grift to separate you from your cabbage.
Let some boozehound who thinks he’s in Coocamonga dip a bill with that conman, and get buncoed out of a c-note or three. Us wise guys, we give them the gate and tell them to fade. No need for us to be on the nut (flat-broke) because they fleeced us as the patsy.
When that chiseler has skipped town, the elephant ears, yeah I said the coppers, will need a snitch to turn that hood into a resident of the big house. Otherwise he’ll make a clean sneak to bozoville and start over with another sap whose brain is addled from giggle-juice, and hooch.
And even if some one put the dicks wise and they nab the creep, his shyster mouthpiece will spring him faster than a clip joint separates a swell from his lettuce.
So sitting down and sharing tiger milk with some bum that you know from nothing is like pitching woo to a porcupine. You have to do it carefully. Always give that sharper the once over with the complete up-and-down, to get the slant on his gig. Don’t care what kind of gonif he claims not to be, make him spill the beans, or you show him the heat your wearing, or use a knife to let the daylight in. You don’t have to perforate that type to have them sing; they have a yellow streak down their spine.
Don’t get fleeced. Make him bump gums till he stoolies on himself. Make sure he’s on the square, or you’ll be the mark losing the lucre. Better yet, give him the bum’s rush out of the dump and order yourself another glass of eel’s juice.
This world’s lousy with creeps and con men, so get ribbed up for your protection, or be ready to take a fall.
Yeah, they don’t write ’em like that anymore.
Is that good or bad? You tell me.
Dr. Lewis Preschel aka TheMadMutt. Wouldn’t you be Mad too?