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Chandler or Hammett?

Zach Ezo

New Member
Okay, first off I would like to state clearly that I think Chandler is probably the best crime-writer of ours or any era. I know, bold statement.

Comparing Chandler and Hammett is like comparing Mozart and Beethoven. For one, Chandler had the benefit of writing after Hammett, and many people say he just took the baton from Hammett and ran with it.

But comparing styles, I have to say the Chandler is much more poetic and agile around the language. Where Hammett clarity is unmatched, Chandler seemed a bit more darker, perhaps.

I know the Maltese Falcon has some serious fans, is by far a more popular book than The Thin Man. But I gotta say I found the latter a much more enjoyable read.

I'm wondering if Chandler just had a little more soul, and was a bit bolder with his prose. Thoughts?
For some reason I've not gotten to Chandler, although I have the books on my shelves. I've read both Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, and I think I agree with your assessment. I read Maltese Falcon many years ago, but I vague remember being slightly underwhelmed, but Thin Man was fun.
I think it's a bit like comparing pumpkins with butternut. Both are remarkably similar and you either like one or both :)
I can find Hammett heavy going sometimes, but Chandler's sly deadpan humor and descriptive abilities always keep his books moving.
For me it's Chandler all the way. His prose is exquisite. One of my favorite all-time passages is his description of a bar in the early evening (I think it was THE LONG GOODBYE). I know he was an alcoholic, but he describes the bar as one might a lover:

"I like bars just after they open for the evening. When the air inside is still cool and clean and everything is shiny and the barkeep is giving himself that last look in the mirror to see if his tie is straight and his hair is smooth. I like the neat bottles on the bar back and the lovely shining glasses and the anticipation. I like to watch the man mix the first one of the evening and put it down on a crisp mat and put the little folded napkin beside it. I like to taste it slowly. The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar—that's wonderful."