Old style, new style and a tough question for readers
Possibly most astonishing for a novel published in 1932 is that it is not at all dated. There are no “dames” here, and none of the archaic diction that mars the work of other writers from the same period, such as Raoul Whitfield or even some early Hammett. If only the mysterious Cain had written more, he would be mentioned right up there with Chandler and Hammett, and the Chandler-Hammett debate might be over which was the second-best of the group. As this brief discussion reveals, Cain is also an ancestor of the tradition by which hardboiled writers seek to buttress their tough-guy credentials with extravagantly glamorous hard-edged work histories.
The other style king is Australia's Peter Temple, about whom readers of this blog will have read much. Dead Point, third of Temple’s novels about lawyer/cabinetmaker/horse-racing expert Jack Irish, contains more of the gorgeous prose that Temple readers know well. Here’s the novel’s opening:
“On a grey, whipped Wednesday in early winter, men in long coats came out and shot Renoir where he stood, noble, unbalanced, a foreleg hanging. In the terminating jolt of the bolt, many dreams died.”That’s gorgeous, I’d say, the kind of stuff that may make you want to stop just so you can savor the prose. And that leads to today’s tough question for readers: Who are your favorite crime-fiction prose stylists? Whose sheer skill with words takes your breath away? And is this necessarily a good thing?
© Peter Rozovsky 2007
Australian crime fiction