Friday, February 18, 2011

The week's best line

"She shook her head slowly, lowering it, so that now her dark eyes looked up at me under the thin arcs of her brows.

"`You speak only of money,' she said. `I said you may have whatever you ask.'

"That was out. I don't know where these women get their ideas."

— "The Gutting of Couffignal"
© Peter Rozovsky 2011


Anonymous Elisabeth said...

This amusing exchange (Dames! Who can figure 'em?!) comes to an abrupt halt, of course, with the next paragraph, one of the more famous of Hammett's observations on what it means to be a detective and has lead readers to capsulize Hammett's Op and Sam Spade as hunters, Chandler's Marlowe as a knight, and Macdonald's Archer as a social worker. Fairly accurate generalizations, I think.

The Hunter is the title of one of Hammett's unpublished early short stories in the Harry Ransom Ctr, U TX/Austin. It features a detective named Vitt and, from what I've read about the ss, Hammett was developing the emotional distance that would be intrinsic to the Op and Spade.

February 19, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Hunter is also the first of Donald Westlake's novels about an emotionally distant thief named Parker -- also a name Hammett has the Op use as an alias in I forget which story. The Parker novels are about elaborately planned capers that go wrong and about how Parker gets through them -- a bit like "The Gutting of Couffignal" from the other side of the law.

And did Hammett know that whippersnapper Orson Welles? The paragraph from "The Gutting ... " to which you refer reminds of the scorpion story from Mr. Arkadin.

February 19, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Unless it was Rush in "The Assistant Murderer."

February 19, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Nope, I think it was "The Golden Horseshoe."

February 19, 2011  

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