James Ellroy on Hammett, Chandler, America, and how young writers ought to act
“[Ellroy] exhorted a class of aspiring screenwriters to quit smoking, get rid of their tattoos and piercings, and always address their elders as Mr. or Mrs. `Do this, and people will say to themselves, This kid knows his shit and understands that there is a social contract.'”Also of note: Ellroy's comment on why crime is important in American writing:
"We’re a nation of immigrant rabble. A great rebellion attended the founding of this republic. We’ve been getting into trouble for two-hundred-and-thirty-odd years. It’s the perfect place to set crime stories, and the themes of the genre—race, systemic corruption, sexual obsession—run rife here. In a well-done crime book you can explore these matters at great depth, say a great deal about the society, and titillate the shit out of the reader."And his preference for Dashiell Hammett over Raymond Chandler:
"Chandler wrote the kind of guy that he wanted to be, Hammett wrote the kind of guy that he was afraid he was. Chandler’s books are incoherent. Hammett’s are coherent. Chandler is all about the wisecracks, the similes, the constant satire, the construction of the knight. Hammett writes about the all-male world of mendacity and greed. Hammett was tremendously important to me."One might disagree with Ellroy's choice, and one might argue that writing about what he wanted to be rather than what he was is the whole point of Chandler's writing: "Down these mean streets a man must walk who is not himself mean." But I was relieved to see a Chandler vs. Hammett comparison based solely on the two authors' work, rather than on politics.
© Peter Rozovsky 2014