Friday, March 14, 2014

Dashiell Hammett, copy editor's friend, Part II

Dashiell Hammett may have had no formal education beyond his early teens, but he read much, and he wielded his learning with grace and proper English grammar.

I've mentioned the little lesson in Spanish imperial history he weaves into The Maltese Falcon. Today he gets props for having Dinah Brand in Red Harvest use proper English even at her most baldly hard-boiled and greedy:
"Now how about what I was to get for showing you where you could turn up the dope on his killing Tim Noonan?"
The man knew his fused participles, and that's one more reason Hammett was not just the greatest crime writer ever, but also a copy editor's friend.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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4 Comments:

Blogger RT said...

The problem is that the character would not speak with such precise syntax. . . She is not sophisticated enough for that kind of sentence ... but Hammett was still learning his way I'm his first novel . .

March 16, 2014  
Blogger RT said...

Damn the Kindle autocorrect for spelling . . . "I'm" should be "in" . . .

March 16, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You anticipated my observation that Hammett was still finding his way when he wrote The Glass Key

But Jim Thompson, to name one, could write dialogue both tough and in line with literate syntax. (In the body of that post I like to a still earlier post whose comments demonstrate better than anything I could have written that rules of grammar are, to put it tolerantly, changing.)

March 16, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know if I can blame auto-correct, but the comment above should read that "I link to a still earlier post ... "

March 16, 2014  

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