Dashiell Hammett, father of the wisecrack, plus questions for readers
But Hammett may have been the first to incorporate wisecracks, and he was almost certainly the best.
The scene in "The Girl with the Silver Eyes" in which the Continental Op tries to pry information about the vanished Jeanne Delano from her would-be lover Burke Pangburn ought to be read in its entirety, but this excerpt gives something of the flavor:
"`What color hair?'
"`Brown—so dark that it's almost black—and it's soft and thick and—
"`Yes, yes. Long or bobbed?'
"`Long and thick and—'
"`What color eyes?'
"`You've seen shadows on polished silver when—'
"`I wrote down gray eyes ... '"Hammett's wisecracks are entertaining for their own sake, wittier than most, and, unlike most wisecracks by the generations of hard-boiled writers who have followed, they are always thematically apt. They advance the story; they never seen designed to attract attention for their own sake. Hammett did it first, and Hammett did it best.
And now, readers, who are your favorite wisecracking hard-boiled writers? Why? What do wisecracks contribute to a story? What makes for a good wisecrack in the context of a story, as opposed to a mere funny line?
© Peter Rozovsky 2015