The literary language of hard-boiled detectives
November 20, 2019
Chandler, Hammett, Spillane, and MacDonald would be proud. Their work is no forgotten.
I have long loved the hard-boiled detective.
He lived in an earlier time.
He walked darker streets.
He fell in and out of love with every femme fatale who winked his way.
He loved them.
He left them.
Most were glad to see him go.
He solved crimes.
And he wasn’t afraid to use his gun.
His motto was simple and straightforward: “I never kill a man who doesn’t need killing.”
The novels were called pulp fiction.
They had an edge.
But they had a literary quality.
And the language of the hard-boiled detective’s inner dialogue was brilliant.
I missed the words of Sam Spade, Mike Hammer, Philip Marlowe, and Travis McGee.
Literature was never the same after Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, and John D. MacDonald wrote their last words.
I miss them no longer.
I have found an author who reverently takes his rightful place alongside their literary works.
Gene Shelton has struck a chord with his new Max Gunn adventure: Blood Moon.
He once wrote westerns.
And he’ll write westerns again.
But his voice in Blood Moon harkens back to the good old days of pulp fiction.
Just read his opening:
My gut told me this chick was trouble in a slinky red dress.
Maybe it was the melancholy wail of the alto sax I heard even though my ratty second-floor office wasn’t big enough for a horn player. Or maybe it was the howitzer blast of thunder and the near-constant lightning flashes and dimmed the sputtering neon sign on the strip joint across the street, barely visible through the dingy, smoke-stained glass of my one window. It always stormed when I was about to get a client who spelled danger.
Throughout the novel, his lines are unforgettable:
- Spun-gold blonde hair cascaded over one eye, Veronica-Lake style, and framed a face that would make Helen of Troy look like a backwoods witch.
- Everything she said or did oozed bedroom and lilac water.
- It should have been a pleasant wake-up call. But the Battle of Britain raged in my body. A German Stuka dive bomber scored a direct hit in my skull when I opened my eyes. Every time I took a breath, or tried to, a Royal Air Force Spitfire strafed my ribcage. A British anti-aircraft shore battery tried to blow my eyeballs into my earholes. I never heard of someone having a ringing in the eyeballs until now. Somebody groaned aloud. The groaner was me.
- That wasn’t enough to calm my nerves. They were still as tight as a G-string on a cheap banjo.
- She hiked her dress nearly to her waist and pulled a Walther from a thigh holster. It was a nice holster. Not as nice as the thigh.
- I must be part Indian. I had my reservations.
- She rose and stretched. It was an impressive stretch. I wondered if the thin white blouse and tight black pants could stand the strain.
- She had a thing with smoke rings. They drifted toward the ceiling. Perfect Lucky Strike doughnuts.
- I pulled the sap from my back pocket, stepped behind the gotch-eared bouncer, and swung the club from shoulder height. I aimed the swing at his neck. Or where his neck would have been if he had one. I might as well hit him with a squirrel.
- Lila still carried her little beaded clutch bag in her left hand. She flipped it open and pulled out a handful of wire I didn’t know how a woman could get so much stuff in a small purse. For all I knew, she had a pistol, a six-pack and maybe a grand piano in a four-inch-long evening bag.
- His hair was slicked back with enough grease to service a ten-year-old Plymouth.
- He wanted to come across as a powerful mob boss. He looked like a fourteen-year-old dressed for Halloween.
- They each wore brown slacks, tan blouses, and sensible low-heeled brown shoes. On them, the outfits looked great. But then so would flour sacks and sneakers.
Pulp fiction never had it so good.
Chandler, Hammett, Spillane, and MacDonald would be proud.
Their work is no forgotten.
Please click HERE to find Blood Moon on Amazon.