Dashiell Hammett Mystery & Detective Fiction Analysis
Before Dashiell Hammett laid the foundation of the modern realistic detective novel, virtually all detective fiction had been designed on the pattern established by Edgar Allan Poe in three short stories featuring the detective C. Auguste Dupin: “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt,” and “The Purloined Letter.” The basic ingredients of the formula were simple: a brilliant but eccentric amateur detective, his trusty but somewhat pedestrian companion and chronicler, an even more pedestrian police force, and an intricate and bizarre crime. The solution of the puzzle, generally set up as something of a game or contest to be played out between the author and the reader, was achieved through a complex series of logical deductions drawn by the scientific detective from an equally complex series of subtle clues. According to what came to be the rules of the genre, these clues were to be available to the sidekick, who was also the narrator, and through him to the reader, who would derive interest and pleasure from the attempt to beat the detective to the solution.
Such stories were structured with comparable simplicity and regularity: A client, as often as not a representative of the baffled police force, comes to the detective and outlines the unusual and inexplicable circumstances surrounding the crime; the detective and his companion investigate, turning up numerous confusing clues that the narrator gives to the reader but...
(The entire section is 2098 words.)
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