Over dinner the conversation turned to questions of American literature, specifically hardboiled detective fiction.
Dashiell Hammett is in many ways the father of the hardboiled detective. While the famous film version of The Maltese Falcon is hews very closely to the novel, the novel is even more pessimistic and nilhistic, and it’s reflected in the lean, almost underwritten prose.
Hammett was, of course, a huge influence on Raymond Chandler; Philip Marlowe is the spiritual heir to Sam Spade, despite Chandler’s somewhat more florid writing.
The curious thing, of course, is how this bleak, amoral worldview came out of the sunny California of the 1930s and 1940s….