Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Communication 101: Prof. Hammett

Say it ain't so, sunshine: Dash H. dared to diss the paupers and panderers of Parnassus, aka the poetry profession.

Poetry and the P.I., it would seem, are as incompatible as a chili dog and a just-pressed shirt. Exhibit A: Red Harvest from 1929, in which the Continental Op is hired to clean up Personville, a town so corrupt that most people know it as Poisonville. Seems that Personville's original gangsta—Old Elihu Willsson, who owns the bank, newspapers, a senator and the governor—is losing ground in his old age. The Op is reluctant to stick around and do the dirty work, so Old Elihu appeals to the Op's manhood. "I'll talk you your sense," he says. "I want a man to clean this pig-sty of a
Poisonville for me, to smoke out the rats, little and big. Its a man's job. Are
you a man?"

But the Op retorts:

What's the use of getting poetic about it? If you've got a fairly honest piece of work to be done in my line, and you want to pay a decent price, maybe I'll take it on. But a lot of
foolishness about smoking rats and pig-pens doesn't mean anything to me.

In the Op's calculus, the values of money and honesty overlap with clear
speaking; foolishness, rats, and pig-pens, on the other hand, line up with
poetry. """

Any real detective (private, or ...puerco...:) ) knows when to cut out the small talk and the stale metaphors and face the facts, as far as they may be ascertained...Though, admittedly, most sane men hearing the real story of Butte city (aka Poisonville) might prefer dreams, poetic, papaverian, pudenda-riffic or otherwise...

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