Tag Archives: spillane

Poe Would Be Vaping

I thought all writers drank to excess and beat their wives. You know, at one time I think I secretly wanted to be a writer.
–The Philadelphia Story

Maybe artists can forego nasty habits, addictive rituals and obsessive practices. Maybe. There’s nothing that says writing the great American novel requires an intoxicating level of whiskey. Oils and opium don’t necessarily mix. Or similes and opium. Or tone poems and opium.

No, having a dependency cross to bear isn’t required, but it’s pretty standard issue according to history. That doesn’t make it right, mind you. Then again, it ain’t necessarily wrong, either. Whatever gets you through the night. Or through the chapter. As long as you’re left standing when you come out the other side. Sure.

What I’m getting at is my own peculiar slant, of course. I’ve been writing full-time now for a little while. A privileged position, that’s for sure. But from the start I’ve had one overriding vision, one fantasy that’s dogged my particular work set-up. I’ve longed to write and take a drag at the same time.

See, I’ve been grinding out my so-called art in a smoke-free zone. No cigarettes, no pipes, no cigars, no nothing. When I wanted a smoke, I stopped writing. I had to split myself in two, a synthetic division between aspects that are inseparable as far as I’m concerned.   So everything got broken up, cornered, boxed in. Smoking became relegated to breaks. And I took plenty of them. Sure.

That’s all over now. I can be slow to the game, but I’ve finally discovered one of those great writer resources, a superb tool for anyone whose creative and addictive make-ups are inseparable. I’m talking about vaping, the big brother to disposable e-cigarettes. Loading up one of those overgrown, cylindrical devices with nicotine-punched juice and sucking up clouds of vapor that disperse in the air like mist.

What I’m aiming for is enhancing the creative process. I’ll leave the health and social aspects to other writers. I’m concerned with making the work happen. Removing obstacles, finding solutions, making it cook.

I’ve reclaimed my writing desk with vaping. Its part of my work now, no different than the cup of coffee at my side or the cell phone close at hand. Technology in this 21st century has fulfilled my working habit in more ways than one. 

I can imagine Chandler laughing it off: “Why don’t you just get a damn hookah?”

Spillane got all PC towards the end. He’d probably say whatever floats your boat makes no never mind to him. As long as you aren’t harming anyone else. Then he’d turn his back.

I’d like to think that Hammett would’ve given it a whirl. It always struck me there was an experimental side to his nature.

The Great Edgar–he’d lap it up altogether, figuratively speaking. He’d dabble with all the stock variations of e-juice. When those were exhausted, he’d move onto things of an illicit nature. Call him Edgar “Leary” Poe.

There are probably those out there that depend from nothing and can’t relate. Maybe nothing comes between them and the words. No shot, no stein. No stick, no Havana, no weed. The only fix they require is the work itself. I guess art takes all kinds.

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Hard-Boiled History

I’m no scholar, but I take to scholarly stuff. Probably most scribes do. So I’ve pulled together this simple timeline. The idea is nothing fancy, just a plain record of the events and influences that have put the hard-boiled genre on the literary map. If I’m mindful, this ought to be an ongoing document always prone to one more citation and one more tweak. And I invite your suggestions for any critical dates I’ve missed. Sure.

c. 800
The discovery of gunpowder is made in China. The prevailing theory gives credit to Han alchemists monkeying around, trying to concoct an immortality elixir.

Johannes (Johnnie) Gutenberg constructs his first printing press.

January 19: Edgar Allan Poe born in Boston, Massachusetts. (The Edgar Award is named for him, not the other way around.)

April 20: Graham’s Magazine publishes “Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allen Poe. The yarn introduces literature’s first, fictional sleuth, Auguste C. Dupin.

The City Council of New Albany, Indiana passes a two-fisted amendment prohibiting the carrying or use of brass knuckles.

May 22: Arthur Conan Doyle born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Delivery was elementary.

Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company designs the Colt Single Action Army (famously known as the Colt 45) for the U.S. government. The gat provided the basis for the Snubnosed .38.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s first published work appears“The Mystery of Sasassa Valley,”  in Chamber’s Edinburgh Journal.

December 1: Rex Stout born in Noblesville, Indiana.

Beeton’s Christmas Annual includes the story, “A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle, the first appearance for Sherlock Holmes.

July 23: Raymond Chandler born in Chicago, Illinois, 2,000 miles away from Los Angeles.

July 17: Erle Stanley Gardner born in Malden, Massachusetts.
Sep 14: Carroll John Daly born in Yonkers, NY.

July 1: James M. Cain born in Annapolis, Maryland.

Agatha Christie born in Torquay, England.

May 27: Dashiell Hammett born in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

W.R. Burnett is born in Springfield, Ohio.

March 9: Mickey Spillane born in Brooklyn, NY

H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan launch Black Mask Magazine.

December: The hard-boiled detective story is born in two, back-to-back tales published in Black Mask: Carroll John Daly’s “The False Burton Combs,” and the mag’s first Dashiell Hammett tale, “The Road Home,” under the pen name, Peter Collinson.

June: Carroll John Daley’s private detective Race Williams debuts in “Knights of the Open Palm” in the pages of Black Mask.
December: Erle Stanley Gardner’s first story appears in Black Mask, “The Shrieking Skeleton.”

October 11: Elmore Leonard born in New Orleans.

“Red Harvest” is published, the first Dashiell Hammett novel.

“Little Caesar” by W.R. Burnett is published.

February 14: Dasheill Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” comes hot off the presses of Alfred A. Knopf, an odd sort of valentine.

December: Black Mask publishes its first Raymond Chandler yarn, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot.” It’s the author’s first detective yarn.

“The Postman Always Rings Twice” is published, the first novel by James M. Cain.

January 11: Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler meet at a Black Mask dinner.
Graham Greene’s “This Gun for Hire” is published.

Knopf publishes Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep.”

Mickey Spillane’s “I, the Jury” is published in hardback.

March 4: James Ellroy born in Los Angeles.

Ross MacDonald’s “The Moving Target” is published.

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