This week the reading and the discussion will focus on the “hard-boiled detective.” The “hard-boiled detective” story refers to the style and tone of this kind of detective story and to the descriptions of the protagonists or main characters in this kind of story. The “hard-boiled detective” is not as polite, ethical, or sophisticated as the classic detective exemplified by A. C. Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes or by A. Christie’s Hercule Poirot. The “hard-boiled detective” can be very clever but he is typically also a cynical and tough character.
I hope you enjoyed “They Can Only Hang You Once.” Here are some questions to get you started. NOTE: You don’t have to answer all of them.
1. Dashiell Hammett writes in a plain, clear style. Why do you think this is appropriate for the type of story he is telling?
2. What are some of the differences you notice between the Arthur Conan Doyle story and the Dashiell Hammet story? What do these differences tell you?
3. Do you think the story was written for its entertainment value, or do you think there are any deeper themes to the story?
4. Would you consider “They Can Only Hang You Once a “fair play” mystery? Why or why not?