Rediscovered: A “Lost” Spade-Marlowe Connection

Got a note a couple of days ago asking me if I’d seen the bit “Finding Marlowe” in the LA Times. Guy named Erik Cummins spun it my way, with the preface:

I met you some years ago (about 10-12 or so) on a Dashiell Hammett Tour, which I enjoyed immensely. We concluded the tour with a martini or two at John’s and discussed the relative merits of Hammett and Chandler. We agreed that it was too tough to call, in terms of who was the more important writer.

“Meanwhile,” Erik added, “I found this article extremely interesting, not just for the attempted Chandler-esque. What do you think?”

On a quick inspection, my opinion is that the article is a very clever, richly detailed hoax. (The premise is that an actual black detective in LA inspired Hammett to create Sam Spade and Chandler to give us Philip Marlowe.) If they’d just stuck to Chandler, it would have been more convincing, perhaps — but it’s as if they never heard that Hammett had been a detective himself. The “original” detective didn’t think Red Harvest was authentic? Must never have done any head-breaking in Butte.

And the missing trove of hand-written letters from Hammett and Chandler that could prove it all true? Search harder, dudes. Holograph letters from Hammett and Chandler, especially from that era, are worth thousands of dollars. Thousands. And thousands more.

After Erik popped in the link, Warren Harris also sent it along, with the comment: “Sounds like a load of crap to me. Maybe once I’ve finished with The Midget Bandit, I’ll work on debunking this mess.”

From the guy who gave us Midget Bandit Week, I’m guessing that’s a promise and a threat.

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