Prose and poetry

I love the language that Hammett uses. For example, he writes “I set fire to a cigarette.”
Normally, one would say, “I lit a cigarette.” Lit is a form of light, which has positive, even biblical connotations. Setting fire implies arson. It makes the narrator sounds dangerous, destructive, even deadly. It’s just a little change in phrasing, describing an inconsequential act, but it does so much to set a mood.
“I frisked the desk” Another unusual phrasing. Searched would be the normal term. I’ve also heard rifled used in this sense. But frisked makes it intimate and personal.
simplyelle writes of the novel: “While reading I can imagine everything that is going on. I can picture the scenery, the people, and even the smells.”
By picking just the right words, Hammett packs a lot of punch with minimal language. It’s poetic in its economy.

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