My Hero’s Have Always Been Con-Men (Weekly Challenge Stylish Imitation) Sam Spade

13 09 2012
Mickey Spillane

Mickey Spillane (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We didn’t exactly believe your story, Miss O’Shaughnessy. We believed your 200 dollars. I mean, you paid us more than if you had been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it all right”.  (Sam Spade) Dashiell Hammett

“When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it.”  (Sam Spade)

Dashiell Hammett                ********************************************************************************

I grew up in a dusty seedy little town  where nothing much of anything exciting ever happened, at least not out in the open.  Oh sure we had our share of punk hoodlums and scalawags, the Pharris brothers come right to mind but we chalked  their bad behavior up to a sorry  father who beat them just because he felt like it. When ever he felt like it.  And he felt like it a lot. When they weren’t scaring the pants off little girls like me with remarks like these hissed out to the grocery lady ” Gimme two cents worth of that haaard candy lady, because my teeth are, you know,really, really,  sharp, heh, heh, heh”  they were setting fire to the straw in the upper floor of the shed in the back of their ramshackle house while trying to light the hand rolled cigarettes they took such malicious pride in or jumping out from under the   bridge on my way to town,  in broad day light  at scaredy cats and causing them to lose their mama’s cigarettes, or else they’d be down in the mud along the river  catching catfish with their bare hands.

In the summer the City Library was a big deal, second only to the radio so when I didn’t have my ear glued to the family Motorola I hung out in the musty corners of the top floor of our municipal building where the goods were stored, racks and racks of them. It was here  I discovered Frank Yerby in paperback  just as I was entering the 7th grade.  Now my mama had never read Yerby’s books and I didn’t know it then but  that was a good thing cuz later the next summer she caught me reading the biography of Gypsy Rose Lee out in the shade on the front porch.  Very quickly  she jerked  that book  out of my hands, closing it with a icy glare ” I don’t think this is a book a girl your  age should be reading.”

And that was that.

I was  married  before I knew the story of Gypsy  Rose Lee and even then I read the book with a tinge of guilt.  So, let me tell you, her black hair would of  turned every shade of white if she’d of cracked a Yerby book and I’d probably  have ended up in a convent somewhere  or worse at my grandma’s out in the country feeding chickens and gathering eggs for the summer. No chance of getting in to trouble there. But books like that are  another story.

So what was a skinny  scaredy cat girl  doing, headed towards home  with an armload of Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammet, and Raymond Chandler paperbacks on a Saturday afternoon in the summer of  ’51, with maybe a Yerby  slipped somewhere  into the stack?  Well, she was  jumping into the dark and dangerous  paperback world  of a cynical tough big city detective.  Into a world peopled with smart mouthed women and deceptive partners.  Learning the heft of the disarming come-back and  how to stand your own  ground, how to bluff  and when to fold.  Learning the value of that cynical outlook  or the arching of one brow and how  to look beyond the obvious.  Learning that everybody  has a code  they live by and you can write your own if you’re tough enough.  Learning that things aren’t always exactly as they seem and that even  hero’s have flat feet.  And that’s OK too.

And yeah,  I know the title of this little piece is sort of a con in itself,  but hey it got you this far, didn’t it?

The truth is my hero’s have always been authors and there is a little  bit of the con in every story, don’t you think?

Hammett homage

Hammett homage (Photo credit: Koocheekoo)


 “When you write, you want fame, fortune and personal satisfaction. You want to write what you want to write and feel it’s good, and you want this to go on for hundreds of years. You’re not likely ever to get all these things, and you’re not likely to give up writing and commit suicide if you don’t, but that is — and should be — your goal. Anything else is kind of piddling.”― Dashiell Hammett
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