thelamplightersserenade asked: What constitutes hard-boiled prose? I hear that term thrown around a lot with authors such as Cain and Hughes, but what does it mean? Sentence structure, dialogue, plots, wording...?
As with the previous question, definition can be tricky. I think there are a number of elements we associate with hardboiled prose. They may not all be present at all times, but some combination of them is necessary.
First-person narration is often (though not always) used. Telegraphic prose is also important. Think Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy. Cynicism is usually present in the narrator’s tone, as well. But cynical tone may be more thematic than stylistic.
I think the terse, clipped sentences are probably most important. When Hammett and Chandler (among others) were writing for pulp magazines and paid by the word, they had to be economical in their use of language. Editors would trim words wherever they could in order to pay the writers less. This led the proto-hardboiled pulp writers to develop telegraphic, high-impact style in order to make each word necessary and ensure they would be paid for each word.