The 27th of May is so full of literary achievement, it ought to be a holiday. Today is, most famously, the centennial of John Cheever. While Cheever did not write crime fiction or noir, I’d like to think this blog supports great literature of all types. Sometimes, I even read some of it. If you’re a Mad Men fan, you will probably enjoy reading Cheever, one of the show’s influences. But he also deserves to be read on his own terms.
I love short stories, and Cheever was a master of the form. His 1978 anthology The Stories of John Cheever won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I’ll be curling up with my copy and rereading some of my favorites from Cheever’s collection. If you are unfamiliar with Cheever’s stories, I urge you to rectify this. “The Enormous Radio” is one of his best.
But this day is not without noirish significance. The father (or grandfather, or godfather, or maybe uncle-in-law) of hardboiled crime fiction, Dashiell Hammett, was born on 27 May 1894. I could rhapsodize over Hammett, but if you’re reading this, you probably know all about him. If you don’t, go pick up The Maltese Falcon. Or Red Harvest. Or The Thin Man. Or The Glass Key, or The Dain Curse, or anything by Hammett.
Pulp scribe Leslie Charteris was born on the auspicious 27th day of May. Charteris had his centennial five years ago, but his birthday still deserves a mention. Charteris invented The Saint and wrote a great many of his early adventures before turning the series over to other authors (who ghostwrote subsequent episodes so that all Simon Templar’s escapades bear Charteris’ name). I don’t think Charteris is the literary equivalent of either Cheever or Hammett, but he’s damned fun to read.