You can make a good case for Ernest Hemingway having left a profound mark on hardboiled crime fiction.
Graduate students and crime fiction aficionados have murdered trees arguing whether Hemingway influenced Dashiell Hammett or whether inspiration ran the other direction.
Raymond Chandler incorporated Hemingway in his fiction, wrote an astonishingly inept parody of Hemingway prose and staunchly defended Hem’s much-pilloried novel Across the River and Into the Trees.
Hem’s near brushes with composing crime fiction aside (“The Killers,” that opening Tommy gun salvo in To Have and Have Not and his aborted crime novel Jimmy Breen — dropped in favor of A Farewell to Arms), Hemingway was a frequent crime fiction and thriller reader.
In A Moveable Feast, he writes of Gertrude Stein giving him a copy of Lowndes’ Jack the Ripper novel The Lodger, sending Hem off on a Lowndes reading tear. Later, he moved on to Simenon, and letters and book requests sent his editor indicate Hemingway also sampled Chandler, Hammett and Ian Fleming.
In the Cuba portion of Toros & Torsos, I allude to a woman’s mutilated torso that was found not far from Hem’s Cuban home, the Finca Vigia. This is not an invention on my part: the murder is remarked on in several Hemingway biographies.
Presumably unsolved, the mutilation murder was variously ascribed to a deranged spouse or boyfriend, the Cleveland Torso Slayer, some other serial killer or some bizarre rite associated with a secretive religious cult peculiar to Cuba.
Whatever the truth behind the grisly murder, it clearly made a very strong impression on Ernest Hemingway as he writes about it in an eerie passage that survives in his posthumously published novel Islands in the Stream.
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