What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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The Big Knockover
by Dashiell Hammett

Field-Tested by Jeffrey Zeldman

in New York City, New York

I worked all last summer and never saw the beach, unless you count a half-day at Coney Island, which is why I recommend Dashiell Hammett’s definitive collection. Hammett took murder and detection out of the British drawing room and dropped it onto the American streets, where it belonged. Hammett, who had been a detective himself, invented the hard-boiled American detective character, and spun his yarns in a lean, crisp style that retains its punch today. Like Hemingway, who was his contemporary, Hammett carved his language to the bone, telling more with one or two quick details than other writers could convey in a dozen paragraphs. After reading his stuff, it is impossible to view society quite the same way, and it is also impossible to tolerate loose, flaccid writing. He changed the way writers write. His quick, camera-eye narratives grab you and hold you, whether you’re trying to get through a night with a busted air conditioner, missing your stop on a crowded subway, or waiting to board a flight. Hopefully a flight to a beach.

Jeffrey Zeldman was one of the first web designers. He publishes A List Apart magazine, has written two books (notably, Designing With Web Standards), co-founded and co-directs a design conference, and founded and runs Happy Cog, an agency of web design and user experience specialists. He can also be found at his website.

Buy The Big Knockover

Read the next Field Test by Claire Zulkey