(Original Review, 1981-03-23)
Hammett I take to have a brilliant literary mind and to be well read in Literature. I take him to be able to know what a Byronic Hero is, what others thought about that, to have his own thoughts about it, as well as lots of other things (like about detective stories), of course. And I take him to have an idea of what a parable is and how it differs from a story, or what an archetype or double is. Take the 'double': all he has to do is READ Poe's William Wilson, or Dostoevsky’s “The Double” to get what it is as Literature. Or to read Hamlet to know how a “mise en abyme” works. He knows these things and uses them WITH THE MIND OF A BRILLIANT WRITER. A mind that processes literature not as a critic or simple reader, but as a creator of it.
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.