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1. Dashiell Hammett Complete Novels:
2. Dashiell HammettCollection
3. The Glass Key
4. Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell
5. Vintage Hammett
6. The Thin Man
7. Dashiell Hammett: Crime Stories
8. Dashiell Hammett : A Life
9. The Maltese Falcon
10. Lost Stories (The Ace Performer
11. The Continental Op
12. Red Harvest
13. The Big Knockover: Selected Stories
14. The Dain Curse
15. The Novels of Dashiell Hammett:
16. The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man,
17. The Assistant Murderer and Other
18. Hammett's Moral Vision: The Most
19. Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers
20. Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett

1. Dashiell Hammett Complete Novels: Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, and The Thin Man (Library of America #110)
by Dashiell Hammett
Hardcover: 967 Pages (1999-08-30)
list price: US$35.00 -- used & new: US$18.69
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1883011671
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Complete in one volume, the five books that created the modern American crime novel

In a few years of extraordinary creative energy, Dashiell Hammett invented the modern American crime novel. In the words of Raymond Chandler, "Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse.... He put these people down on paper as they were, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes."

The five novels that Hammett published between 1929 and 1934, collected here in one volume, have become part of modern American culture, creating archetypal characters and establishing the ground rules and characteristic tone for a whole tradition of hardboiled writing. Drawing on his own experiences as a Pinkerton detective, Hammett gave a harshly realistic edge to novels that were at the same time infused with a spirit of romantic adventure. His lean and deliberately simplified prose won admiration from such contemporaries as Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner.

Each novel is distinct in mood and structure. Red Harvest (1929) epitomizes the violence and momentum of his Black Mask stories about the anonymous detective the Continental Op, in a raucous and nightmarish evocation of political corruption and gang warfare in a western mining town. In The Dain Curse (1929) the Op returns in a more melodramatic tale involving jewel theft, drugs, and a religious cult. With The Maltese Falcon (1930) and its protagonist Sam Spade, Hammett achieved his most enduring popular success, a tightly constructed quest story shot through with a sense of disillusionment and the arbitrariness of personal destiny. The Glass Key (1931) is a further exploration of city politics at their most scurrilous. His last novel was The Thin Man(1934), a ruefully comic tale paying homage to the traditional mystery form and featuring Nick and Nora Charles, the sophisticated inebriates who would enjoy a long afterlife in the movies. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (26)

3-0 out of 5 stars He got better as he went on.
Hammett's main contribution to detective fiction was an incredibly paranoid atmosphere in which characters' allegiances seem to shift constantly. In classic detective stories by Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, there is a world of murder and violence, but also another world of law and order. The detective protagonists are clearly on the side of justice; the police may be incompetent, but at least they mean well. But in Hammett, no one can ever be trusted, and you can't even be sure about the protagonist's motivation. Occasionally you get people who are decent sorts, but even then the protagonist still can't bring himself to trust them with any important information. In this way Hammett is very different from Chandler, who also describes a world full of corruption and deceit, but where you can at least always count on Philip Marlowe to do the right thing, regardless of how much whiskey he drinks.

Hammett's fascination with deceit often translates to awkward plotting. His first novel Red Harvest is primarily notable for the gleefully vicious, blood-thirsty way in which Hammett's protagonist, the Continental Op, sows deadly chaos among various thugs and gangsters. As a mystery, though, it is nigh unreadable. New characters are constantly being introduced and killed off. A guy named Lew Yard is first made out to be one of the most ruthless and important mobsters in the town, but never makes an on-screen appearance. Another gangster named Reno is suddenly introduced more than halfway through, and ends up being the focus of the closing scenes, where he is even praised by Hammett as an example of manliness, for reasons far beyond my grasp. Things appear to happen more or less arbitrarily. While this conveys the feeling of chaos, it stops making sense after a while.

The second novel, The Dain Curse, is even worse. The plot is a sequence of loosely connected and increasingly outlandish and improbable events (plus an increasingly grotesque body count) that are eventually tied together by a completely arbitrary resolution. The Op solves the case using a bizarre chain of reasoning that invents new details that had not been shown to the reader before. Chandler commented in "The Simple Art Of Murder" that a good detective story should outwit the reader without claiming an unfair advantage, and that is certainly relevant here.

Then, surprisingly, Hammett got a lot better. His third novel The Maltese Falcon is still fairly low on logic and deduction, so it feels more like a suspense/adventure story than a mystery, but Hammett's paranoid vision is a lot more coherent. The suspense revolves around the precarious way in which the canny Sam Spade manipulates a gang of dangerous criminals, mostly by bluffing rather than by force. It's no surprise that this story became a Hollywood classic -- Spade's particular brand of hard-drinking, trust-no-one machismo, delivering justice to the criminals without getting his own hands too dirty, was destined for the movies. The Continental Op may have been edgier as a concept, but unfortunately, Hammett handled him pretty ineptly.

The Glass Key is again more of a psychological drama than a mystery, although a murder does get solved in it. It reinvents Red Harvest's theme of sowing chaos among rival criminal factions. The protagonist is a shady gambler, a friend of one of the criminal bosses, and his own motivation is masterfully blurred throughout the story, but in the end he is shown to be more like Sam Spade in his adherence to a certain ethical code. The most memorable aspect of the story is the friendship between the protagonist and the boss Paul Madvig (who is deliberately shown as being a thug, but not a killer, probably to make him a bit more sympathetic). This friendship is subjected to great tribulations that are resolved with a very Hemingwayesque depiction of manly honour (and this time, it actually makes sense).

After all these not-quite-mysteries, Hammett's last novel The Thin Man is...a perfect detective story with an absolutely classical structure. Nick Charles is more in line with the charming, upstanding detectives of the past, and he gets an equally charming sidekick in the form of his witty wife Nora. The story is full of hilarious one-liners. The murder mystery is resolved with a single logical deduction that elegantly stands the story on its head. The identity of the killer is still a bit arbitrary, in my view, but the setup and resolution of the mystery is as perfect as it gets. This was another instant Hollywood classic, and for good reason -- not only is it very well-written and well-plotted, but unlike the tiresomely gloomy Red Harvest, it's a lot of fun. A lightweight assessment, sure, but hey, if you really have to read a murder story with deep existential meaning, try Crime And Punishment.

Basically, Hammett was a hack writer, but his hackery greatly improved as it went on, and he certainly went out on a high note. I think he's mainly valuable for his influence on Chandler, whose writing was better, though not as fascinatingly odd. If The Thin Man is any indication, Hammett might have attained Conan-Doyle-like stature if he had continued to write detective stories, but then again, if you look at "Tulip," it may have been better for him to quit when he did. Probably the best way to get acquainted with Hammett is to read The Glass Key, and then see The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man in their Hollywood form.

5-0 out of 5 stars An essential hard-boiled collection
He may have not been the first hard-boiled mystery writer, but Dashiell Hammett was still a pioneer in the genre, helping to establish it.The Library of America has assembed all five of his novels into a single omnibus edition.These five novels were all published in a span of less than a decade when Hammett was at his creative peak and show his evolution as a writer.

Red Harvest, his first novel, actually is more of a series of related novellas.His one true recurring character narrates this one; although he has no name, he is often known as the Continental Op, a private investigator who goes into the small and corrupt town of Personville (nickname:Poisonville).He does his best to clean up the place, primarily by pitting various crooked figures against each other and letting the bullets fly.This book forms the basis for the movies Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars.

The Dain Curse brings back the Op in a story that still has that series-of-novellas feel to it, but with a more interesting set of characters.The Op's investigation into a jewel heist eventually reveals a set of dark family secrets that will trigger some murders.Both of these first two books are good, but not great.Red Harvest, in particular, lacks really interesting characters (they're all crooks).The Op himself is a rather limited character:he's got little in the way of real personality and no life outside his job.Furthermore, as an outsider, he has little stake in solving the crimes except as a job.

If Hammett had stopped writing after Red Harvest and The Dain Curse, he would have been a minor footnote in the genre, respectable but probably forgotten.The Maltese Falcon, however, would assure him of immortality.The flaws I mentioned for the first two books?Not here.This story is filled with interesting characters, a well-constructed plot and the legendary Sam Spade, out to solve the murder of his partner and track down the title item.

The Glass Key is a bit of a step back (but it would be hard to match that third book).Ned Beaumont is the assistant to a party boss involved in a tough election.Things get tougher when the boss is accused of murdering a senator's son:a senator tje boss is backing and whose daughter he's wooing.Connections can keep Beaumont's boss out of jail, but bad publicity may throw him out of power.Besides a couple movie versions under the same title, this book also inspired Miller's Crossing.

Finally, Hammett mixes it up a bit with The Thin Man (inspiration for a series of movies).Unlike previous books, this one has a lighter touch.Nick Charles is a former private eye who has married into wealth and would rather just drink and hang out with his wife Nora and dog Asta.Unfortunately, people keep drawing him into a murder case of an inventor's assistant (or is it mistress)?

By today's writing standards, Hammett may come across a little stiff, but he still wrote really good stuff.If you want to get all these novels in one nicely constructed edition, you can't go wrong with this book.There are even some minor extras, most significantly, a chronology of Hammett's often troubled life.It's five classics in one.

4-0 out of 5 stars Hammett Complete Novels
In addition to the 5 novels this edition also contains a chronology of the author and the authors note about each one.

5-0 out of 5 stars Obscenely Fun
Given the slew of 5-star reviews for this volume I don't have a lot to add to the discourse.However, I would say this, as I find it somewhat underrepresented:HAMMETT's NOVELS ARE FUN.

Along with all the other great facets of his writing, such as the political contexts and the foundations for the hard-boiled detective, the thing that grabs me about his writing is just how much of a rollicking good time it conveys.Red Harvest is great with its client vs. services rendered tension.

Another excellent example of the FUN of Hammett is The Thin Man's Nick-Nora main character relationship.There are just enough hints at consensual promiscuity and one can't help but smile at the subtle mysteries this marriage contains...

Once again, I focused on this aspect of the novels simply because everything else has already been said.This is a great collection, and reading it in the high-quality format of a LOA volume just adds to the experience.

5-0 out of 5 stars Why Crime Novels became popular
Because originally they were written by Hammett.I have read these novels many times and each time I do I discover, again, why the best writers are beyond category. ... Read more

2. Dashiell HammettCollection
by Dashiell Hammett
Kindle Edition: Pages (2008-07-27)
list price: US$5.00
Asin: B001DBR1FW
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Contains the following short stories: Afraid of A Gun, Arson Plus, Bodies Piled Up, Death On Pine Street, Man Who Killed Dan Odams, Mike Alec Or Rufus, Nightmare Town, Night Shots, One Hour, Road Home, Ruffian's Wife, Second Story Angel, The Assistant Murderer, The Tenth Clew, Who Killed Bob Teal, Zigzags of Treachery. ... Read more

3. The Glass Key
by Dashiell Hammett
Paperback: 214 Pages (1989-07-17)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$6.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679722629
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Of Hammett's sixth book, published in 1931, The New York Times wrote "the developing relationships among the characters are as exciting as the unfolding story." ... Read more

Customer Reviews (23)

5-0 out of 5 stars Stylish, uncomfortable, wonderful.
Reading through some of the online reviews of The Glass Key, I'm a little bit surprised by all the contradictory readings. Hammett supposedly considered it his favorite among his own novels. I liked it-- a lot, even. It isn't my favorite-- I think that honor still belongs to Red Harvest. But I don't consider it (as many apparently do) one of his minor works either.

There is a very nice quality of remove to this work. We learn next to nothing about the past of the characters (perhaps why some readers find it difficult to connect with the work?). Instead, their actions speak for themselves and the implication certainly is that the events of the book represent a fatal intersection of oft repeated actions. "You are what you do," is what Hammett seems to be insisting here. I personally find this kind of noir writing much more compelling when it sticks to the surface in this way-- gives it an air of fatality and sadness that would only be undermined by too much backstory. He doesn't give us much hope for his bleak city. Only Beaumont seems to have any feeling for nostalgia, and that is undermined by his gambling nature-- his casual lack of ethics.

It's an uncomfortable book, I'll give you that. Hammett keeps the reader back from any feeling of resolution, even when we learn the "truth". For me, it neatly foreshadows a film like Chinatown. The system of corruption in the world of The Glass Key isn't something that can be defeated by anything as trivial as a redemptive character arc. Hammett is telling us something about the world-- the hope will have to come from somewhere else.

Wonderful, really.

3-0 out of 5 stars A Real Guy's Detective Novel
The writing was typical of the times (1931).Each movement of the characters was described fully -- almost like it was intended to be a screenplay.Not one of the characters was anything other than criminal at heart, so it was difficult to relate to any of them.Historically, it was very interesting to read about the crime, speakeasies and corrupt Chicago politics.It was what I would consider a "guy's book": tough men, gangster-like loyalties (without real friendships), drinking, gambling and everyone-out-for-themselves. The men and women in this book had big city mentalities and killings were a part of the life they led.Fear and greed is what drove them.The main thing I didn't like was that it had too many things happening with too many characters -- many of which didn't lead anywhere and tended to make it a rather confusing read.I found myself re-reading passages, just to keep things straight. So, I guess there were parts that I liked, it was an easy read, but the poor character development left me disappointed.I never did guess who the murderer was until the end of the book - which probably makes it a good detective novel, in and of itself.

3-0 out of 5 stars Weak Plot and Characters, But Hammett's Style Remains Powerful
Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) essentially created the American P.I. novel, first in a series of short stories and then with five novels, many of them incorporating his earlier short fiction.Critics regard THE GLASS KEY as his weakest work; it was, however, Hammett's own favorite, a very convoluted tale of that mixes organized crime, political corruption, and a traditionally-styled murder mystery.

The central story concerns gambler and tough-guy Ned Beaumont, who has been on a loosing streak until his luck turns with a major racetrack win.When the bookie goes on the lam with the winnings, Beaumont pulls strings to have himself declared a special D.A. investigator and uses a recent unsolved murder of a senator's son as leverage to force the bookie to pay up.But his success in this area entangles him in the murder itself: the senator is backed by crime boss Paul Madvig, who is in love with the senator's daughter, and who may or may not be involved in the murder.

It may have been Hammett's favorite, but I have to agree with those who consider it his weakest.Like most Hammett novels, THE GLASS KEY is very convoluted in terms of plot--but in this novel he simply jumps from point to point and scene to scene without offering the reading much in the way of information.The characters are also weak.Paul Madvig is too stupid to be a successful crime boss; it is hard to understand how he manages to command such loyalty from tough-guy Ned Beaumont, and Beaumont himself is very inconsistently rendered.But the novel does have a saving grace that makes it worth reading: Hammett's prose style.

It was, in a word, unique.Hammett effortlessly mixes terse toughness with unexpected flashes of poetry and insight and the result is indeed breathless and intense.Many writers would tear a page from Hammett's style, and a few--James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler leap to mind--would go on to create their own unique and equally powerful styles from Hammett inspiration, but no one ever did Hammett as well as Hammett himself.THE GLASS KEY may be the weakest of Hammett's novels in terms of plot and character, but Hammett's way with words carries him though.Ignore the book at your own risk.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer

5-0 out of 5 stars C'mon! Its Hammett
Great Item Exactly as described! My wife LOVES 1st Editions, and this was a feather in the ol' cap!

1-0 out of 5 stars What a snore
When my book club decided to read The Glass Key, I thought it would be a fun change from the literary, often depressing books we sometimes choose.I was wrong. We unanimously hated it.None of us cared one hoot about who did it or to whom or why. Not only that but the writing was at times laughable.Here are only a few of my favorite passages:

"Presently a path came under his feet."

"Ned Beaumont looked, with brown eyes wherein hate was a dull glow that came from far beneath the surface, at the card players and began to get out of bed."

"Knocking sounded on his door."

"Madvig addressed to another man a question having to do with the size of the campaign contribution to be expected from a man named Hartwick."

Obviously writing wasn't the talent Lillian Hellman saw in him. ... Read more

4. Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett
by Richard Layman
Paperback: 312 Pages (1981-12)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$9.61
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0897230523
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars Realists view of fiction great
Layman's Shadowman is a biography of Dashiell Hammett, the author of the Maltese Falcon.(If you don't know who Hammett is, google is more helpful than me.) The book's name is taken from a term Hammett used to describe his own abilities as a Pinkerton private detective in the 1920s. (Hammett never claimed to be a good detective, just good at following people).

The book is well written in my opinion and Hammett's life is portrayed kindly and with humor but also less romantically than it is shown by later authors. I imagine it was hard not to be romantic with Hammett. The guy was a veteran of both world wars, worked in Hollywood and later imprisoned for his priniciples by McCarthy.

I could give you more of my opinion but I won't waste your time or mine. (What good is the opinion of a stranger?)I'll close by saying if you are a fan of the Maltese Falcon, or you've read Gore and Nolan's fictional Hammett stories and your curious then check this book out. It's listed as "THE" reference for all the fictional accounts of Hammett's life written later.

4-0 out of 5 stars A wild and Crazy Guy
Richard Layman's very detailed biograghy of world-famous American detective-story writer Dashiell Hammett, written in the early 1980's, is nearly a lost relic today. Thanks to Amazon, you can buy this book, and peruse this flighty gentleman's wild and crazy life. Hammett's 1929 "Maltese Falcon" novel changed the entire literary world, as the first authentic "hard-boiled" detective story. It's success was astounding, and world-wide.Movie offers followed(three film versions were made), and Hammett became very wealthy.Unfortunately, wine, women,and smoking damaged his already fragile health, and eventually dried up-up his writing career.Admittedly wasteful with money, Hammett abandoned his wife and family, moving to New York, and then toHollywood, and installed himself at the penthouse at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.Working for Universal, MGM, and Paramount Studios, Hammett cranked-out screenplays and advised producers for a few years, helping turn his "Thin Man" into a huge movie hit(He was paid for work on the first three of six "Thin Man" films).Hammett complained that, at MGM studios, he was bothered by Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, who pestered and distracted him.Hammett had many girl-friends, and a long-term relationship with writer Lillian Hellman.His brutish behavior and sporadic drinking ruined his career; and, of course, he had invested and saved nothing.By the end of the 1940's, he was not only broke, but under investigation for being a Communist. Hammett eventually does jail-time for his liberal politics, and dies sadly in debt."Shadow Man" is an unsentimental, detailed report on a true American icon.It is also a valuable lesson for us all. Dashiell Hammett was a poor boy who rose to the top(he earned a million dollars in the 1930's), fell to new lows, and died without a penny.

4-0 out of 5 stars Samson Meets Delilah, Career Crashes Down
The author was aided by other researchers in gathering facts about Samuel Dashiell Hammett's life. He followed leads, found answers to questions, and interviewed anyone who claimed to have known Dash. SDH worked at different jobs before joining Pinkerton as a detective. He joined the Army in 1917, and contracted a lung disease and TB during the 1918 Flue Pandemic. His disability pension wasn't enough for his family; he studied at a Business College and started to work in advertising. He then began to write for publication. In spite of his lung disease he smoked and he drank.

SDH began to gain success by 1923 with his short stories; he was too sick for any other work. His advertising job ended when he collapsed with bleeding lungs; he also had hepatitis. He renewed his literary efforts, and success followed. He then wrote longer novels, and gained more wealth and fame. He left his family and moved to New York's literary milieu. He indulged in liquor, women, money, and fame; he was "Nick Charles", not "Sam Spade". Drinking handicapped his Hollywood career, and flushed away his talents. Recycling his writings on radio during the 1940s earned him money; this ended after his refusal to testify in 1951. The next ten years were spent in poverty. After his death in 1961 he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, far to the left of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

(This book repeats sentences on the bottom of page 161.) ... Read more

5. Vintage Hammett
by Dashiell Hammett
Paperback: 208 Pages (2005-01-25)
list price: US$9.95 -- used & new: US$5.08
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400079624
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, The Continental Op. In his novels and stories, Dashiell Hammett created some of the most memorable characters--detectives, dames, and assorted miscreants--in twentieth-century fiction. It is nearly impossible to imagine modern American literature without Hammett.

Vintage Hammett features episodes from Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon, The Dain Curse, and The Thin Man; and stories featuring the Continental Op, including “The House in Turk Street,” “The Girl with the Silver Eyes," and "Flypaper.” It also includes the story "Nightshade" which has not been available in over fifty years.

Vintage Readers are a perfect introduction to some of the great modern writers, presented in attractive, affordable paperback editions. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

3-0 out of 5 stars Better to Read a Hammett Novel or Short Story Collection than This Sampler.
It's difficult to know how to rate "Vintage Hammett", because the writing is generally very good. But this is part of the Vintage Reader series, which, in Vintage Books' words, "offer an attractive, accessible selection of writing that matters." Vintage Readers are intended as an introduction to the writers they represent, whose purpose is to entice the reader to buy the authors' complete works, also published by Vintage Books. "'Vintage Hammett" contains 3 short stories, one vignette, and 5 novel fragments, one from each of Hammett's novels. The trouble is that anyone can read an entire Hammett novel or part of a short story collection in the time it would take to read "Vintage Hammett". And that's what I suggest you do. I don't think that reading bits and pieces of novels is worth the effort.

As for what's here: "The House on Turk Street", "The Girl with the Silver Eyes", and "Fly Paper" are short stories included in their entirety. The first two are excellent and sure to pique interest in Hammett's short fiction. "Fly Paper" is good as well. From the novels, we get chapters 1-2 of "Red Harvest", chapter 1 of "The Dain Curse", chapters 11-13 of "The Maltese Falcon", the opening chapters of "The Glass Key", and chapters 1-5 of "The Thin Man". The first paragraph of "Red Harvest" is one of the most memorable opening paragraphs ever. Read it twice. "The Dain Curse" may be limited to one chapter here, because the novel is not very good. The other fragments are representative of their respective works but not long enough to do "The Maltese Falcon" or "The Glass Key" justice. There is also a 4-page vignette entitled "Nightshade" that was originally published in "Mystery League Magazine" in 1933. It's not worth much, but was probably included because it was not available anywhere else. (Now it is also available in "Lost Stories".)

Skip this sampler and read one of Hammett's novels or short story collections. "The Maltese Falcon" is one of the greatest American novels of the 20th century. "The Glass Key" is also excellent. And "Red Harvest" comes in third. The novels are about the same length as "Vintage Hammett", and they are more worthy of your attention. The Hammett short story collections from Vintage Books are "The Continental Op", "The Big Knockover", and "Nightmare Town". They can be read leisurely and provide plenty of material from which to judge whether or not you like Dashiell Hammett. ... Read more

6. The Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett
Paperback: 208 Pages (1989-07-17)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$3.44
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679722637
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Nick and Nora Charles are Hammett's most enchanting creations, a rich, glamorous couple who solve crimes in between wisecracks and martinis.Amazon.com Review
The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett's classic tale of murder inManhattan, became the popular movie series with William Powelland Myrna Loy, and both the movies and the novel continue to captivate newgenerations of fans.

Nick and Nora Charles, accompanied by their schnauzer, Asta, are loungingin their suite at the Normandie in New York City for the Christmas holiday,enjoying the prerogatives of wealth: meals delivered at any hour, theateropenings, taxi rides at dawn, rubbing elbows with the gangster element inspeakeasies. They should be annoyingly affected, but they charm. Mad abouteach other, sardonic, observant, kind to those in need, and cool in a fight,Nick and Nora are graceful together, and their home life provides asanctuary from the rough world of gangsters, hoodlums, and policeinvestigations into which Nick is immediately plunged.

A lawyer-friend asks Nick to help find a killer and reintroduces him to thefamily of Richard Wynant, a more-than-eccentric inventor who disappearedfrom society 10 years before. His former wife, the lush and manipulativeMimi, has remarried a European fortune hunter who turns out to be avindictive former associate of her first husband and is bent on the ruin ofWynant's family fortune.Wynant's children, Dorothy and Gilbert,seem to have inherited the family aversion to straight talk. Dorothy,who has matured into a beautiful young woman, has a crush on Nick, and so,in a hero-worshipping way, does mama's boy Gilbert. Nick and Nora respondkindly to their neediness as Nick tries to make sense of misinformation,false identities, far-fetched alibis, and, at the center of the confusion,the mystery of The Thin Man, Richard Wynant. Is he mad? Is he akiller? Or is he really an eccentric inventor protecting his discovery fromintellectual theft?

The dialogue is spare, the locales lively, and Nick, the narrator, shows usthe players as they are, while giving away little of his own thoughts. Noone is telling the whole truth, but Nick remains mostly patient as hedoggedly tries to backtrack the lies. Hammett's New York is a crossbetween Damon Runyon and Scott Fitzgerald--more glamorous than real, butcompelling when visited in the company of these two charmers. Thelives of the rich and famous don't get any better than this! --BarbaraSchlieper ... Read more

Customer Reviews (55)

5-0 out of 5 stars In some ways better than the book...
This is the book the first movie is based on.Also some of the scenes were used in later movies.The book is a lot more serious, hinting at relationships that would never be allowed on the big screen's version of the story.While some things are funny it isn't really a comedy like the movies were.The characters are crisp, realistic, and sometimes people you would never wish to run into in a dark alley.
On the other hand it did seem to drag just a tad.I think it is because there were scenes in the book that were never in the movie, giving it a feel that suggested it was being padded, which it was not.The movie was edited heavily when compared to the book, so if you enjoyed the movie you may feel the book is slow.
I would suggest reading the book first and then, if you wish, watching the films.

5-0 out of 5 stars final work of a great writer
This was my second Hammett read after the Maltese Falcon, and the contrast was impressive. While the former book was dark and mysterious, the Thin Man had a lighter feel, an aloofness which attests to the author's changed life circumstances. Yet while some fans of the earlier style may find this disappointing,it's important to judge each work on its own merits and in the contextual frame of the time and world in which it was written.And with this view, The Thin Man clearly deserves five stars.

As a pure mystery, it was solid: the reader has a chance to guess "whodunnit" based clues. But the real value goes well beyond the plot. The Thin Man provides a window into its time, the Great Depression following the social liberation of the preceding decade.

It's a little bit sad that this was Hammett's final novel, as he is clearly one of the great writers of his time.Indeed he even appeared to have difficulty getting this one out: more time had passed since the publication of The Glass Key than it had taken him to write all of his preceding four novels.But maybe it's better his work was so reserved: compare with many modern mystery riders who turn the crank one or two times per year, year after year, producing story after story with the same characters and style.That Hammett was able to produce works of such contrast within the genre of detective fiction is a testimony to his talent, and to the importance of each.I'll certainly read them all.

4-0 out of 5 stars Enjoy It With a Dry Martini
The last of Dashiell Hammett's five novels, THE THIN MAN seems lighter, more superfluous, than the other two I have read, THE MALTESE FALCON and THE DAIN CURSE.Perhaps.But Hammett's name is almost synonymous with crime noir.Even his lighter work reveals something much darker than might be apparent at first glance.

Nick and Nora Charles, the detectives introduced here, are markedly different than Hammett's other creations.Elegant in a way that the Continental Op could never be, superfluous in a way that would make Sam Spade sneer, they are an insufferably smug couple that are at times rather difficult to like.They spend whatever free time they have drinking and socializing and seeming oh so important.

In New York on vacation, the couple is pressed into service by an old friend to look for a missing man.They enter, or perhaps merely describe, a world of moral vacuity for which Hammett was, and still is, so well known.The lies, evasions and apathy of almost everyone in the book are universal.Underneath the light banter and eternal cocktail hour, Hammett presents a view of the upper crust as having a beautiful veneer as thin as cigarette paper which, when torn away, reveals the dark underbelly of contempt towards anyone outside of their own little circle.

Although I liked THE THIN MAN, I am also glad that Hammett did not use Nick and Nora for any of his other novels (I have read many of Hammett's stories and do not recall seeing them in any; if they are, they are not major figures in Hammett's canon). Like a strange label of beer that I can enjoy for a bottle, but which becomes distasteful after two, the Charles are an interesting pair to be sparingly sampled.

4-0 out of 5 stars Dorothy is a sleaze in the book
When I see a film based on a novel, I like to read the novel to compare plots and execution. Most of the time the novel or story is fuller than the movie due to the short media time and the target audience. In this case, the novel does have a better-developed plot and is more cohesive. The characters are more true to form and there is a real Rosewood/Rosebrien. However, the book characters are more sinister and Dorothy is sleazy. I planed to make this the last story I would read by Dashiel Hammett. However, others tell me I just picked the wrong one to start with.

The film on the other hand, was modified to give a lighter approach. It is the film that I will think of as the real "Thin Man" and Maureen O'Sullivan as the real Dorothy that was concerned about her father. Speaking about that, what is the Sullivan act?

The Thin Man Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy

2-0 out of 5 stars Good Story, Annoying Recording
Good book, bad recording.

Ever hear Firesign Theatre's "Nick Danger" episodes, where male actors do the Femme Fatale's voice in falsetto? This recording is exactly the same. Unfortunately, here we are supposed to take the characters seriously. The unintentional humor lasts about five minutes, after which I turned it off and listened to Firesign.

The contrast between the realistic male narrator's voice and the absurd falsetto of the females creates a jarring disconnect. Although I did finally listen to all six disks, I never really lost myself in the narrative.

Next time, how about just reading the story? ... Read more

7. Dashiell Hammett: Crime Stories and Other Writings (Library of America)
by Dashiell Hammett
Hardcover: 934 Pages (2001-09-10)
list price: US$40.00 -- used & new: US$18.69
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1931082006
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
"If Dashiell Hammett ends up rubbing (or bending) elbows with Mark Twain, why, probably neither man will mind." (Chicago Sun Times, on Hammett: Complete Novels)

In scores of stories written for Black Mask and other pulp magazines in the 1920s and 1930s, Dashiell Hammett used the vernacular adventure tale to register the jarring textures and revved-up cadences of modern America. His stories opened up crime fiction to the realities of American streets and American speech. These texts, along with some revealing essays and an early version of his novel The Thin Man, are reprinted here for the first time without the cuts and revisions introduced by later editors.

Hammett's years of experience as a Pinkerton detective give even his most outlandishly plotted mysteries a gritty credibility. Mixing melodramatic panache and poker-faced comedy, his stories are hard-edged entertainment for an era of headlong change and extravagant violence, tracking the devious, nearly nihilistic exploits of con men and blackmailers, slumming socialites and deadpan assassins. As guide through this underworld he created the Continental Op, the nameless and deliberately unheroic detective separated from the brutality and corruption around him only by his professionalism.

Steven Marcus is the editor. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

4-0 out of 5 stars Classic Detective Writings
Hammett Crime Stories & Other Writings

Steven Marcus is a Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He edited a collection of Hammett stories and the "Complete Novels". This 934 page book contains twenty-four Crime Stories and three Other Writings. All seven stories from "The Continental Op" are here, seven stories from "The Big Knock-over" are here, and six of the twenty-four stories in "Nightmare Town" are here. The six stories here that are not found in the above volumes are listed at the end. There is an early version of "The Thin Man" that is not like the final version (Chapter 6 names a "police magistrate"). There are miscellaneous observations in "Memoirs of a Private Detective" and "Suggestions to Detective Story Writers". The short "Chronology" tells about Hammett's life (tuberculosis, alcoholism, womanizing, and Communism). "Notes on the Text" provides a history where each of these were published earlier.

Raymond Chandler noted that Hammett used real motives for his stories about crime. They were not like the English style where murders were committed in a country mansion to provide an intellectual puzzle. This is not fair to Agatha Christie who minimized the motives in classic restraint ("The Murder of Roger Ackroyd"). "Ten Little Indians" may have used an intellectual reason for the deaths: avenging unsolved murders that were done for greed or lust. Erle Stanley Gardner's "Perry Mason" stories generally led to a resolution in the courtroom. Some of Hammett's novels were adapted for movies, some inspired other movies. Hammett's "Sam Spade" and "The Fat Man" were turned into radio serials in the late 1940s until the changed political climate ended them. "The Thin Man" became a TV series in the late 1950s.

* "Arson Plus" begins with an investigation into the fire at the Thornburgh house. [What was found in the ashes?] The owner and his servants were new to the area. There was a lot of insurance on the victim. The back-trail left by the individuals led to an unraveled plot.
* "Slippery Fingers" begins with the murder of a rich man. Bloody fingerprints are found. One man wants his prints taken so he can be cleared. This 1923 story explains how they forged fingerprints. But the fat detective figured it out.
* "Crooked Souls" begins with the kidnapping of a rich man's daughter. Can she be found? With some lucky breaks the Continental detective solved the crime. Will there be a happy reunion? "A chip off the old block."
* "Women, Politics and Murder" tells about a building contractor shot dead on Pine Street. The Continental detective uncovers the facts in the shooting. There is a surprising confession that clears the widow. The Continental detective resolved his conflict with a witness.
* "Creeping Siamese" begins when a visitor to the agency drops dead from a stab wound. A shooting elsewhere may be a link to this crime. The Continental detective doesn't believe the story and confronts the visitors. The case is solved with a surprise confession.
* "Woman in the Dark" is too long, was it meant to be part of a novel? It isn't as good as the other stories even if a crime was solved.

1-0 out of 5 stars Hammett Novels
Considering I did not get the book I ordered...the Library of America edition...
this was a complete failure. I called the store and left a message I did not
get what I ordered, but no one contacted me. (I received a copy of Hammett's crime
novels, but not the Library of America version I ordered.

5-0 out of 5 stars "Dominions Illegal"
I wanted to seek out earlier authors of mystery and detective works; discover different or perhaps foundation writing styles; and therefore, the first place I thought of was "Library of America" suggestions.This one is an excellent example not only of the works of a fine writer, but of the work the LOA is doing for us as well.Another great big "Thank You" to them for preserving this kind of writing for us through their stamp of approval.

It's a collection of short stories by Dashiell Hammett of the 20's and 30's. I had heard of "The Thin Man" and of course, the "Maltese Falcon"; saw the movie but never read the books due to the simple fact that I have never read everything I wanted to, even yet.By reading a simple background regarding him, Mr. Hammett had been a Pinkerton Detective himself, thus undoubtedly providing himself with a wealth of source material without even having to flex his own imagination in the process.That truth is stranger than fiction has been a given since time primeval, and some of these stories have twists obviously derived from nothing short of actual human fumbles and foibles.

Hammett draws you in with the set up of the tale as the first facts - or manipulated semi-truths - are pulled out almost by sheer force from the people who need his help and have come to him for it; then proceeds to allow you to follow this professional investigator through his day; during the "shadow", the "background checking" the careful refusal to be swayed by details unrelated to cold, hard facts.

In the tangle of treachery, there's the sordid story of a maligned doctor who assumes the identity of another and finds himself in a mess no amount of wiggling can get him out of now;a tale of bank robbery done the simple way through the manipulation of a messenger by the wiles of a beautiful but dangerous woman; a trip across the Border of Mexico and back again, as the P.I. follows his nose (and the money) in arresting the flight of the criminal. And when he comes up with the bogus name of "Shine Wisher" in flash of inspiration under pressure, one immediately thinks of "Mrs. Doubtfire" for some reason!Across the years comes kindred spirit!

The original attempt at writing "The Thin Man" is included, and I thought it's formula was better than the one he ended up finishing.It stops mid-stream, since he scrapped it, but it's inclusion here was important in demonstrating his work.

The list goes on, each story stands alone in it's uniqueness; yet the same driving human frailties are firmly behind the underlying motives in each of them.It's a tribute to the resourcefulness and creativity of the human brain as well when it is shaped towards "the other side of the street"- so many finely tuned "different" criminal approaches yielding to the same vital desires for "Dominions Illegal" - and if as much effort had been placed in different channels toward better objectives.......but oh, well,We all know that - and it isn't why we pick up an crime or adventure novel.

In the censorship of the day, Hammett's characters are muted in explicity of acts performed; yet nothing is lost because the message is clear.People who became criminals and victims sought help and escape; it took sex, sin and money to fuel the fires, just as it does today.

It's an amazing work, surely based on fact as well as fiction - and I highly recommend it to those searching for excellent P.I. stories that are complex and varied, yet unlike some of the earlier authors, are easy to read because the details of the cases are spun in a straightforward style, though yielding none of their objective complexity; and also give nothing away until everybody is ready for it.After reading this, I also see how many of the current writers may have used his method as inspiration.Throughout, there is amusement running steadily just beneath the surface, as though the man himself can't believe the circumstances that drive people to such things or just how they believe they will get away with it.

Talent from long ago that wrote so sublimely for the entertainment of others may be gone, but should not be forgotten easily.

4-0 out of 5 stars Who was that detective?
Dashiel Hammett, along with Raymond Chandler, reinvented the detective genre in the 1930's and 1940's. They moved the genre away from the amateurish and simple parlor detectives that had previously dominated the genre to hard-boiled action characters who knew what was what and didn't mind taking a beating to get the bad guys. And along the way they produced some very memorable literary characters as well. Nick Charles, Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe are well known exemplars of the action detective. However, on the way to creating these literary works of art Hammett did journeyman's work at the detective genre in various pulp detective magazines. The series of stories produced here in one volume is from that period. Kudos to the Library of America.

The unnamed universal Continental Operative who is the central character of the stories is the prototype for Hammett's later named detectives. He has all the characteristics that mark a noir detective-tough, resourceful, undaunted, and incorruptible with a sense of honor to friend and foe alike that sets him apart from earlier detectives. Although the stories are mainly set in San Francisco the Op branches out to other locales in some of the stories but he keeps those same virtues. If you want mainly well-thought out stories that are also well-written this is for you. Additionally, and this may be as good a reason to read this book as the stories is an early version of his classic Thin Man. A very different take from the one we know and love.

5-0 out of 5 stars Large Collection of Hammett Stories in One Enduring Volume.
"Crime Stories and Other Writings" contains 24 short stories and 3 additional selections, arranged chronologically, which Dashiell Hammett wrote between 1923 and 1934. The stories all first appeared in pulp fiction magazines and span all but one year of the master of detective fiction's career. "Crime Stories" offers three stories which cannot be found in any other volume currently in print: "Arson Plus" and "Slippery Finger", which were first published in "Black Mask" magazine under the pseudonym Peter Collinson, and "Creeping Siamese". These stories all feature the Continental Op detective, an always nameless, stubbornly practical character whom Hammett based on a fellow detective from his days at Pinkerton Detective Agency, Jimmy Wright, and on himself. Nineteen of this book's stories feature the Continental Op, making it the largest collection of Op stories available. Among the best of these are "Zig Zags of Treachery", "The House on Turk Street", "The Whosis Kid", and "The Big Knockover". "The Girl with the Silver Eyes" is a follow-up to "The House on Turk Street", so be sure to read "Turk Street" first. "The Big Knockover" and "$106,000 Blood Money" were originally a two-parter, but were published as a single novella in 1943. As their styles differ somewhat, the stories are more successful when separated, as they are here. The story called "Women, Politics and Murder" in this volume has been called "Death on Pine Street" in other volumes; they're the same story. It's interesting to note that "Fly Paper" was inspired by two real cases of murder that employed the same peculiar method. Among the five stories that do not feature the Continental Op is the novella "Woman in the Dark". It's mediocre, but has often been published as a stand-alone volume.

The three "Other Writings" to which the book's title refers are: "The Thin Man: An Early Typescript", "From the Memoirs of a Private Detective", and"Suggestions to Detective Story Writers". The early version of "The Thin Man" was written in 1930, four years before the final product was to be published and bears only the most superficial resemblance to the now-famous sleuthing of Nick and Nora Charles. It's a good story that introduces a new detective, John Guild of the Associated Detective Bureau. That it was never finished is regrettable. "From the Memoirs of a Private Detective" is 29 short anecdotes and words of wisdom gained from Hammett's experience as a real detective, first published in "The Smart Set" in 1923. Some of these are very funny. In "Suggestions to Detective Story Writers", Hammett, frustrated by the abundant inaccuracies in detective fiction written by non-detectives, sets the record straight on 24 common errors. This was first published in "The New York Post" in 1930 and isinteresting, if out of date at this point. Editor Stephen Marcus has included a Chronology of the important events in Dashiell Hammett's life in the back of the book, as well as explanations of potentially cryptic slang terms and period references in "Notes", also found in the back.

With 24 short stories and 3 additional pieces of writing, "Crime Stories and Other Writings" is the most comprehensive single volume of Dashiell Hammett's short fiction available. Hats off to the Library of America for publishing 3 stories that are not currently found in any other volume. Unfortunately, you will still have to buy all four collections of Hammett's short stories to get all available stories: this one plus "Nightmare Town" from Knopf and "The Continental Op" and "The Big Knockover" from Vintage Crime. If you don't care to have every story, but would like a sizable sampling that includes some of Hammett's best, "Crime Stories and Other Writings" is an excellent choice. It contains the largest number of stories, presented in an attractive compact hardback volume and printed on thin acid-free paper, making it far more durable than other collections. This is a nice volume for both the casually curious and the addicted Dashiell Hammett fan. ... Read more

8. Dashiell Hammett : A Life
by Diane Johnson
 Paperback: Pages (1987-06-12)
list price: US$8.95 -- used & new: US$9.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0449902234
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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4-0 out of 5 stars Satisfactory Biography of Hammett with Cooperation of Family
Among the flurry of Dashiell Hammett biographies in the early to mid-1980s, "Dashiell Hammett: A Life" was written by Diane Johnson with the cooperation of Hammett's longtime companion Lillian Hellman and his daughters Jo Hammett Marshall and Mary Hammett Miller. Johnson has avoided extrapolating emotions and motivations behind Hammett's actions, but instead relied on his letters for insight, sometimes printing the letters in between her prose. The book follows Samuel Dashiell Hammett from his birth in Maryland in 1894 to his death in 1961. Since Hammett stopped writing books and stories in 1934, two thirds of this biography concerns his post-literary life. Johnson discusses the work for Pinkerton National Detective Agency that informed Hammett's writing, but not in much detail. His frequently failing health, alcoholism, and relationships with family and playwright Lillian Hellman are treated in depth, as are his trial, 6 months incarceration for refusing to say if he was a bail-fund trustee for the Civil Rights Congress, and testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the 1950s.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a great deal of information about Hammett's flamboyant lifestyle and politics after he stopped writing and comparatively little while he was a working stiff and struggling writer. He was seen and known by everyone in middle age, but his more productive years were either less documented or altogether simpler. Diane Johnson has peppered her prose with seldom published pieces of Hammett's writing: articles, advertising copy, book reviews, poetry, and many letters, which is informative, in itself, but doesn't affect the writing style favorably. And Johnson has an annoying habit of lapsing into a childish style in which his daughters describe Hammett from a child's point of view, calling him "Papa". The quality of the writing in "Dashiell Hammett: A Life" is mediocre, but Hammett fans will appreciate the information, and the book does benefit from the insights of Hammett's daughters. ... Read more

9. The Maltese Falcon
by Dashiell Hammett
Paperback: 217 Pages (1992-08)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$4.25
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679722645
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Sam Spade, a slightly shop-worn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics, stars in Hammett's detective fiction, a novel that has haunted 2 generations of readers.Amazon.com Review
Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett's archetypally tough San Francisco detective,is more noir than L.A.Confidential and more vulnerable than Raymond Chandler's Marlowe. In The Maltese Falcon, the best known of Hammett's Sam Spade novels(including The DainCurse and The GlassKey), Spade is tough enough to bluff the toughest thugs and hold offthe police, risking his reputation when a beautiful woman begs for hishelp, while knowing that betrayal may deal him a new hand in the nextmoment.

Spade's partner is murdered on a stakeout; the cops blame him for thekilling; a beautiful redhead with a heartbreaking story appears anddisappears; grotesque villains demand a payoff he can't provide; andeveryone wants a fabulously valuable gold statuette of a falcon, created astribute for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Who has it? And what will ittake to get it back? Spade's solution is as complicated as the motives ofthe seekers assembled in his hotel room, but the truth can be a coldcomfort indeed.

Spade is bigger (and blonder) in the book than in the movie, and hisMephistophelean countenance is by turns seductive and volcanic. Sam knowshow to fight, whom to call, how to rifle drawers and secrets withoutleaving a trace, and just the right way to call a woman "Angel" andconvince her that she is. He is the quintessence of intelligent cool, witha wise guy's perfect pitch. If you only know the movie, read the book. Ifyou're riveted by Chinatown or wonder where Robert B. Parker's Spenser gets hiscomebacks, read the master. --Barbara Schlieper ... Read more

Customer Reviews (152)

4-0 out of 5 stars An american (seedy) classic!
How good of a writer is Hammett? In the movie version of this classic '20's detective thriller, Peter Lorre steals the movie from Bogart in his role as the sneaky, sly, ambiguously sexual lowlife criminal Cairo.Lorre's performance is nuanced and edgy and brings a sexual edge to a film that was way beyond the social norms of the time.Reading this book after having basked in Lorre's brilliance for years, one finds that the sexual nuance, the ambiguity, the sending up of sexual norms in the face of a conservative society- are all here in Hammett's original work.Lorre was simply channeling the words of a master.
"The Maltese Falcon" is a gritty, sexual, violent, suspenseful, and at times quite funny, thriller.The infamous Sam Spade is the focus of the book- a private eye walking the fine line between being a self-preserving criminal himself and a outlaw extension of the law.He is not above lying, fighting, and loving in order to get what he needs, and though his ends usually align themselves with the law, the means are not as neat.
Without giving too much away, this story involves a mysterious statue- the Maltese Falcon- that a handful of shady characters are all seeking.Where alliances truly fall and who is telling Spade the truth and who is using him to further their own ends are the plot points that make this book a page turner.As can be expected, nothing is as it seems and it is up to Spade to figure out what is really going on.
If you have seen the movie, read the book too.It will be well worth your time.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Best of Hammett
Of the Hammett books I've read (Glass Key, Thin Man, and now this), this is by far the most engaging and contains the most interesting characters. It reads almost like a play, with the core cast of Spade, Effie, Brigid, Gutman, Joel Cairo, and Wilmer. All but Effie periodically regroup for a convention to push things forward and unravel the complex plot.

A couple of things that relate to the John Huston/Bogart movie version (actually the third movie made of the book, according to the notes to the book).

The final scene between Brigid O'Shaughnessy and Sam Spade is as good as it gets. Spade, driven maybe by cynicism to the core, sees his predicament as requiring either his taking the fall or his giving up O'Shaughnessy, who is the actual murderer. That she is in fact the murderer seems less important a factor than you'd think -- remember that Spade was just as happy to offer Wilmer as the fall guy whether he deserved it or not (mainly because he just didn't like him). He does decide of course to give her up, but it seems mainly because she never played straight with him, not because she committed the murders. That he (may) love her only matters, because it makes it hard to give her up -- an unavoidable pain in the circumstances.

The other thing is the surreal feel of Spade's character in the book. It's surreal because the character's mannerisms, e.g., letting his cigarette hang from his lower lip while he talks, are what we take to be Bogart's mannerisms -- Bogart the person, not Bogart as portraying Sam Spade. Spade was Bogart before Bogart was Spade.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hard-Boiled Yet Subtle - Superlative Detective Fiction
A girl in trouble. Deceit at every turn. An assortment of villains. And a hero who draws a fine, frayed line between professional loyalties and personal infidelities. The Maltese Falcon represents the hard-boiled detective mystery at its best.

The novel seethes with threats and danger, while dodging cliches of predictable action sequences and tough guy bravado. Surprisingly, both in the book and in the Humphrey Bogart version of the movie (There were two early film renderings, both forgettable.), protagonist Sam Spade exudes an air of menace without ever drawing a gun. He calibrates his dialogue to the audience and situation, knowing when to talk and when to hold back. Best of all, he never lets anyone else see all of his cards. This gives him the maneuvering room he needs to solve the mystery of the falcon's value while smoking out the murderer behind the case.

Dashiell Hammett, himself a former private investigator and Pinkerton man, translates the gritty reality of crime and its surroundings into a first class novel made immortal by the Bogart movie whose best dialogue was pure Hammett through and through. Today as back then, the Maltese Falcon stands in stark contrast to the heretofore criminal genius stories that gave us Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. With Sam Spade, we get a tough guy who has more depth and resolve than visible on the surface. Antagonists are ruthless and no strangers to bloodshed. Their plans may be sophisticated, but they aren't complex. People get killed for getting in the way. They don't get talked to death. The adventure comes in discovering all of this for ourselves, making this a classic detective story without peer.

5-0 out of 5 stars "Don't be too sure I'm as crooked as I'm supposed to be."
One of those rare and flawless novels whose merits and satisfactions seem magically to multiply with successive readings. Ditto Dash's stunning Red Harvest by the way, which if anything packs an ever heftier punch each go-round. Still, The Maltese Falcon springs downright eternal and I'd be greatly surprised if in a couple of centuries from now amateur readers still weren't getting the biggest bang out of the priceless palaver of that pleasant blond satan, Samuel Spade. Must be about a dozen times now over something like twenty odd years that I've read this crisp and crafty caper and not a single line yet has let me down or failed to pay off. Dash may not be quite as hilariously snarky, sharply incisive or lyrically bittersweet as that colossal mahubba bubba waiting right round the corner--there was always ever going to be just the one and only Raymond Chandler--but he can stop you dead in your tracks just the same. After Sam is woken up at five minutes past two in the AM by a phone call informing him that his partner Miles Archer just got plugged there's this little sentence: "He scowled at the telephone on the table while his hands took from beside it a packet of brown papers and a sack of Bull Durham." Fair enough you suppose but then Hammett slips in this startling paragraph:

"Spade's thick fingers made a cigarette with deliberate care, sifting a measured quantity of tan flakes down into curved paper, spreading the flakes so that they lay equal at the ends with a slight depression in the middle, thumbs rolling the paper's inner edge down and up under the outer edge as forefingers pressed it over, thumbs and fingers sliding to the paper cylinder's ends to hold it even while tongue licked the flap, left forefinger and thumb pinching their end while right forefinger and thumb smoothed the damp seam, right forefinger and thumb twisting their end and lifting the other to Spade's mouth."

Can't and won't speak for any of you punters out there but me I like that just fine. Or what about that Flitcraft yarn Sam tells Brigid while they're waiting for Cairo to show up? Now there's a sneaky and pleasingly teasing little pebble in the gumshoe of any attentive reader's mind. Then of course the Dash can crack you up too when you least expect it. Here's Sam in his crowded apartment late in the novel, trying to wangle a fall-guy out of Gutman and associates and getting more than a little exasperated with the assembled oddballs: "He scowled at Gutman and burst out irritably: 'Jesus God! is this the first thing you guys ever stole? You're a fine lot of lollipops! What are you going to do next--get down and pray?'" That's almost as good as Spade telling Casper Gutman earlier that a crippled newsie took Wilmer's pistols away from him! I guess you can't really talk about The Maltese Falcon either without mentioning John Huston's stupendous movie version so all I'll say is the 1941 film adaptation by Huston IS stupendous. Huston wrote AND directed this screen classic and what's more the movie was his directorial debut which gives you some idea of why this dude is generally revered by a slew of folks. Plus that astonishing cast he had to work with! Magnificent movie, any way you cut it. So by all means watch this wonderful film repeatedly but do yourself a favour and read Hammett's deft and dandy little book an equal number of times. This particular dingus first soared off the page roundabout 1930 and is assuredly flying high still.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book
I read this for a class and it was really great, but I'm biased because I love film noir. The writing style is fantastic, reads more like a movie than a book. ... Read more

10. Lost Stories (The Ace Performer Collection series)
by Dashiell Hammett
Hardcover: 352 Pages (2005-09-01)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$8.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0972589813
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Dashiell Hammett, the bestselling creator of Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon, and The Thin Man, was one of the America’s most entertaining authors, and one of its most influential. Even so, many of Hammett’s stories—including some of his best—have been out of the reach of anyone but a handful of scholars and collectors—until now.

Lost Stories rescues 21 long-lost Hammett stories, all either never published in an anthology or unavailable for decades. Stories range from the first fiction Hammett ever wrote to his last. All stories have been restored to their original versions, replacing often-wholesale cuts with the original text for the first time.

Readers of Hammett's famous mysteries will be surprised by the variety of stories here. They include Hammett's first detective fiction, humorous satires, adventure yarns, a sensitive autobiographical piece, and a tale Ellery Queen promises "is one of the most startling stories you have ever read."

For each story, Hammett researcher Vince Emery tells how Hammett’s life shaped the story and how the story affected his life. Emery’s comments reveal surprises about Hammett’s life not covered in any other book.

To round out this celebration of Hammett, three-time Edgar Award winner Joe Gores has written an introduction describing how Hammett influenced literature, movies, television, and Gores’ own life.

Lost Stories is the first title in The Ace Performer Collection, a new series of books by and about Dashiell Hammett, crowned "the ace performer" by his disciple Raymond Chandler. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars Half bio, half collection
This book is a literary biography of Hammett's writing career embedded with a collection of his "lost stories", among which are published items that aren't "stories" at all, but pieces which may be only a few paragraphs in length.Few of the actual stories are typical of the detective fiction Hammett is known for."Ber-Bulu", for example, is a fine yarn but it comes off like a Jack London South Seas story to this reader.

I recommend this book for Hammett fanatics and completists only, but they will be rewarded with the author's knowledgable analysis of Hammett's style and common tropes in addition to Hammett's material, much of which hasn't seen the light of day since its original publication.

5-0 out of 5 stars Dashiell Hammett's descriptive powers
It is a pleasure to read so much about the author's life,
as well as, stories from the start of his writing.It's
all there, the surprise ending and economy of expression
that must have inspired Hemmingway.In a few words he
created distinct personalities.(not all of them pleasant)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great reading.
I came to read Hammett after working my way through Raymond Chandler.I have read most of Hammett's novels and loved them.This collection presents some of his short stories, some I guess not found easily.What makes this book stand out for me was the commentary by the author.He adds context to the stories from Hammett's life and points out features of the stories one would easily overlook.The book is not a biography as such but the author's comments certainly brought Hammett's life and times to life for me and I enjoyed it so much, I have read it several times over the last few years.The stories and the commentary seem fresh each time.

4-0 out of 5 stars All Right for Hammett Fans
The `Background' by Vince Emery says this book has 21 Hammett stories that were never published in a book or are otherwise unavailable (p.1). The commentary gives the events in Hammett's life. Emery created the book he wanted to read (p.2). Hammett's stories reflect his life (p.3). The `Introduction' by Joe Gores tells of his life as a writer and private detective. He wrote the novel "Hammett" that was made into a film. Hammett's work influenced a lot of other writers (p.15). He quotes Raymond Chandler as to the importance of Hammett (p.18). Gores traces the Hammett influence on TV series (pp.29-30). "A Rough Start" tells about Hammett's life around the Great War. [The Spanish Flu was so named because it was first reported in Spain. Spain was at peace and had no censorship of the press like the warring powers (p.35).] "1922, New Writer" lists "Hammettisms" the recurring style of Hammett. They are all in "The Barber and His Wife".

Hammett's "The Road Home" went against the traditions of detective fiction (pp.76-77). The 8 innovations are listed (pp.82-83). ["Spicy slang"?] `Part Three' contains 8 stories that show Hammett's earliest writings. "The Green Elephant" is an interesting and ironic story. [O. Henry?] "Laughing Masks" shows more skill as a writer. `Part Seven' tells of Hammett's life in the 1930s. Hammett seems to have gambled away much of his earnings. [Some say gamblers really want to lose their money because of a subconscious hatred of money. Would that apply here?] Hammett's drinking was irresponsible (p.290).

In January 1936 Hammett had a "mental and physical breakdown" (p.292). Could this have affected his mind and explain his later actions and loss of writing skills? Hammett was involved with the Screen Writer's Guild in its battle against the mob-run and corporate favored IATSE. Hammett became a supporter of Stalin's policies; his personal life had problems (p.297). Was Hammett embarrassed by the Hitler-Stalin pact? No, he just reversed himself (p.301). Then he flip-flopped again in 1941 (p.305). ["Sam Spade" knew the value of putting on an appearance, but he had a purpose in that.] Did Hammett join the Army to make a break with his past or as a penitent?

One effect of the suit against Hammett was the ruling that a writer owned the rights for sequels to their stories (p.339). His last years were spent in poverty and poor health. He died of lung cancer (smoking) and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Hammett's works are still popular today, unlike the then better selling "S.S. Van Dine". Could this be due to the simplicity of the stories? Sam Spade wants to find out who killed Miles Archer. He can rule out Floyd, Joel, Wilmer, and Casper. Sherlock Holmes said that when you eliminated the likely suspects the unlikely suspect was the guilty party (or words to that effect). There is a similar surprise in "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd". [Did that story influence Hammett?]

4-0 out of 5 stars Hybrid Hammett Biography and Collection of Long-Lost Work.
"Lost Stories" is a compilation of 21 long-unavailable pieces of writing by Dashiell Hammett crossed with a biography by Vince Emery that follows Hammett's life and career in between the stories. I say "pieces of writing" because only about a dozen of them could be called "stories". The pieces range from one-paragraph vignettes to the 41-page story "Laughing Masks". All originally appeared in magazines between 1922 and 1941 and have not been available in recent decades -though "Night Shade" also appears in the "Vintage Hammett" sampler. I recommend "Lost Stories" to Hammett enthusiasts and scholars, not to casual fans. Combining a biography of Hammett with assorted obscure pieces of writing gives less informed readers a misleading picture of Hammett's work, because his best and most iconic work is absent.

Mystery writer Joe Gores introduces "Lost Stories" with discussion of Hammett's influence on 20th century American writers, his style, and themes. The bulk of the book divides Hammett's life into 8 parts, introduced with biographical essays by Vince Emery. Short stories and other writings are included chronologically, in the appropriate sections, often followed by critical analysis by Emery. The first and last sections contain no stories, but relate Hammett's life before he started writing and after World War II. Emery's essays include some info that was new to me in spite of my having read several Hammett biographies. Some of the essays contain too much hyperbole for my taste, however, and the conversions of Hammett's earnings to current dollar values are exaggerated. Emery may be using the unskilled wage rate to convert the values instead of comparing purchasing power using the CPI or GDP Deflator. To estimate current purchasing power, multiply 1930s dollars by 10 or 15.

If you want to make a beeline for the stories without wading through the rest, these are my picks: "The Barber and His Wife", because it's the first story Hammett wrote. The best crime stories in this book are "The Sardonic Star of Tom Doody", "The Joke on Eloise Morey", "Laughing Masks", "The Green Elephant", and "Itchy". Two very disparate stories about a writer are "The Dimple" and "This Little Pig", which comments on a screenwriter's dilemma. "Ber-Bulu" takes place in the 1890s on a Philippine island and is Hammett's only period story. ... Read more

11. The Continental Op
by Dashiell Hammett
Paperback: 352 Pages (1989-07-17)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679722580
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
The Continental Op, the prototype for generations of tough-guy detectives, unravels a murder with too many clues and tangles with a crooked-eared gunman in these stories. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (22)

5-0 out of 5 stars Grit and Noir From the 1920s
I first came across Dashiell Hammett at uni - we were introduced to his writing in English Literature.He is famous for writing The Maltese Falcon.This book contains a series of short stories - some linked - about the Continental Detective Agency.The character is the Continental Op.There are big ugly guys, gorgeous treacherous beauties and everything in between.The matter of fact voice of the narrator is jaded and he's seen it all before.He almost always works out what is about to happen before it does - but sometimes he is caught out.Great language - lots of slang - and a wonderful evocation of the underworld of the 1920s.

5-0 out of 5 stars Classic if Lesser Known Hammett
Hammett is known best for the Maltese Falcon, of course. But although Sam Spade is iconic, the nameless detective hero of this series (a shorter, pudgier and more humorous op for the Continental Detective Agency) is far more likable and enjoyable, in my opinion. The short stories here cover the Op's various adventures in locating bad dames, dangerous crooks, and getting a good drink and a meal. While the settings are in the distant past of the 1930's, the observations on human character still ring true. If you like Nero Wolfe stories, I think you will enjoy this series as well.

5-0 out of 5 stars This Cat Doesn't Need a Name
Before making my pronouncement on this book, THE CONTINENTAL OP, it is necessary that I specify exactly what books by Hammett I have already read.I have read three of his five novels (THE MALTESE FALCON, THE THIN MAN, and THE DAIN CURSE), the novella WOMAN IN THE DARK, and the short story collection NIGHTMARE TOWN.It is against that background that I state that this book, featuring Hammett's portly and nameless detective from the Continental Detective Agency, is the best book by Hammett that I have read.

Anyone familiar with Hammett already knows that the Continental Op was Hammett's most common literary detective.What makes the Op so great is that he is simply the antithesis of what we have come to expect from such characters.Sherlock Holmes' logic?Well sure, the Op has smarts.Lots of `em, in fact, which get him out of pickles all the time.But so do his fists, which pack quite a wallop for a fat guy.Sam Spade is debonair, and so much the ladies man that he was sleeping with his partner's wife before the poor guy got whacked.The Op?He doesn't seem likely to get a date anytime soon.

But, wow, is the Op one great gumshoe.The Op shines throughout the stories in this book, even more so given the first-person narration.And the stories are Hammett to the core -excellent thrillers, criminals that are oddly compelling despite being the scum of the earth.And the women?Hammett couldcreate dames so alluring that the reader still wants to hook up with one even after knowing that she would have you hang for a crime she herself committed, and not lose a wink of sleep over it.

It is simply impossible to overstate how good the stories in this collection are.They are masterpieces of noir, even by the high standards of Hammett himself.

3-0 out of 5 stars Seven Continentl Op stories
These are some of the earliest of Hammet's stories featuring the unnamed 'Continental Op'. The stories are:

The Tenth Clew
The Golden Horseshoe
The House in Turk Street
The Girl With the Silver Eyes
The Whosis Kid
The Main Death
The Farewell Murder

Most of them are good, but the only one that approaches the excellence of the the Continental Op novels ('Red Harvest' and 'The Dain Curse')is 'the Main Murder'. In this story Hammet displays his talent for creating memorable secondary characters and crackling dialogue.

5-0 out of 5 stars Seven Stories From the Twenties
The "Introduction" is by Professor of English Literature Steven Marcus. Marcus mentions Hammett's marriage, but not the name of his wife and daughters. Why did Hammett become a Stalinist Communist (p.xii)? Hammett certainly knew about organizations and their faults. The story of "Charles Pierce" may be a clue about a person who changed their name and location but not their habits (like Miss Wonderly). "Flitcraft" may be his derogatory term for "alienists" (p.xv). The plot of these stories is summarized: something unusual happens, and somebody will pay money to investigate so the facts will be discovered. The Continental Op (C-Op) is a corporate employee, not an independent businessman like "Sam Spade" or "Philip Marlowe".

Amendment XVIII gave the Federal government the power to control alcohol. It was the Volstead Act which outlawed the production and sale of cider, beer, and wine as well as liquor, but allowed people to buy and drink alcohol (p.xxii). Hammett's idea of organized gangs running society is another word for a ruling class; it is reality, not a notion (p.xxiii). The ban against collecting a reward (p.xxv) is to prevent framing people for a crime. Marcus questions the use of "violence" (p.xxvii); that is the use of lawful force. This "Introduction" isn't important, it is the stories that matter. Hammett knew there were political parties behind a candidate, bosses behind the parties, and wealthy individuals behind the corporations that control the political bosses. "Mr. Smith" went to Washington to find this out.

In "The Tenth Clew" the C-Op shows up to meet a client, but the client has been murdered. The tenth clue is to question the other nine clues. The C-Op learns something on the ferry from Oakland. [Does the last paragraph contradict lawyer Abernathy?]
In "The Golden Horseshoe" the C-Op is assigned to find a missing husband. He does, but when he returns he finds a dead client. The C-Op returns to Tijuana and runs a bluff to shake up the suspects. There is a surprise ending.
"The House on Turk Street" is visited by the C-Op when he is looking for a man. An old couple served him tea and cookies, and then a surprise. While the situation becomes unpleasant, the conflicting interests of the people there allow the C-Op to triumph.
"The Girl With the Silver Eyes" is about a woman who goes missing after closing out her bank account. Her boyfriend is heartbroken, then he disappears. The C-Op figures out the scam and traces the missing persons to Halfmoon Bay for the shocking end of this story.
"The Whosis Kid" begins with a rub-out attempt. The C-Op follows one man to learn more about him. This results in meeting a woman who is hiding. Other men come to her rooms and the story emerges from the conflicts. The police show up at the end.
"The Main Death" was a robbery by two who got clean away from the apartment building. The C-Op talked to Main's boss to learn more about him. After learning about other people the C-Op is able to recover the missing money. The ending will surprise and shock you.
"The Farewell Murder" has the C-Op traveling to rural Farewell to guard a millionaire from an old enemy. When this man is found murdered there are two likely suspects, with perfect alibis. The murder is solved for another surprising ending.
... Read more

12. Red Harvest
by Dashiell Hammett
Paperback: 224 Pages (1989-07-17)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$6.08
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679722610
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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One of Hammett's masterpieces, this is the most vivid and realistic picture of gang war ever written--and one of the most exciting of all suspense novels. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (56)

4-0 out of 5 stars Non-stop wall to wall action
The 2007 film "Shoot Em Up" kicks off with an exhilarating 10 minute sequence that finds the movie's lone hero not only battling and killing a half dozen trained killers, but also finds him delivering a baby and cutting the umbilical cord with a well-aimed bullet.It is a rollercoaster opening and when the credits finally appear, it is with a sigh of relief.But no- the credits are short and within minutes, not only has the rollercoaster ride resumed, but it is now faster and more dangerous.
Such is the impact of this western style, shoot-em-up detective novel by Hammett.It starts with blood being spilled, continues with blood being spilled, and ends with blood being spilled. Continental Op detective travels to an on-the-verge of lawlessness town in Montana to help the town boss settle a score, and finds himself in the middle of four or five warring factions all trying settle their own scores.Lies fly as often as the bullets and not only does the detective have no idea what is going on, but neither do we, other than the fact that any new character that appears after page ten will probably be dead before too long.Romance, sex, gangsters, arson, jail break-outs, extortion- it's all here and it's all intriguing and it all makes for a book that once picked up, will not be put down easy (unfortunately, the same cannot be said for half the thugs in this classic).

5-0 out of 5 stars Astounding Novel
Dashiell Hammett was maybe the earliest hard-core mystery writer, and this novel is tops.An earlier reviewer said "blunt wit"--that's dead right.Hammett can do more with fewer words than any writer I know--poetry but you never notice it.Humor follows horror follows betrayal.

His detective is unusual in belonging to a Pinkerton-type organization, and in other stories cooperates with the police, but here he systematically isolates himself by breaking all rules, betraying one ally after another, refusing to clear himself of suspicion, and generally inciting mass murder.By the end he's driven away colleagues, his employer, gangster allies, his girlfriend [who he apparently has killed], and any semilegitimate forces such as the police.He's very conscious he's doing this, and explicitly describes the bloodlusting cultural corruption that he is reveling in, feeding, steering, and using to clash and destroy itself.He starts counting up the killings at one point, gets up to eighteen or 20, clearly is leaving some collateral damage out, but on he goes.Initially, Hammett throws in examples of business corruption, police corruption, and gangsterism as everyday asides, but then as his detective undermines the prior balance of power, 'normal corruption' breaks down and the whole town feels the anarchy.

Hammett remarkably demonstrates the power of accounting skills:his detective tells one story of a murder one time and causes one mob war, then gives a rival account to cause another murder.He doesn't know the truth, but while searching for it he raises doubt that truth may even exist, as one more account emerges to fit every new cumulated and reinterpreted set of facts.Thus, he keeps turning the idea of 'mystery story' back on itself into a whirling cesspool.

Hammett throws in initial examples of business corruption, police corruption, and gangsterism as asides, but then as his detective undermines the normal balance of power, the whole town feels the anarchy.

4-0 out of 5 stars We've Seen These Characters Before
I've always been a big fan of The Maltese Falcon and other noir classics, but I'd never read a Dashiell Hammett novel. When I saw Red Harvest mentioned in a magazine article, I thought, "Why not start here?"

Though Red Harvest is supposed to be set in a Western town called Personville, it feels like it's set in a big, hard-luck city. The only place big enough to fill the bill in 1929 was probably Denver. The nameless protagonist, a detective with the Continental Detective Agency in San Francisco, is called only the Continental Op(erative). The book has a huge cast of shady characters that are a bit hard to keep track of. The strangest thing about the book, though, it that it is completely passionless--almost to the point of being enervated. There are dozens of murders and ganglang killings throughout, but each one is described as coolly and bloodlessly as the next. Obviously, this coolness gives a really hard edge to the emotionless Continental Op, which I'm sure was Hammett's intention, but it also make it hard to feel anything for anyone.

Nevertheless, the dialog is smart, snappy and witty. That's the best reward for reading the book.

I admitted that I hadn't read any other of Hammett's novels so I wonder about his range of characterization, but if you've read (or seen) The Maltese Falcon, you've already been introduced to the main characters in Red Harvest: The Continental Op is a dead ringer for Sam Spade (actor Humphrey Bogart) in The Maltese Falcon. Likewise, Dinah Brand for Brigid O'Shaughnessy (actress Mary Astor), bootlegger Max Thaler for Joel Cairo (actor Peter Lorre), corpulent police Chief Noonan for Kasper Gutman (actor Sydney Greenstreet). They're all here--and more--and they're all part of the fun of reading Red Harvest.

4-0 out of 5 stars Explosively entertaining
I have always enjoyed mystery and crime novels, but I can't say I'm an avid fan of either genre.I've read a fair amount of Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe as well as some Victorian Gothic fiction.I've read some Agatha Christie and other early/mid-20th century mystery/crime novels.I'd paid attention in history class and had a basic idea of life in and around the Prohibition era in America and the world of gangsters and bootleggers.And despite all of that, I wasn't entirely prepared for what to expect from Red Harvest.

The general style of the novel was intriguing from the onset.We're dropped into a gritty first person narration from an unnamed character as he wanders the streets of `Poisonville' to meet some unknown client and then, later, to solve the murder of that client.

I really enjoyed the way the details of the story were presented.The writing was very detailed and the narrator conveyed his thoughts and perceptions very well.With the tight first person narration, the mystery for the characters was just as much a mystery to us.Even simple details such as names and places seemed to come on a "need to know basis."Thus, there existed the mystery of the crime to be solved, as well as the mystery of what details were being withheld from the reader and why.

As the story progressed, I grew attached to the protagonist as a cynical hard-nosed detective of the sort who "always gets his man."When he solved the murder, I was impressed by the logic involved and by his way of seeing through the prejudices and smokescreens around the case.

The way the case was solved was quite unlike a Holmesian solution in that there weren't any telltale clues at the crime scene or analysis of fingerprints or paper fibers.Instead, the Continental Op made a logical supposition and then through manipulative and threatening speech worked enough of a confession out of the killer to close the case.It reminded me of the intimidation tactics seen in so many of the crime movies and TV shows today.

I expected the confession to be incorrect since so much of the novel was left unread.Instead of letting the murder unravel, the plot took a different turn that I rather enjoyed.The corrupt "head" of Poisonville asks the Op to clean up the town and gives him carte blanche to do so.

The resulting manipulative method of setting crook against crook was a lot of fun.What was interesting to me, as the city grew more and more corrupt, was that our protagonist had become an antihero.Instead of the altruistic detectives of other early crime novels, the Continental Op was secretive, manipulative, vengeful and dishonest.He had an end goal in mind and he planned to achieve it at any cost.While he wasn't actually running a bootlegging or gambling operation himself, he largely became as corrupt as those he hunted.He compromised those around him who may be innocent or, at least, less corruptible.

Finally, he fell beyond the point of no return and concluded his downward spiral.At that point, I had no idea whether or not the story would allow the Op to be redeemed or if he would simply succeed in cleaning up Poisonville and then leave it a tainted and broken operative, ready to take his cynicism to the next case.While the Op did end the novel a bit more hardened and broken than when he started, the resolution did lighten some of his burden and return his respectability.

I definitely enjoyed my experience with this book.Looking to the few books I've read from the Victorian era, I can see numerous stark differences.The dialog was much harsher than that of a Sherlock Holmes story and the violence was more over the top and graphic than the Victorian Gothic novels I've read.The mystery was tight and well organized, but the clues were extracted more through force and intimidation than through insight and deduction.

What is even more striking to me is the pacing of the novel.While it did have vivid descriptions and various scenes of thoughtful internal monologue, the pacing was much quicker than the average 19th century mystery or adventure novel.While the story did expose many sides of human nature, the narrative didn't pause for lengthy paragraphs reflecting on the motivations or psyches of the characters or of society as a whole.Any explicit analysis was concise and well integrated into the peppy, fast-paced world in which the action revolved.

The book's first purpose seemed to be one of escapism and it does provide an exciting escape from a mundane life.The heightened action and quickened pace would coincide well with the quickly expanding world of the post-war Americans watching the world zip past them.Added to the speed is the vivid portrayal of the exciting and frightening criminal underworld which puts a human face on the stories people may hear about on the radio or speculate about as they drink their own Prohibition scotch and think about where it came from.

This book opened new storytelling elements and devices that are still being used today.It seems to create a new realistic novel that allowed it to show the darker underbelly of the world without flinching.It also provided a darker antihero who ends the novel only partially redeemed and yet more human and relatable.

Likely somewhat shocking at first, I suspect this sort of adventure was quickly accepted by the younger for its fast pace and "real" portrayal of the tenuous world of the 1920s.The older generation may have found it too shocking and may even have condemned its graphic and violent content.I can see the crime story of the 1920s as being a huge boundary pusher in terms of content and style in the same way that violent radio and then television, movies and eventually video games would continue to do over the next century.The shock value would be titillating to the younger crowd, intriguing to the middle generation, and hateful and offensive to the older generation engrained in the classic values of days gone by.

4 stars

5-0 out of 5 stars I Lived in Poisonville & Hammett Nails It
The narrator is the kind of carefully observant man who notices the woman with a "big ripe mouth" hasn't rouged her lips evenly. A distinct staccato poetry infuses Hammett's writing. His description of a prizefight: "Smoke. Stink. Heat. Noise" (74). Beautiful ugly. I've known burly guys like Continental Op, the stocky Ernest Borgnine thrown in, and they talked like this, down to their memories of Butte, Montana, and her infamous soiled-doves of the 1950s.

Hammett's is a landscape of dark imagination, the hard industrial West. The recent film noir fantasy homage "Dark City" imparts Butte's rough glamour. In Poisonville, Hammett used Montana's Butte, Walkerville, Anaconda, and the extinct Meaderville. Written in 1929, the pages are awash in booze, though the Prohibition (1920-1933) was still official.

A perfect moment, "I...went up to my room for a shot of Scotch. I would have rather been cold sober, but I wasn't. If the night held more work for me I didn't want to go to it with alcohol dying in me." Again, poetry.

Having lived in Butte for years, I heard many stories of bootleggers and Butte's wild past, and knew folks whose illegal stills sometimes blew-up their cellars. Like the narrator, Dashiell Hammett worked in Butte for a detective agency, and the realism of his experiences shines through. "Red Harvest" swims in outlaw Scotch, twisted humor, and delicious authenticity. Many try to imitate, few can capture this man's style. ... Read more

13. The Big Knockover: Selected Stories and Short Novels
by Dashiell Hammett
Paperback: 480 Pages (1989-07-17)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679722599
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Nine short stories, many featuring the Continental Op. Includes the unfinished novel, Tulip, and a memoir by Lillian Hellman. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (16)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Hammett stories
I love Dashiell Hammett, and this is a terrific collection of some of his short stories.They mostly star his nameless protagonist, the Continental Op, a determined and insightful detective, and they are generally based in or around San Francisco.Almost every one is a stellar example of Hammett's hard-boiled prose and cynical sense of humor.Occasionally, the scene changes, like "Corkscrew," which is a bizarre Western noir that has the Continental Op shuffling off to a dusty Arizona border town to bring some Law to the area, or "This King Business," in which the Op involves himself in a complicated political revolution in a tiny fictional European country.I found these stories to be weaker than most of the others, since the Op is such an urban character who gets by on his underworld connections and intimacy with the geographical and social/moral landscapes of San Francisco.Hammett also has a bit of a misfire in "Tulip," which other reviewers have said is an incomplete novel that never should have been published, so I didn't feel any guilt when I skipped the second half of it (in the first half, Hammett writes with, oddly enough, Flannery O'Connor's accent, and he tries some ambitious storytelling techniques that are not well-executed).

This is not the best place for a reader to be introduced to Hammett - each story is brilliant, but reading one after another can get a little overwhelming, and a new reader is better off starting with The Maltese Falcon or The Thin Man.For a fan of Hammett, though, these stories are essential, and I highly recommend them.

4-0 out of 5 stars Twenty Detective Stories
Nightmare Town, Dashiell Hammett

William F. Nolan wrote the `Introduction' to this largest collection of Hammett's short stories. It gives a short history of Hammett's life and problems. None of these short stories in "The Continental Op" or "The Big Knock-Over" are included here. Six of these stories are in the "Crime Stories & Other Writings". Nolan wrote three novels with a character named "Dashiell Hammett": "The Black Mask Murders", "The Marble Orchard", and "Sharks Never Sleep". You can read echoes of these stories in Hammett's later novels. Raymond Chandler also used some of his short stories for his later novels.

"Nightmare Town" is the small hamlet in the desert that mines and transports a chemical. There is trouble in this rough boom town from corruption and crime. Is there an incredible amount of horror here? "House Dick" tells of a short-time job in a hotel of the better sort. Then three dead men are found in a closet, they weren't robbed. There were no clues, but they got a list of hotel guests to investigate. "Ruffian's Wife" is a story about a man who travels to foreign lands but leaves his wife behind. One day a man comes looking for him. "The Man Who Killed Dan Odoms" escaped from jail and stole a horse to carry him far away. Will they catch him? "Night Shots" were fired at a sick and wealthy old man. A detective is hired to stay and watch. The old man had many enemies. Another shooting wounded his nurse. The mystery is solved.

"Zigzags of Treachery" begins with a mysterious suicide. But the wife was arrested for the murder. Her attorney hires a detective. The truth is discovered at last. Then there is a final act of treachery. "The Assistant Murderer" describes a job for a private detective to find out who is following a young woman. This leads to incredible complications. "His Brother's Keeper" is about boxing. Does one fighter need more experience? How will he do against a better boxer? "Two Sharp Knives" tells about the arrest of a man wanted for murder. After his suicide in jail they learn the wanted circular was a forgery. This man's wife had earlier disappeared without a trace. Now she shows up. "Death on Pine Street" (or "Women, Politics and Murder") tells about the shooting death of a politically connected contractor. If no one was seen at the crime scene who did it?

"The Second-Story Angel" is about a failed burglary in a writer's apartment. Can a burglar provide material for new stories? "Afraid of a Gun" is the story of that man and what he learned one day in the street of a rural town. Was it too late? "Tom, Dick or Harry" tells of an investigation of a home robbery. The robber disappeared somewhere in the building. Can he be caught? "One Hour" is about a stolen car that ran down and killed a man. Can a detective solve the crime quickly by discovering the motive? "Who Killed Bob Teal?" is about the death of a Continental detective. He was shadowing a real estate developer suspected of embezzlement. After gathering information they solved the crime.

"A Man Called Spade" received a call from a client, but Sam found him dead when he arrived. The investigation solves the crime. "Too Many Have Lived" is about the search for a missing poet. When his body is found Sam Spade questions the acquaintances to solve the crime. "They Can Only Hang You Once" begins when Sam Spade tries to meet Timothy Binnett. There are two shooting before Spade solves the mystery. "A Man Called Thin" is a private detective called to a robbery for an insurance company. After questioning the witnesses they quickly solve the crime. "The First Thin Man" was the start of a novel that was later re-written in its final form. It is similar to the short stories, but has no ending.

4-0 out of 5 stars as an outsider exploring this genre...
I'm new to hard-Boiled Detective Fiction, so as an outsider looking in for the first time, there's a decent chance this review will invoke tons of 'not helpful' clicks because I probably don't "get it."

This is a collection of short stories, featuring an unnamed narrator known to fans as The Continental Op. (The exception is an unfinished novel fragment called 'Tulip'.) The stories range from everything from missing person recovery, cracking a blackmail scheme, to even a parody of a western.

The stories are fast-paced, probably because of the medium--each was published in a pulp magazine that almost certainly had a word limit. I also have to wonder at the intended target audience for these: if I had a guess, I'd say young adult males looking for a 'quick fix' action/adventure tale. I have a hunch that these are not stories one reads for the 'plot', in part because the plots are one of the weakest elements in these. Almost all rely on heavily contrived 'coincidences' that seem far-divorced from "real life." I have a low threshold for such stuff, but I'm willing to get over it. Indeed, I found myself enjoying these more once I decided to 'turn my brain off' and just go with the flow.

Hammett's prose didn't work for me; it was so sparse and description-free that it kind of reminded me of Hemingway. However, the best part about these books (I thought) was the hard-boiled street slang that permeates the dialogue and narration. Fun (and often funny!) stuff!

This is not "literature," but I don't think it's trying to be. I don't have much to compare this to, but I have a hunch these are really good "for what they are," especially when you put it in the context of having been written almost 90 years ago. That's why I'll give it 4 stars.

I wouldn't want a steady diet of these, but they're kind of fun as distractionary reading, especially since this collection is all quick-flip short stories. I might give one of his full-length novels a try some time in the future.

5-0 out of 5 stars "I cocked both barrels before I stepped outdoors."
In her introduction, Lillian Hellman tells us that she knows that she's going against Hammett's wishes by editing and introducing this collection. He apparently didn't want these works collected and republished. I'm actually pretty glad that she (and the publisher) made this choice, because these Continental Op stories are wonderful.

Stolid detectives, lungers, puzzles and dames-- Hammett wrote some of the best tough guy fiction going. This is a great collection of that fiction. Whether it is a relatively simple puzzle story like The Gutting of Couffignal or the tantalizingly incomplete "Tulips" Hammett was a master writer. Sometimes I get the feeling that his best work is in the more strictly genre pieces-- but that may simply be because he never got the time to work out the ideas that he was reaching for in "Tulips".

By the way, it's popular to hate "$106,000 Blood Money", the sequel to the title story. While I grant you that it isn't as strong as "The Big Knockover" itself, it really isn't all that awful. I realize that is not much of a compliment, but I kind of liked it. The little memoir of Hammett that Hellman wrote in the beginning is also nice. But then I always enjoy Hellman-- grumpy old half-truthful Stalinist as she may well have been.

If you don't know Hammett, then I might begin with Red Harvest (my favorite!) or the more standard collection of The Continental Op stories. But they're all great-- this collection included.

5-0 out of 5 stars San Francisco Op
This is clearly the best writing about the person, place and environment of the "City." Hammett did all his great work in twelve years -- I know of no author this could be said of. Outstanding use of the street talk of the day. He never wrote as smooth as Raymond Chandler, yet Chandler admired Hammett a great deal.

This writing is amazing, authentic work.Some say Hemingway stole the brevity of Hammett ... Read more

14. The Dain Curse
by Dashiell Hammett
Paperback: 240 Pages (1989-07-17)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$7.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679722602
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
One of the Continental Op's most bizarre cases, as he is faced with Miss Gabrielle Dain Leggett, who has an unfortunate effect on the people around her - they have a habit of dying violently.Amazon.com Review
Everything about the Leggett diamond heist indicated to theContinental Op that it was an inside job. From the stray diamond foundin the yard to the eyewitness accounts of a "strange man"casing the house, everything was just too pat. Gabrielle Dain-Leggetthas enough secrets to fill a closet, and when she disappears shortlyafter the robbery, she becomes the Op's prime suspect. But her father,Edgar Leggett, keeps some strange company himself and has a dark sidethe moon would envy. Before he can solve the riddle of the diamondtheft, the Continental Op must first solve the mystery of this strangefamily. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (22)

5-0 out of 5 stars As Smooth as Heroin, Coursing Through Your Veins
An overlooked treasure, THE DAIN CURSE is usually overshadowed by Dashiell Hammett's better known books, THE MALTESE FALCON and THE THIN MAN.This is unfortunate.Perhaps I am in the minority, but I think this book holds its own very well against its better known brethren.

Perhaps it is the structure of the book, broken into three sections loosely tied together, THE DAIN CURSE features Hammett's best detective, the portly and nameless Continental Op.Called in to investigate diamonds stolen from the elderly Edgar Leggett, the Op soon learns of the curse which mysteriously follows the family and which also, incidentally, leaves a lot of people dead.

The Op also recognizes that Leggett's beautiful daughter, Gabrielle, holds the key to the mystery.That Gabrielle is, plainly put, crazy, doesn't make the situation any easier.An apostle of a hocus pocus religious cult in San Francisco as well as a heroin addict, Gabrielle ties the three self-contained stories of THE DAIN CURSE together, providing an edgy line of continuity for the Op to follow.

From cult houses to breezy seaside towns more dangerous than they appear, THE DAIN CURSE provides Hammett plenty of opportunity to show off his skills at producing maximum effect with a minimum of words.Like all of his works, Hammett writes with the effect of short powerful jabs, constantly forcing the reader to keep his guard up while producing, paradoxically, beautiful images that capture the reader's imagination despite (indeed, because of) their brutality.In the hands of a lesser writer, the three stories of THE DAIN CURSE would have felt disjointed and artificial.Hammett, though, makes the best of both worlds, producing enjoyable shorter works and tying them together into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Reviewers Are Wrong
I have read the overwhelming majority of Hammett's fiction, and I really think this is as good as any.It is different, granted, but it is not wholly unlike some of his earlier stories.I think a mistake a lot of people make is in comparing this book to RED HARVEST, the Op tale which just preceded this.But they are about different things.THE DAIN CURSE has a similar feel to early stories like "The Tenth Clew" or "The Golden Horseshoe", but is, of course, about strange things.But I think it displays some of the most intense "moments" of the Op's life; e.g., his mock-rescue of Gabrielle from the Temple with Eric Collinson in Part 1 and subsequent automobile accident; the discovery. of Eric Collinson's corpse in Part 3.Subtle, but still intense.

Furthermore, the way it's divided up, far from making it a "disconnected" novel, makes me think of it as a kind of trilogy of novellas.Each part is somewhat self-contained, but the later ones depend on the first one.Also, as Steven Marcus noted parenthetically in his Introduction to the collection, THE CONTINENTAL OP, the CURSE is the book in which Hammett fleshes out a lot of his going back and forth between what's reality and what's fiction, how they overlap, contaminate each other, and so forth.

But you can see, definitely, that he's leaning toward the mythic element he was searching for and found in THE MALTESE FALCON.Anyways, I think that, with the FALCON, the CURSE is one of Hammett's most intellectual (in the sense of philosophic, abstract) works.

3-0 out of 5 stars THE CONTINENTAL OP AT WORK
Dashiel Hammett, along with Raymond Chandler, reinvented the detective genre in the 1930's and 1940's. They moved the genre away from the amateurish and simple parlor detectives that had previously dominated the genre to hard-boiled action characters who knew what was what and didn't mind taking a beating to get the bad guys. And along the way they produced some very memorable literary characters as well. Nick Charles, Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe are well known exemplars of the action detective. However, on the way to creating these literary works of art Hammett did journeyman's work at the detective genre in various pulp detective magazines. The Dain Curse seems to be at the tail end of that period.

The unnamed universal Continental Operative who is the central character of the story (and others, as well) is the prototype for Hammett's later named detectives. He has all the characteristics that mark a noir detective-tough, resourceful, undaunted, and incorruptible with a sense of honor to friend and foe alike that sets him apart from earlier detectives. However the plot line here is not as strong as in his latter work. Oh sure, there is murder and other crimes and plenty of sub-plots on the way to the solution and some less than savory although otherwise bourgeois characters to muddle up the Op's well laid plans. However, unless you are fairly familiar with 1920's "lost generation" hijinks there is less sympathy here for victims and villains alike than the later work. Religious cults, drugs, ennui, etc. have lost their cutting edge as material for dramatic tension. Still anytime you can get your hands on a Hammett book-do it.

Needless to say you need a scorecard to tell who is on the level and who is not, including the people who hire said average private detective. The twist and turns as Op tries to mix and match with the various interests at play drive the drama of the film.As I mentioned in a recent review of Hammett's Red Harvest if you want a well-thought out story, although not as memorable as The Maltese Falcon or the The Thin Man, that is also well-written, although without the numerous unforgettable lines of the above-mentioned novels, from a member of the second echelon of the American literary pantheon, this one is for you.

5-0 out of 5 stars "...he always got a lot of fun out of acting like the other half of a half-wit."
When a Continental Detective Agency operative is called in by an insurance company to investigate the theft of eight loose diamonds, he quickly realizes that there is more to this case than meets the eye. Something very strange is going on, and murder after murder seems to be swirling around young Gabrielle Leggett. Is there really a curse attached to her blood, a curse upon all of the Dains? It just might be true!

I love detective stories, and read them all the time. But, Dashiell Hammett is not your everyday mystery writer; he's the originator of the hardboiled detective story. This book was first published in 1929, and it is a great read. I love the characters, and the way that they interact. But, even better is the dialogue, including the quote above!

Overall, I think that this is a great story. If you like tough, two-fisted crime fiction, then this is the book for you. It's a great book by the king of his genre!

3-0 out of 5 stars not quite up to snuff
I think this is the weakest of Hammet's novels.It is a bit predictable and the whole curse thing is a little silly.Nevertheless, you should read it if you are a big Hammet fan, because he wrote so little. ... Read more

15. The Novels of Dashiell Hammett: Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, and The Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett
 Hardcover: 726 Pages (1965-10-01)
list price: US$30.00 -- used & new: US$15.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0394438604
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Dashiell Hammett collection
Being an old movie buff.I wanted to read the books that the movies such as The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man were based on. The book was in great condition.I'm enjoying reading the books. ... Read more

16. The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, Red Harvest (Everyman's Library)
by Dashiell Hammett, Robert Polito
Hardcover: 688 Pages (2000-12-05)
list price: US$24.00 -- used & new: US$14.41
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375411259
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

The three classic novels published here in one volume are rich with the crisp prose, subtle characters, and intricate plots that made Dashiell Hammett one of the most admired writers of the twentieth century.

A one-time detective and a master of deft understatement, Hammett virtually invented the hard-boiled crime novel. In The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade, a private eye with his own solitary code of ethics, tangles with a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. The Thin Man introduces Hammett's wittiest creations, Nick and Nora Charles, who solve homicides in between wisecracks and martinis. And in Red Harvest, Hammett's anonymous tough-guy detective, the Continental Op, takes on the entire town of Poisonville in a deadly war against corruption.

"Dashiell Hammett is a master of the detective novel, yes, but also one hell of a writer."—Boston Globe

”Hammett was spare, hard-boiled, but he did over and over what only the best writers can ever do. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before.”—Raymond Chandler

”Hammett’s prose was clean and entirely unique. His characters were as sharply and economically defined as any in American fiction.”—The New York Times

”As a novelist of realistic intrigue, Hammett was unsurpassed in his own or any time.”—Ross Macdonald

”Dashiell Hammett’s dialogues can be compared only with the best in Hemingway.”—André Gide

”Hammett is one of the best contemporary American writers.”—Gertrude Stein ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars A true "Noir" classic
A true "Noir" classic with mid century San Francisco as a background.

Good characters, great atmosphere and a good plot.

5-0 out of 5 stars a great collection
The Maltese Falcon is a masterpiece.I love Red Harvest as well.The Thin Man isn't quite as good, but it's a lot of fun.All in all, reading this collection is a great way to spend a rainy weekend as I discovered.

4-0 out of 5 stars Classic Hammett
Dashiell Hammett is best known as the man who wrote "Maltese Falcon," the classic noir mystery behind the classic noir film. That book is included here, along with the confusing "Red Harvest" and magnificent, polished "Thin Man," two other crime novels by Hammett.

The mysterious "Maltese Falcon" is at the center of international intrigue -- and murder. Cynical Sam Spade and his partner Miles Archer are hired by a beautiful, seemingly helpless woman to find a man who she says has run off with her sister. Not only is the woman lying, but someone kills Archer. A slimy fop, a cultured gangster, and a breathy femme fatale are all in the same web of crime and murder, centered on a bejewelled bird called the Maltese Falcon.

"Red Harvest" is the full-length novel introduction of the cool-as-ice Continental Op. He travels to Personville (or "Poisonville," depending on your accent) to meet a client. Except the client has just been murdered. Rather than go home to San Francisco, the Continental Op meets the dead man's wealthy father, and begins a one-man battle against the vicious gangsters who control Personville. But the death and mayhem draw him in, threatening his life as he struggles to stay afloat.

"The Thin Man" was Hammett's last and lightest novel. Nick and Nora Charles are a wealthy couple who have a weird kind of compatibility, but ex-private-eye Nick is through with crime solving. Or so he thinks. One day when Nick is out drinking, he encounters young Dorothy Wynant, daughter of peculiar inventor Clyde Wynant. Her dad has vanished, and soon his secretary/mistress is found dead. Nick finds himself sucked unwillingly into a sordid, messy crime that will leave more murdered bodies behind it.

This collection shows the unevenness of Hammett's writing at times. "Maltese Falcon" and "Thin Man" are complicated and polished, while "Red Harvest" is a dense mass of shootings, conspiracies and mysterious crimes. What they all have in common is tense, sparse writing, and hardened, cynical anti-heroes who are surrounded by other ambiguous characters.

The three-pack of "The Maltese Falcon," "The Thin Man," and "Red Harvest" is a good way to introduce yourself to Hammett's gritty, engrossing crime novels. Highly recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars A classic for every home library
My two favorites in this collection are The Thin Man and The Maltese Falcon.I love these hard-boiled detective novels doubly for their sheer entertainment and their place in history.If you want a fascinating read to go allong with this collection, get The Perfect Murder: A Study In Detection by David Lehman.It will clue you into these novels and life.These classic American Novels by Hammett are about to explode in historical research as these novels create an important link in America from WWII to our morality. ... Read more

17. The Assistant Murderer and Other Stories by Dashiell Hammett (Halcyon Classics)
by Dashiell Hammett
Kindle Edition: Pages (2010-03-16)
list price: US$1.99
Asin: B003CT37TC
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Product Description
This Halcyon classics ebook contains three stories by detective writer Samuel Dashiell Hammett.Hammett (1894-1961) is best known for his creation of the hard-boiled detective Sam Spade (THE MALTESE FALCON) and Nick and Nora Charles (THE THIN MAN).

Although regarded as one of the finest detective writers of all time, Hammett wrote his last novel in 1934, and devoted much of the rest of his life to leftist causes.During the 1950s, he was investigated by HUAC, refused to co-operate, and was blacklisted.

This ebook is DRM free and includes an active table of contents.


The Assistant Murderer
Arson Plus
Who Killed Bob Teal?
... Read more

18. Hammett's Moral Vision: The Most Influential In-Depth Analysis of Dashiell Hammett's Novels Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass ... Man (The Ace Performer Collection series)
by George J. "Rhino" Thompson
Hardcover: 342 Pages (2006-12-01)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$14.54
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 097258983X
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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Previously only available serialized over seven issues of The Armchair Detective magazine, this examination is the single most influential book-length analysis of Dashiell Hammett’s novels. Spanning all sections of his career, the book discusses five novels: The Dain Curse, The Glass Key, The Maltese Falcon, Red Harvest, and The Thin Man. Detailed analysis shows how the author and his work changed over time. Each novel is discussed in its own chapter with comparative criticism, and there is a list of resources for further reading and research. Additionally, this compiled text includes a new chapter in which the author discusses the impact Hammett has had on his own life.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars Still Insightful Criticism of Hammett, Though Much of It Taken for Granted Now.
In 1972, "The Armchair Detective" magazine serialized, in seven issues, George J. Thompson's analysis of Dashiell Hammett's moral vision as revealed in this five novels. It was a fitting medium for the first full-length criticism of Hammett's work, which had been Thompson's doctoral dissertation at the University of Connecticut. "Hammett's Moral Vision", the third volume of Vince Emery Productions' "Ace Performer Series", brings us the dissertation in book form, with one chapter added in which Thompson explains the place of Hammett's work in his own life, and with an introduction by William F. Nolan, Hammett's first biographer and fellow full-length critic of Hammett's work.

Thompson focuses on the protagonists' relationship with the corrupt world around them and posits that, over the course of five novels, "we find a clear and definitive progress of man's potential to deal morally and ethically with decadent worlds". Hammett's protagonists are not above it all; they constantly struggle to avoid being tarnished by the depravity in which they are immersed. The mysteries are generally not about plot, nor are the detectives archetypal tough guys. They grapple with the detective's moral dilemma in the real world. Thompson dedicates a chapter to each of Hammett's novels, which he analyzes in this vein: Red Harvest (1929), The Dain Curse (1929), The Maltese Falcon (1930), The Glass Key (1931), The Thin Man (1934).

When Thompson wrote his thesis, it was still new to consider that hard-boiled genre literature might hold considerable skill and intelligence. I've read other criticism of Hammett and a great deal of criticism of film noir, and Thompson's view of the noir protagonist is generally accepted now. That doesn't mean that "Hammett's Moral Vision" has nothing to offer anymore. It puts forth interesting ideas, and Hammett's march toward a progressively darker world view and more compromised protagonists is well-illustrated. Thompson finds value in "The Dain Curse", Hammett's weakest novel, as part of that progression. And I particularly enjoyed his insight into "The Glass Key", Hammett's most complex novel. This is a good place to start for Hammett criticism or a good place to return to understand its development.

4-0 out of 5 stars Hammett, revisited
I have just finished reading HAMMETT'S MORAL VISION for the second time and I continue to be amazed at the conclusions drawn by Mr. Thompson.His suggestion, expressed late in the book, that these classic mysteries are a form of comedy, mystifies me.That being said, I like the way that "Rhino" shows the methodical changes in Hammett's writing through his career.I enjoyed thoroughly reading comments dredged up by Mr. Thompson by previous reviewers, comparing those critics' observations with his own, and then being allowed to draw my own conclusions.In his chapter about THE THIN MAN, Thompson suggests that the focus of the book is on the disintegration of the famiy unit.Two pages later he quotes Robert Edenbaum, who suggested that the major theme of THE THIN MAN was cannibalism!I found it intriguing to compare Sam Spade with Nick Charles.
Thompson quotes everyone from Shakespeare to Sartre, Raymond Chandler, and Lillian Hellman.I think he gives a nice well-rounded look at the novels of Dashiell Hammett and even goes so far as to suggest the reason that he stopped writing:He had said all that he had to say!
How many writers, famous, successful writers, keep writing the same story over and over again?I see Dashiell Hammett as an important author and a great author.Mr. Thompson's book has only reinforced those beliefs.
I do not feel that "Rhino" Thompson gives sufficient honor to Dashiell Hammett by wasting the first chapter discussing his own (Thompson's) life and "verbal judo" training course.I found that self-serving and distracting.
That being said, I loved the last 179 pages of the book.I found it well-written and organized.The type-setting, page numbering, and headings made it easy to follow the numerous footnotes and to access the Notes section in the rear of the book.
I disagree with Mr. Berger's complaint about Thompson's emphasis on "Hammett's Development As A Writer."I think the emphasis is more on Hammett's development as a humanist, as a commentator on capitalist society, and as a human being.He had a message regarding the dehumanizing effects of a money-oriented, soulless world, and he told his stories well.
I think Thompson did an excellent job in selecting short quotations from the five books he discusses and I think a reader of HAMMETT'S MORAL VISION cannot help but gain a better understanding of the man, Dashiell Hammett.
My biggest disappointment was that Thompson chose not to discuss Hammett's final work, TULIP.Hammett's writing style changed markedly after THE THIN MAN and I would have liked to read a discussion of how Hammett's relationship with Ms. Hellman, his declining health, and thoughts of mortality led to that strange little book.

2-0 out of 5 stars Disappointed.Here's why:
I love Hammett, and I think Thompson has some valid insights, but I'm kind of disappointed with this book.But it depends.If I were a regular reader of "detective fiction" (i.e., if Hammett didn't happen to interest me intellectually, and if I read any other detective fiction with arbitrary delight), I might have actually loved this book.So don't base your judgment entirely on what I have to say about this book.

But what I will say is this:as a student of philosophy and English literature, and as someone who has read some literary criticism in his day, I will say this book is disappointing.Part of the problem is, Mr. Thompson tries to cover way too much.What I mean is this:he takes you through the novels entire.What he might have done is taken a more specific theme and found the places in the novels that fit with that theme.What you need, in that case, is not the entire novels:you need only "pieces" of each novel, and more speculation, more imagination.Not explication.The assumption should be that your reader is reading you because they've already read the author's books already.

For a good example of what I mean, read the Introduction to THE CONTINENTAL OP collection by Steven Marcus.His theory of the truth/fiction dichotomy in Hammett is very fruitful, and very short.

This book is advertised as "in-depth" and "influential."I don't know how influential it has been, as I have not read ALL the criticism on Hammett over the past forty years.But I really don't think it is "in-depth":it's more of an introduction.

There really is, I think, too much focus out there on "Hammett's Development As A Writer."To HELL with his "development"!He was a writer; that is all.There is no "development":everything he wrote was good.He might have changed over the years, sure.But it's not as though he started out as a hack writer and ended up as a brilliant novelist in the end.The fact of the matter is that Hammett was able to say in very few words what it takes other writers pages and pages and pages to say.It is simply more difficult to write something short than it is to write something long.This may be especially true of detective fiction.For instance, why is it that we have so little of Hammett and Chandler, but they are still considered the best?Whereas we have volume after volume of Parker, Spillane, Burke, Grafton, etc., and don't seem to be an "Influence" on anyone.

But by all means, if you want a good introduction to Hammett's worldview, or if you're a book collector, or if you are really unfamiliar with literary analysis, you might love this book.

But I wouldn't read a mediocre book on Hammett for the same reason I wouldn't read a mediocre book on Shakespeare or Aristotle. ... Read more

19. Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers
by Jo Hammett
 Hardcover: 192 Pages (2001-10-14)
list price: US$30.00 -- used & new: US$11.68
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B001G7R8OM
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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For more than forty years, since the day her illustrious father died, Jo Hammett has kept her silence. Now, for the first time, with uncompromising candor and profound admiration, she tells the story of Dashiell Hammett—Hollywood screenwriter and high-flying author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man—as she knew him. In Jo Hammett's earliest recollections, although her already famous father exists outside the sphere of the daily life she shares with her mother and sister, he writes to Jo frequently and visits when he can. Jo's memories of him are golden: She recalls a trip to the Santa Anita racetrack in a chauffeur-driven limousine, where Hammett plays more on the horses than he can afford; she recalls a Depression-era excursion to Beverly Hills and a splurge that would have supported an entire family for a month—on a riding outfit. With more ambivalence, she remembers the 1950s, when she assumes her responsibility as the sole designated correspondent with her blacklisted, imprisoned father and her role as go-between for him and Lillian Hellman. The notorious Hammett-Hellman romance, Dash's rude flirtations, his heavy drinking, his attraction to Communism, his quirks and betrayals and paternal love—Jo Hammett neither blinks at her father's faults nor diminishes his humanity. In straightforward prose, with unaffected charm, she offers in this generously illustrated volume a revealing personal reminiscence that contributes immeasurably to Hammett biography.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars One of the 2 most important books about Dashiell Hammett
This is one of the two most important books about Dashiell Hammett. Surprisingly, it is the only nonfiction book about Hammett written by someone who actually knew him.

Luckily, his daughter Jo turns out to be a good writer herself. As well as providing facts about the man not available anywhere else, her book gives a more deeply-felt look at Dashiell Hammett than any other book. It also provides by far the best selection of photos of Hammett: more than 100 from his early days, his Hollywood-NY celebrity time, his final years. Almost all the photos are previously unpublished.

A good foreword by Hammett scholar Richard Layman sets the stage by recounting Hammett's literary accomplishments and by telling how Lillian Hellman distorted accounts of Hammett's life, how she seized control of Hammett's literary properties, and how the Hammett family regained control.

This book corrects Hellman's distortions to give us a more accurate view of who Hammett really was. It is a fun, informative, and touching read. It was nominated for an Edgar Award as Best Biography of the Year. Recommended for anyone interested in Hammett.

2-0 out of 5 stars Her Father's Daughter
One star is for the lovely photographs (many of which I've never seen in any other Hammett or Hellman biography or memoir) and the other is for the candor with which the author speaks of her father.Unfortunately, she doesn't really go into much depth about their relationship and deals with her sister, Mary, and that relationship in a superficial fashion. The author has an idealized and rather limited view of the relationship between her parents.Josephine Hammett reveals more of herself, and evokes more sympathy for what could have been between father and daughter, rather than shed any new light on Hammett, the man or the father.

4-0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Insightful Collection of Memories & Photographs.
In "Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers", Jo Hammett has compiled her own impressions and memories of her father, in part to dispute some of his more careless biographers. I didn't expect much beyond sentimental and possibly superficial recollections of a daughter who saw her father only occasionally when I began reading this book. I must admit I underestimated the author's forthrightness. Jo Hammett obviously loved and admired her parents, but she doesn't hesitate to speak of their faults. Jo was a child in her father's productive writing years, but in his later years she was his frequent correspondent and link to his family. This book starts with a little history of the Hammett, Dashiell, and Dolan (her mother's) families and general history of her parents' romance and her father's life before he settled down to family life in San Francisco. Jo Hammett goes on to speak of Dashiell's relationship with his usually estranged family, Lillian Hellman, his time in the Army, in prison, his drinking, poor health, and the time she spent with him the year before his death. I felt that I got a clearer picture of Dashiell Hammett's personality from this book than from reading some of his biographies. It is from one person's perspective, but the book is insightful as far as it goes. The text and about 130 photographs and illustrations, mostly from family albums, are printed on slick white paper that displays them well. Fans and scholars of Dashiell Hammett will appreciate Jo Hammett's observations and fond memories in "A Daughter Remembers".

4-0 out of 5 stars Good but not great...
While I enjoyed this book by Dashiell Hammett's daughter, Josephine, it was not quite what I expected. I purchased Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers thinking that it was going to be an in-depth biography about Dashiell Hammett.Instead, it is a short book filled with remembrances of her dad that are short snippets and stories and anecdotes.While the book is filled with many wonderful photos, the story skips around a bit and Jo Hammett doesn't delve into any one topic (early years, married life, Lillian Hellman, service years, prision time, etc.) in any great detail.Still, Hammett was a very fascinating character and his daughter tries to give us just a little insight into the real man.She also tries to separate some of the Hammett-myth that was created and perpetuated by long-time friend and lover, Lillian Hellman.While I enjoyed the things that I read, I just wish there had been more.

4-0 out of 5 stars a distant relationship
Jo Hammett's book about her father, fabled tough-guy writer Dashiell Hammett, includes many family photos and documents never before seen by Hammett enthusiasts.The book, printed on glossy paper, is visually appealing.Jo Hammett's description of her childhood years, when her father's presence was a treat and time spent with him seemed magical, must be weighed against her growing realization that her parents were hopelessly mismatched, that her father was an intensely private man who shared his life with no one, not even his long-time mistress, Lillian Hellman.

Her father found his niche in American publishing, and is beloved by many readers devoted to his hard-boiled style.His family life, or the lack of it, may take some of the sheen from his image.A pervasive sadness invades this book. ... Read more

20. Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett : 1921-1960
by Richard Layman, Julie M. Rivett
Paperback: 672 Pages (2002-06)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$9.90
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1582432104
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
A literary event: The first-ever selection from theletters of Dashiell Hammett, the genius of American crime fiction.

More than any book before it, this one gives us the complete Hammett, in his own words. Here is Hammett the family man, distant but devoted, sometimes late with the check but never too late; Hammett the student of politics, scanning the headlines from a Marxist perspective; Hammett the lover of Lillian Hellman, delighting in her style, humor, accomplishments but maintaining his independence. Celebrity, soldier, activist, survivor--Hammett was each in turn, but he was always, above all else, a writer. The artist is present in every line, and this book adds to his stature as a classic American writer.Amazon.com Review
Penzler Pick, April 2001: What seems a long overdue volume is finally making itsappearance. (After all, The Selected Letters of Raymond Chandlerwas published 20 years ago.) Here, in more than 600 pages crammed withimportant as well as intimate letters, is a view into the mind of the mostimportant American mystery writer of the 20th century. While I don'tbelieve Hammett could carry Chandler's pen when it came to literaryexcellence, it's fair to say that Chandler couldn't have published much hadHammett not made the private eye novel both popular and acceptable in theworld of American letters.

While I don't recommend starting at the beginning and reading straightthrough to the end, you can dip into virtually any letter and find aninteresting sentence, a fresh way of looking at something seeminglyfamiliar, or learn something you didn't know about Hammett and the peoplehe knew. Take, for example, this brief note to his publisher, Alfred Knopf,in October 1934. The Thin Man had been published in January of thatyear and was by far Hammett's most successful book. Knopf wanted tocapitalize on that success and attempted to get a sixth novel out of hisauthor. Hammett wrote back: "Dear Alfred--So I'm a bum--so what's done ofthe book looks terrible--so I'm out here (Beverly Hills) drowning my shamein M-G-M money for 10 weeks."

And isn't this interesting? Hammett was stationed in Alaska during WorldWar II and had an active correspondence with Lillian Hellman but also withPrudence Whitfield, the wife of Raoul Whitfield, a fellow Black Maskwriter and one of Hammett's closest friends. So Hammett writes to Hellmanon May 6, then again on June 3, saying "I know I'm a lowdown bastard not tohave written you in all this time..." Well, he was probably right. In theinterim, he'd written to Prudence, signing off with "Good night, darling,and much love..." Is there anyone out there who doesn't believe there mayhave been a bit of hanky-panky with his best friend's wife while darlingLillie remained sublimely unaware?

There's so much more here I could quote for pages. Nice letters to hisdaughters, Josephine (who wrote an introduction to this book) and Mary;correspondence with other famous writers, his publisher, the editor ofBlack Mask, etc. There is also a splendid editing job by Richard Layman,probably the country's leading authority on Hammett. His expertise asHammett's biographer and bibliographer has made his footnotes useful inputting into context the references that may be obscure to some readers.

Here is a book worthy to stand right next to The Maltese Falcon,The Glass Key, Red Harvest,The Dain Curse, and TheThin Man on your bookshelf. --Otto Penzler ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the 2 most important books about Dashiell Hammett
This is one of the two most important books about Dashiell Hammett. It provides hundreds of Hammett's letters, with excellent biographical commentary and extensive annotations by Hammett scholar Richard Layman and Hammett's granddaughter Julie Rivett. It also includes 51 photographs. The foreword by Hammett's daughter Jo is one of the best-written short pieces on the author.

This book was a groundbreaking work of Hammett scholarship, and changed many assumptions that biographers had made about his life and works. It was nominated for an Edgar Award as the Best Biographical Book of the Year. This book is the closest you can get to how Hammett thought and felt about his work, his life, and the people in it.

Layman and Rivett worked with Jo Hammett on the comments and annotations, which are for the most part scrupulously accurate. My extensive use of my copy of this book has left it worn and dog-eared, but I have found only 7 factual errors:

1) p. 21, the school name should be "Munson School for Secretaries."
2) p. 21, Hammett's first piece was published in October 1922, but it was not the first piece he wrote, and it was accepted for publication in June or July 1922; the obvious conclusion is that Hammett started writing in May or June 1922 or even earlier, not in October.
3) p. 28, "[November? 1925, San Francisco]" should be [September? 1925, San Francisco].
4) p. 32, "1509 Hyde" should be 1309 Hyde.
5) p. 34, Shaw became editor of The Black Mask in October 1926, not November.
6) p. 40, "Sunday [June 7, 1927? San Francisco]" is not accurate, because June 7, 1927 was a Tuesday.
7) p. 527, "Sidney Kingsley" should be "Mel Dinelli."

5-0 out of 5 stars Hammett's Interests & Values in His Own Words. An Excellent Supplement to a Biography.
"Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett" includes 950 letters that Dashiell Hammett wrote between 1921 and 1960, spanning most of his adult life, from before his marriage to Josephine Dolan to just months before his death in 1961 -though the meaty correspondence stops a few years before that. Daughter Josephine Hammett Marshall started the project, and she nicely summarizes what these letters say about her father in the book's foreword. Editor (and Hammett biographer) Richard Layman discusses the sources in the preface. The letters were addressed to at least 17 different people plus some miscellaneous correspondence, but the most frequent recipients, in descending order, are: Hammett's friend and companion, the playwright Lillian Hellman; daughter Mary Hammett; daughter Josephine Hammett; wife Josephine Dolan Hammett; girlfriend Pru Whitfield; and Hellman's secretary Nancy Bragdon. End notes identify people and other references in each letter where needed.

The letters are organized chronologically into 5 sections, each introduced by an explanation of the circumstances of Hammett's life during the relevant time period. Part 1 (1921-1930), entitled "Writer", spans Hammett's married life, often strained by his tuberculosis and efforts to make ends meet, and the bulk of his literary achievement, beginning with early Black Mask magazine correspondence and ending with editing frustrations at Knopf. Part 2 (1931-1942), entitled "Celebrity", introduces paramour Lillian Hellman, to whom Hammett wrote longer, more formal letters than he did to his wife, discussing literature, career, and mutual friends. Teenaged daughter Mary engaged her father by asking him about the Spanish Civil War and emerging Nazi power, subjects for which he held passionate opinions, so Hammett's letters to Mary reveal his politics and values.

Part 3 (1942-1945), entitled "Soldier", is the longest section but spans the shortest period of time. Dashiell Hammett enlisted in the Army at the age of 48, eager to serve his country in its fight against fascism. He was stationed in the Aleutian islands, where he edited "The Adakian", a camp newspaper with distribution of 3,000-5,000. Perhaps due to Army discipline or the scarcity of alcohol, Hammett was a prolific correspondent during this time. He writes mostly of daily camp life and most frequently to Lillian Hellman, whose secretary provided Hammett with material for his newspaper. Part 4 (1945-1951), entitled "Activist", finds Hammett with a new sense of purpose after the War. He taught mystery writing at the Jefferson School for Social Science in Manhattan, campaigned for civil rights, and became active in communist organizations. Daughter Josephine Marshall was married by this time and a frequent correspondent -also during the 5 months Hammett spent in jail for contempt of court in connection with the Civil Rights Congress bail fund.

Part 5 (1952-1960), entitled "Survivor", is a miscellany of letters that reveal a man with diminishing vigor. He seems to have little strength left for discussions or details but always a warm, supportive word for his family. In the back of the book, there is a list of the books to which Hammett refers and an index (mostly people and titles). I have read 2 Dashiell Hammett biographies. These letters don't change my impression of Hammett, but reinforce it. They flesh out his personality a good deal. He was a talented writer, a loving but absent father, a man of strong convictions (some naive), who never complained through his share of hardships. Constant financial difficulties and frequent talk of writing projects that never materialize may seem pitiful. But they are reminders of Hammett's nagging faults, the sort that every life has.

4-0 out of 5 stars Looking over the Thin Man's Shoulder
Reading this collection of letters by the author of "The Maltese Falcon" and other great mystery novels provides a revealing insight to the thoughts and feelings of this intensely private man. Peppered with delightful sides of humor it is easily readable. One can dip into one or another of the phases of his life: the early short story years, his service in World War I, fame and fortune in books, radio, and film; marriage, fatherhood, divorce, romances, chiefly with Lillian Hellman, service in Alaska in WWII, his jailing for defying the anti-communism of the 50's, his final illness, poverty, and death. In letters to Hellman, and his own daughters, Mary and Josephine he comments with a a few words on hundreds of books he read. A compendium of the books fills five and one-half pages at the end of the book. There is no explicit explanation of why his voice fell silent after his brilliant novels, but the perceptive reader is given clues in the man's own words, written with no intention to have them preserved for history but fortunately available to us now. ... Read more

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