Dashiell Hammett

Franklin Library Dashiell Hammett books

The Continental Op - Collected Stories of the World's Greatest Writers - 1984
The Maltese Falcon - Library of Mystery Masterpieces - 1987

Author Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett, born on May 27, 1894, and passing away on January 10, 1961, was an American author and pioneering figure in the development of hard-boiled detective fiction. Known for his crisp, realistic dialogue, and iconic characters, Hammett's contributions to the crime genre had a lasting impact on literature and popular culture. Born in St. Mary's County, Maryland, Hammett grew up in Baltimore and Philadelphia. His early life was marked by a series of jobs, including time as an operative for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Hammett's experiences as a detective significantly influenced his later writing.

Hammett's literary career began in the pulp magazines of the 1920s, where he became a prominent contributor to publications like Black Mask. He introduced a new kind of detective protagonist—tough, cynical, and morally ambiguous. His most famous character, Sam Spade, made his debut in the novel "The Maltese Falcon" (1930), which is widely considered a classic of the genre. The Maltese Falcon not only established Hammett as a major literary figure but also laid the groundwork for the hard-boiled detective genre. The novel was adapted into a successful film in 1941, starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, further solidifying its place in popular culture. Hammett's other notable works include The Dain Curse (1929) and The Glass Key (1931). His writing style, characterized by spare prose and a focus on realism, influenced a generation of crime writers who followed him.

In addition to his contributions to literature, Dashiell Hammett was active in left-wing political circles and was involved in social and political causes. He became a member of the Communist Party and was even jailed for six months during the McCarthy era for his refusal to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). This period of political involvement took a toll on his writing career. Despite facing personal and professional challenges, Hammett's impact on crime fiction endures. His influence is evident in the works of subsequent generations of writers and in the many adaptations of his novels for film, television, and radio. Dashiell Hammett's legacy as a trailblazer in crime literature remains an integral part of the genre's history.

The Continental Op

Short, thick-bodied, mulishly stubborn, and indifferent to pain, Dashiell Hammett's Continetal Op was the prototype for generations of tough-guy detectives. In these stories the Op unravels a murder with too many clues, looks for a girl with eyes the color of shadows on polished silver, and tangles with a crooked-eared gunman called the Whosis Kid.

Dashiell Hammett is the true inventor of modern detective fiction and the creator of the private eye, the isolated hero in a world where treachery is the norm. The Continental Op was his great first contribution to the genre and these seven stories, which first appeared in the magazine Black Mask, are the best examples of Hammett's early writing, in which his formidable literary and moral imagination is already operating at full strength. The Continental Op is the dispassionate fat man working for the Continental Detective Agency, modelled on the Pinkerton Agency, whose only interest is in doing his job in a world of violence, passion, desperate action and great excitement.

In the early days of pulp periodicals, the gold standard of crime fiction was Black Mask magazine . And of all the cops, killers, and gumshoes who blasted through its pages, none was more influential than Dashiell Hammett’s nameless Continental Op. Stout and unglamorous, with a keen mind, professional determination, and a steady trigger finger, the Op was the toughest sleuth in San Francisco. Before Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, or Lew Archer, this infamous tough guy introduced the world to hard boiled private eyes and changed crime fiction forever.

Based on Hammett’s real-life experience as a private investigator, the Op introduced rough-hewn realism to mystery fiction. This remarkable volume includes all twenty-eight Continental Op short-story adventures in their original form , along with Hammett’s unfinished and never-before-published “Three Dimes.” It is a collection that no true fan of crime fiction should dare to live without.

The definitive collection of stories starring the Continental Op, Dashiell Hammett’s legendary private detective:
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

"Hammett's style was, almost from the beginning, original: bonedry, drained of colour, lacking delicacy but full of power, a pefect style for describing violent action without moral comment" - Julian Symons, Time Literary Supplement

"Hammett was the first American writer to use the detective story for the purposes of a major novelist, to present a vision, blazing, if disenchanted of our lives... a new kind of detective hero, the classless, relentless man of American democracy, who spoke the language of the street" - Ross MacDonald

"Hammett should be regarded among the great American writers" - The Times

The Maltese Falcon

A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man name Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett's iconic, influential, and beloved The Maltese Falcon. A coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted three generations of readers.

Sam Spade is hired by the fragrant Miss Wonderley to track down her sister, who has eloped with a louse called Floyd Thursby. But Miss Wonderley is in fact the beautiful and treacherous Brigid O'Shaughnessy, and when Spade's partner Miles Archer is shot while on Thursby's trail, Spade finds himself both hunter and hunted: can he track down the jewel-encrusted bird, a treasure worth killing for, before the Fat Man finds him?

From "a master of the detective novel [and] one hell of a writer" ( The Boston Globe) comes a coolly glittering gem of detective fiction that has haunted three generations of readers.

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