Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers by Jo Hammett, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers

Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers

by Jo Hammett
     
 

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

Overview


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This short but compelling memoir is a must-read for anyone interested in the author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. Abetted by the most generous selection of photos ever to see print, it joins Lillian Hellman's writings on her years living with Hammett as one of the two comprehensive looks into his life from a personal viewpoint. Both portray an almost fiercely private individual "In our family much unsaid was nonetheless understood" but the paternal influence seems to have been passed on, with Jo Hammett commenting on her mother: "I realize that I didn't know her any more than my children know me." Insights and personal observations nonetheless build to a convincing portrait, with numerous humorous asides (comparing Hellman to good and bad cholesterol being quite the coup). The memoir encompasses several decades, with pictures bringing those eras to life, along with telling details in the text the fact, for example, that only two families on their block during the Depression owned a car. The cover price for this book is more than justified by the photographs, drawn from family archives, with a great many of these predating the previous "earliest known photo." Of particular interest to fans of Hammett's crime writing are several shots covering his years working as a Pinkerton operative and the time in San Francisco when he was writing the stories and novels that made his name. This is a perfect book for the Hammett enthusiast. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Biographies of famous writers by their offspring usually have modest literary value, but this memoir is a cut above the rest. Hammett's best-known novels, The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, pioneered hardboiled detective fiction, and many critics consider him a literary master. His life was chaotic. Discharged after WWI because of tuberculosis, he married his pregnant nurse and struggled to earn a living in a series of jobs from Pinkerton detective to advertising copywriter. Within a few years, however, he began to write fiction, quickly developing his distinctively spare style. His first novel, Red Harvest (1929), enjoyed great success. A year later, The Maltese Falcon was a smash hit. In 1931, he met playwright Lillian Hellman, his companion for the rest of his life. By now he was living apart from his family, ostensibly because of TB. But he continued to support them when he could, visited often, and remained a generous, affectionate father. The '30s were Hammett's golden years. Money poured in from royalties and film sales. Never one to plan ahead, he spent it even faster. When he enlisted during WWII, the Army, suspicious of his leftwing politics, assigned him to the American equivalent of Siberia: the Aleutian islands. He enjoyed his stint immensely, however, editing the base newspaper and writing the official history of the Aleutian campaign. After the war, his life went downhill. He emerged from six months in prison for defying the HUAC to the blacklist. The IRS claimed most of his income. His health declined, and when he died in 1961, he hadn't completed a novel in over two decades. Though the author undertakes no extended analysis of her father's works, she candidlyrelates his drinking, gambling, womanizing (Hellman comes out surprisingly well), and attraction to Communism. As a bonus, her account is packed with family photographs, clippings, and mementos. A valuable addition to the biography of an underrated literary figure.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786708925
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
09/28/2001
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
7.30(w) x 10.36(h) x 0.65(d)

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