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Hammett: Complete Novels: Complete Novels

Hammett: Complete Novels: Complete Novels

4.8 8
by Dashiell Hammett, Steven Marcus (Editor)

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
It was a big year for Hammett. He was the subject of a TV film as well as an American Masters TV biography. Knopf, his original publisher, gathered 20 early stories, and the Library of America added his complete novels to its prestigious ranks. Long overdue recognition. (Classic Returns, LJ 8/99) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Library of America
Publication date:
Library of America Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.13(h) x 1.21(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

One of the masters of crime fiction and a former operative for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) first introduced his iconic private eye, Sam Spade, in 1930 in his famous novel The Maltese Falcon. He followed that novel with The Thin Man in 1932 which introduced the incomparable and charming sleuths Nick and Nora Charles. He was also the author of Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, and The Glass Key, as well the Collected Case Files of the Continental Op, most of which were published in Black Mask magazine.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
May 27, 1894
Date of Death:
January 10, 1961
Place of Birth:
St. Mary, Maryland
Place of Death:
New York
Baltimore Polytechnic Institute

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Hammett: Complete Novels: Complete Novels 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
CGinSeattle More than 1 year ago
great novels, and while the movies are wonderful, it's really interesting to read the originals and see the differences.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
¿Sam Spade, a slightly shop-worn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grifter named Joel Cairo, a fat man named Gutman, and Brigid O'Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime.¿ (Publisher¿s notes from The Maltese Falcon, 1929.) Dashiell Hammett, a most unlikely-looking gumshoe ¿ was prematurely white-haired, stood 6¿2¿ and weighed140 pounds. However the former Pinkerton detective is hailed as the `father of modern detective stories.¿ According to famed author Dorothy Parker, his most popular character Sam Spade was a private eye ¿so hard-boiled you could roll him on the White House lawn.¿ Born Samuel Dashiell Hammett in Maryland in 1894, Hammett grew up in Baltimore and Philadelphia. After leaving school at fourteen he held various jobs including newsboy, clerk, and stevedore. In 1915 he became a Pinkerton Detective working a tough urban beat. Hammett later used James Wright, a short, squat, tough-talking Pinkerton dick, as the inspiration for the detective character in The Continental Op, written under the pseudonym Peter Collinson. Hammett enjoyed sleuthing, but enlisted in the army in 1918 during World War I. Unfortunately, he contracted tuberculosis and was medically discharged within a year. He then resumed his Pinkerton work in San Francisco and began writing. By the late 1920s he was hailed as the master of American detective-story fiction. His most famous private eye, Sam Spade, was introduced in his 1930 book, The Maltese Falcon. Another memorable sleuth, Nick Charles, materialized in his novel, The Thin Man (1932). More successful books followed: Red Harvest (1929) The Dain Curse (1929) and The Glass Key (1931). When war beckoned again, Hammett again answered the call, serving as an Army sergeant in World War II. Although a fierce opponent of Nazism, he joined the American Communist Party in the 1930s. Although he did not accompany Hemingway and other writers to Spain in 1936 to participate in the Civil War, he did assist returning veterans. By 1934 after publishing The Thin Man, his writing career nearly ended. During these years, he began a tumultuous relationship with playwright Lillian Hellman (The Children's Hour, 1934 Little Foxes, 1939). Hellman was a devoted leftist and the couple concerned themselves with radical causes. The political pendulum took a conservative swing after WWII, and Hammett was called before the House on Un-American Activities Committee in 1951. When he refused to testify, in spite of his faithful military service and failing health, he was sentenced to prison for several months. His excellent detective novels were banned by the State Department. Hellman, also ordered to testify, assailed the HUAAC and was blacklisted. Hammett never wrote another novel, although he created a comic strip entitled Secret Agent X-9, an endeavor that proved fruitless. Instead he wrote a few pieces for radio, enjoyed some success through film versions of his novels, and spent ten years teaching creative writing in New York. He died penniless of lung cancer in January 1961. During his career, Hammett also published many short stories in popular pulp fiction magazines like ¿Black Mask¿. His brilliant vignettes include The Parthian Shot and The Road Home in 1922, and Arson Plus in 1923. Encouraged by ¿Black Mask¿ editor Captain Joseph Shaw, Hammett became a pulp fiction star. Some of Hammett¿s characters are based on real people he knew as a Pinkerton detective. Perhaps that is why his characters are so compelling. Most of his plots save for The Thin Man, spin around tough-talking, hard-drinking, solitary men. Yet those of us old enough to remember smile at the whimsical intrigues of Nick and Nora Charles, the delightful and happily-married high-society sleuths portrayed in the wildly successful Thin Man film series. Still others remember Humph
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a classic set of detective novels from one of America's most famous detective writers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dashiell Hammett's novels rank among the best of detective fiction. This well-made volume is a must for fans of the genre. My favorites are 'The Maltese Falcon', 'The Glass Key' and 'The Dain Curse'. But these are all great novels, nicely collected, in a handsome volume. Highly recommended.