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From The CriticsThat these letters read exceptionally well is no surprise: Dashiell Hammett was one of pop fiction's surest stylists. The author of five crime novels (two of them, The Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest, endure as classics) Hammett trademarked the laconic, world-weary dialogue of detective fiction and film noir. Whether writing his pulp magazine editors or his famous lover, playwright Lillian Hellman, he comes across here as authentically, contradictorily human; a man whom his daughter remembers in the introduction as one "who loved hunting, fishing and babies...who read Moon Mullins, Doc Savage and Dostoevsky." His writing years in New York and Hollywood, his soldiering in World War II, his political passion (he was briefly jailed during the Red Scare) are all here, and are conveyed in language that engagingly jumbles wit and defensiveness, cunning and tight-lipped confession. Of detective fiction Hammett wrote, "Someday somebody's going to make ‘literature' out of it...and I'm selfish enough to have my hopes." He came as close as anyone has, and these letters back up his case—clearly, observantly and with courage, the man could write.