The Glass Key

The Glass Key

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The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett

A one-time detective and master of deft understatement, Dashiell Hammett virtually invented the hardboiled crime novel. This classic work of detective fiction combines an airtight plot, authentically venal characters, and writing of telegraphic crispness. Paul Madvig was a cheerfully corrupt ward-heeler who aspired to something better: the daughter of Senator Ralph Bancroft Henry, the heiress to a dynasty of political purebreds. Did he want her badly enough to commit murder? And if Madvig was innocent, which of his dozens of enemies was doing an awfully good job of framing him?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679722625
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/28/1989
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 247,816
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)

About the Author

Dashiell Samuel Hammett was born in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. He grew up in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Hammett left school at the age of fourteen and held several kinds of jobs thereafter—messenger boy, newsboy, clerk, operator, and stevedore, finally becoming an operative for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency. Sleuthing suited young Hammett, but World War I intervened, interrupting his work and injuring his health. When Sergeant Hammett was discharged from the last of several hospitals, he resumed detective work. He soon turned to writing, and in the late 1920s Hammett became the unquestioned master of detective-story fiction in America. In The Maltese Falcon (1930) he first introduced his famous private eye, Sam Spade. The Thin Man (1932) offered another immortal sleuth, Nick Charles. Red Harvest (1929), The Dain Curse (1929), and The Glass Key (1931) are among his most successful novels. During World War II, Hammett again served as sergeant in the Army, this time for more than two years, most of which he spent in the Aleutians. Hammett’s later life was marked in part by ill health, alcoholism, a period of imprisonment related to his alleged membership in the Communist Party, and by his long-time companion, the author Lillian Hellman, with whom he had a very volatile relationship. His attempt at autobiographical fiction survives in the story “Tulip,” which is contained in the posthumous collection The Big Knockover (1966, edited by Lillian Hellman). Another volume of his stories, The Continental Op (1974, edited by Stephen Marcus), introduced the final Hammett character: the “Op,” a nameless detective (or “operative”) who displays little of his personality, making him a classic tough guy in the hard-boiled mold—a bit like Hammett himself.

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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Glass Key 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Oddly laconic with some rather awkward turns of phrase (he did it "difficultly"?!!), the writing in this book is, nevertheless, nearly airtight and so sharply laid down that it carries and sets the mood beautifully in this strange tale of a political boss and his gambler buddy who are bent on winning their particular games of life. Paul Madvig, the boss, wants to win the upcoming elections and ensure continuation of his candidates in office while Ned Beaumont, the lone-wolf gambler, wants to get back on a winning streak, collect on a bad debt and protect his apparently dense friend Madvig who has stumbled into a situation. Madvig is in love with a senator's daughter and keen to win her hand and so has allowed his usual good judgement to become clouded. In shifting his political support to this senator, he has lost touch with his own less-than-respectable base, allowing a local gangster to muscle in on his territory. Intent on pushing the gangster back, he makes a dumb play and is soon sucked into a problem surrounding the unsolved murder of the senator's son. Who did it and why are the questions that lie at the core of Madvig's situation and only Beaumont is clever enough, and cares enough, to get to the bottom of it. Along the way Beaumont takes a bloody beating, participates in a murder and loses what he cares most for in all the world. Although the tale takes a while to get revved up and some of the transitions are so abrupt as to be jarring, this was not only a great "detective" story but one with real resonance that goes well beyond the genre in which it has been cast. Despite the roughness of some of the writing, this one is well worth your time. (By the way, it looks like the movie, Miller's Crossing, was a composite of this tale and Hammett's Red Harvest, another intriguing and somewhat amoral detective piece. But I liked the pure tale that Hammett told in this book best.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best novel's Ive ever read. The movie miller's crossing is even more impressive I reccomend the book before the movie though.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Glass Key does not get the respect that it deserves. It is a brilliant novel that combines murder and politics. The theme of the book is loyalty and friendship. The book is great. I promise that it will hold your attention, keep you guessing, and the ending will shock you.