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Dashiell Hammett: Crime Stories and Other Writings (Library of America) - Hammett, Dashiell

Dashiell Hammett: Crime Stories and Other Writings (Library of America) - Hammett, Dashiell

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Dashiell Hammett: Crime Stories and Other Writings (Library of America) by Hammett, Dashiell

Format: Hardcover with Dust Jacket

Published by Library of America, 2001

In the stories and novellas he wrote for Black Mask and other pulp magazines in the 1920s and 1930s, Dashiell Hammett took the detective story and turned it into a medium for capturing the jarring textures and revved-up cadences of modern American life. In this volume, The Library of America collects the finest of these stories: 24 in all, along with some revealing essays and an earlier version of his novel The Thin Man. Mixing melodramatic panache and poker-faced comedy, a sensitivity to place and a perceptive grasp of social conflict, Hammett's stories are hard-edged entertainments for an era of headlong change and extravagant violence. For the heroic sagas of earlier eras Hammett substituted the up-tempo, devious, sometimes nearly nihilistic exploits of con men and blackmailers, fake spiritualists and thieving politicians, slumming socialites and deadpan assassins. As a guide through this underworld he created the Continental Op, the nameless, laconic detective, world-weary and unblinking, who serves as protagonist of most of these stories. The deliberately unheroic Op is separated only by his code of professionalism from the brutality and corruption that run rampant in stories such as "Zigzags of Treachery," "Dead Yellow Women," "Fly Paper," and "$106,000 Blood Money." Hammett's years of experience as a Pinkerton detective give even his most outlandishly plotted mysteries a gritty credibility, and his intimate knowledge of San Francisco made him the perfect chronicler of that city's waterfronts, back alleys, police stations, and luxury hotels. By connecting crime fiction to the realities of American streets and American speech, his Black Mask stories opened up new vistas for generations of writers and readers. Publishers Weekly The first great author in the hard-boiled detective genre, Hammett remains one of the most entertaining, as demonstrated by this largest single gathering ever of his short fiction. This collection's main distinction is that editor Steven Marcus uses the original story texts from their appearance in Black Mask magazine, recovering occasional pieces of lost wording, chapter breaks and other niceties. However, because Hammett is such a standard figure, most of these stories will be familiar to mystery fans from readily available collections. Marcus repeats everything except "Tulip" and "Corkscrew" from The Big Knockover (1966), edited by Lillian Hellman, and every story from The Continental Op (1974), which he edited. The recent Nightmare Town (2001) scooped the original Nick and Nora-less Thin Man fragment out from under him, plus "Zigzags of Treachery," "Two Sharp Knives" and others that would have made this book a highly desirable purchase. Only "Arson Plus," "Slippery Fingers" and "Creeping Siamese" are unique to this selection. Unless you make a line-by-line comparison, you won't notice great differences between these texts and those in the other books (still, the Black Mask wording is the most satisfying). One senses a missed opportunity for the major collection Hammett fandom has longed for: the complete Continental Op short stories, in order, original texts, under one set of covers that would be irresistible. Nonetheless, for the non-specialist, this volume stands as the best compendium yet of this classic crime author's shorter fiction. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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