(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
One of the most popular American writers of the twentieth century, Dashiell Hammett gave us crime fiction stripped down to its most subtle and searing essentials and, at the same time, elevated to literature. The diamond-sharp prose and artfully manipulated intrigue for which he is known are on full display in the four classic short stories and two riveting novels published here in one volume.
The Continental Op, Hammett’s anonymous antihero, was the indelible prototype for generations of tough-guy detectives. Single-minded, emotionally detached, and decidedly unglamorous, he narrates the four linked stories collected here—“The House in Turk Street,” “The Girl with the Silver Eyes,” “The Big Knockover,” and “$106,000 Blood Money.” In THE DAIN CURSE, the Continental Op takes on his most bizarre case, that of a wealthy young woman who appears to be the victim of a deadly family curse. And THE GLASS KEY—Hammett’s own favorite among his works—features his most cynical and morally ambiguous hero, Ned Beaumont, caught in a hard-boiled love triangle.
About Dashiell Hammett
Dashiell Samuel Hammett was born in St. Mary’s County. 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.
About James Ellroy
James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He is the author of the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy—American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood’s A Rover—and the L. A. Quartet novels, The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L. A. Confidential, and White Jazz. American Tabloid was Time magazine’s Best Book (fiction) of 1995; his memoir My Dark Places was a Time Best Book of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book for 1996. The Cold Six Thousand was a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2001. He lives in Los Angeles.
James Ellroy is represented by Random House Speakers Bureau (http://www.rhspeakers.com).
“Dashiell Hammett is an original. He is a master of the detective novel, yes, but also one hell of a writer.”
“Hammett could no more vulgarize his imaginative methods than he could his spare and elegant style . . . Hammett’s art . . . transform[ed] the possibilities for art among his successors.”
—NEW YORK TIMES
“These [Continental Op] tales show Hammett writing with the precision of a diamond cutter.”
“Not just the first of the tough school of crime-writing but the best.”
—THE TIMES (London)
“Hammett had to fit social realism into a suffocatingly contrived form. He did it with language—densely spare exposition and multilayered dialogue. He gave us a spellbinding male discourse—The Maneuver as moral crusade, the job holder’s aria and torch song.”
—from the Introduction by James Ellroy