Nightmare Town by Dashiell Hammett
Stories

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Synopsis

Twenty long-unavailable stories by Dashiell Hammett, the author of The Maltese Falcon and the incomparable master of detective fiction.

In the title story, a man on a bender enters a small town and ends up unraveling the dark mystery at its heart. A woman confronts the brutal truth about her husband in the chilling story "Ruffian's Wife." "His Brother's Keeper" is a half-wit boxer's eulogy to the brother who betrayed him. "The Second-Story Angel" recounts one of the most novel cons ever devised.

In seven stories, the tough and taciturn Continental Op takes on a motley collection of the deceitful, the duped, and the dead, and once again shows his uncanny ability to get at the truth. In three stories, Sam Spade confronts the darkness in the human soul while rolling his own cigarettes. And the first study for The Thin Man sends John Guild on a murder investigation in which almost every witness may be lying.  

In Nightmare Town, Dashiell Hammett, America's poet laureate of the dispossessed, shows us a world where people confront a multitude of evils. Whether they are trying to right wrongs or just trying to survive, all of them are rendered with Hammett's signature gifts for sharp-edged characters and blunt dialogue.

Hammett said that his ambition was to elevate mystery fiction to the level of art. This collection of masterful stories clearly illustrates Hammett's success, and shows the remarkable range and variety of the fiction he produced.
 

About Dashiell Hammett

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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.
 
Published August 31, 1999 by Knopf. 432 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Nightmare Town

Kirkus Reviews

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Henryish “Second-Story Angel” into as sharp an anecdote as the noir western “The Man Who Killed Dan Odams.” What matters is that the editors have preserved between one set of covers all three Sam Spade short stories, seven heretofore uncollected ones starring the Continental Op, a generous sampli...

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Publishers Weekly

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In ""His Brother's Keeper,"" a story of betrayal and redemption is told through the eyes of a dumb prize-fighter, so that the reader is always a step ahead of the narrator, but is sympathetic toward him.

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BC Books

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The real thrill of Nightmare Town is an unfinished early draft of The Thin Man.

Mar 25 2005 | Read Full Review of Nightmare Town: Stories

BC Books

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In 1999 fans of hard boiled detective stories got a fresh treat, from writings at least 70 years old.

Mar 25 2005 | Read Full Review of Nightmare Town: Stories

London Review of Books

If writers of detective fiction cast themselves as detectives, this isn’t how it seems to their readers, who prefer to think of them as criminals.

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