Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett by Dashiell Hammett

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Synopsis

A literary event: the letters, both private and professional, of Dashiell Hammett, creator of Sam Spade and father of the hardboiled crime novel. . In his five great crime novels, all of them written in a magnificent burst of creativity between 1927 and 1935, Dashiell Hammett gave America a cast of immortal characters-Sam Spade, the Continental Op, and Nick and Nora Charles, mold-breaking, red-blooded alternatives to Sherlock Holmes and Lord Peter Wimsey. In the words of Raymond Chandler, Hammett "gave murder back to the kind of people who commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse; and with the means at hand, not with hand-wrought dueling pistols. " A popular writer from the start, he aspired to a higher goal. As he was working on his classic The Maltese Falcon, he wrote a letter to his publisher about the potential of the detective-story form: "Someday somebody's going to make 'literature' out of it...and I'm selfish enough to have my hopes. "Though Hammett's work is admired by millions, the man himself has always been an enigma. Now, at last, comes a volume of his letters, revealing not only the private man but also the hard-working-and hard-living-professional. Yes, he was part cynical tough guy, like Sam Spade; he was part sophisticated inebriate, like Nick Charles. But the character of Dashiell Hammett was too complex to be easily categorized. His letters to his family, lovers, and colleagues show his personal warmth, his political commitment, his wide-ranging intellectual curiosity. With wit, intelligence, and style, these letters further confirm Hammett's extraordinary talent as writer and observer.
 

About Dashiell Hammett

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Samuel Dashiell Hammett was born on May 27, 1894 in St Mary's County, Maryland. Raised in Baltimore and Philadelphia, Hammett attended Baltimore Polytechnic until he was 13 years old, but he was forced to drop out and work a series of jobs to help support his family. At the age of 21 Hammett was hired by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency as an "operative." After a stint in the United States Army during World War II, Hammett married nurse Josephine Annas Dolan, whom he met when he fell ill with tuberculosis. In 1922, Hammett began writing for Black Mask magazine. Using his vast background in detective work, Hammett created the tough guy detective characters Sam Spade and the Continental Op, as well as debonair sleuths Nick and Nora Charles. By 1927, Hammett had written the "Poisonville" series, which later became the novel "Red Harvest." Recognized as the first master of writing "hard-boiled" detective fiction, Hammett wrote more than 85 short stories and five novels during his lifetime. The novels include The Dain Curse, Red Harvest, The Glass Key, The Thin Man, and The Maltese Falcon, which was later adapted into a classic movie starring Humphrey Bogart. Hammett also wrote his biography Beams Falling: The Art of Dashiell Hammett. After his marriage faltered in the late 1920s, Hammett met Lillian Hellman, then a married 24-year-old aspiring playwright. In 1930, Hellman left her husband for Hammett. Eventually they both divorced their spouses and, although the two never married, they remained together until Hammett's death on January 10, 1961. Layman is the vice president of Bruccoli Clark Layman, a publisher of reference works in literature.
 
Published May 1, 2001 by Counterpoint Press. 672 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett

Publishers Weekly

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Biographer Layman (Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett) and Rivett, Hammett's granddaughter, offer a deeply involving anthology of the voluminous correspondence of Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961), culled from more than 1,000 surviving letters.

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Entertainment Weekly

Dashiell Hammett only had six great years as a fiction writer: Between 1927 and 1933 he wrote five novels, including The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, and never completed another book.

May 11 2001 | Read Full Review of Selected Letters of Dashiell ...

Variety

Dashiell Hammett, author of "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Glass Key," is known for his rugged, rebellious individuality and hard-boiled writing style, so it's an amusing surprise that many of his notes to Lillian Hellman are signed "to my cutie" and "to my cookie."

Jul 16 2001 | Read Full Review of Selected Letters of Dashiell ...

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