|Born||Samuel Dashiell Hammett|
May 27, 1894
St. Mary's County, Maryland, U.S.
|Died||January 10, 1961 66) (aged|
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
|Genre||Crime and detective fiction|
(m. 1921;div. 1937)
|Partner||Lillian Hellman (1931–1961)|
Samuel Dashiell Hammett ( // ; May 27, 1894 – January 10, 1961) was an American author of hard-boiled detective novels and short stories. He was also a screenwriter and political activist. Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade ( The Maltese Falcon ), Nick and Nora Charles ( The Thin Man ), the Continental Op ( Red Harvest and The Dain Curse ) and the comic strip character Secret Agent X-9.
Hammett "is now widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time".In his obituary in The New York Times , he was described as "the dean of the ... 'hard-boiled' school of detective fiction." Time included Hammett's 1929 novel Red Harvest on its list of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005. In 1990, the Crime Writers' Association picked three out of five of his novels for their list of The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time . Five years later, four out of five of his novels made The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time as selected by the Mystery Writers of America. His novels and stories also had a significant influence on films, including the genres of private eye/detective fiction, mystery thrillers, and film noir.
Hammett was born near Great Mills on the "Hopewell and Aim" farm in Saint Mary's County, Maryland,to Richard Thomas Hammett and his wife Anne Bond Dashiell. His mother belonged to an old Maryland family, whose name in French was De Chiel. He had an elder sister, Aronia, and a younger brother, Richard Jr. Known as Sam, Hammett was baptized a Catholic, and grew up in Philadelphia and Baltimore.
He left school when he was 13 years old and held several jobs before working for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. He served as an operative for Pinkerton from 1915 to February 1922, with time off to serve in World War I. He said that while with the Pinkertons, he was sent to Butte, Montana, during the union strikes, though some researchers doubt this really happened.The agency's role in strike-breaking eventually left him disillusioned.
Hammett enlisted in the United States Army in 1918 and served in the Motor Ambulance Corps. He was afflicted during that time with the Spanish flu and later contracted tuberculosis. He spent most of his time in the Army as a patient at Cushman Hospital in Tacoma, Washington, where he met a nurse, Josephine Dolan, whom he married on July 7, 1921, in San Francisco.
Hammett and Dolan had two daughters, Mary Jane (born 1921) and Josephine (born 1926).Shortly after the birth of their second child, health services nurses informed Dolan that, due to Hammett's tuberculosis, she and the children should not live with him full-time. Dolan rented a home in San Francisco, where Hammett would visit on weekends. The marriage soon fell apart; however, he continued to financially support his wife and daughters with the income he made from his writing.
Hammett was first published in 1922 in the magazine The Smart Set .Known for the authenticity and realism of his writing, he drew on his experiences as a Pinkerton operative. Hammett wrote most of his detective fiction while he was living in San Francisco in the 1920s; streets and other locations in San Francisco are frequently mentioned in his stories. He said that "I do take most of my characters from real life." His novels were some of the first to use dialogue that sounded authentic to the era. "I distrust a man that says when. If he's got to be careful not to drink too much, it's because he's not to be trusted when he does."
The bulk of his early work, featuring a nameless private investigator, The Continental Op, appeared in leading crime-fiction pulp magazine, Black Mask . Both Hammett and the magazine struggled in the period when Hammett became established.
Because of a disagreement with editor Philip C. Cody about money owed from previous stories, Hammett briefly stopped writing for Black Mask in 1926. He then took a full-time job as an advertisement copywriter for the Albert S. Samuels Co., a San Francisco jeweller. He was wooed back to writing for the Black Mask by Joseph Thompson Shaw, who became the new editor in the summer of 1926. Hammett dedicated his first novel, Red Harvest , to Shaw and his second novel, The Dain Curse , to Samuels.Both these novels and his third, The Maltese Falcon , and fourth, The Glass Key , were first serialized in Black Mask before being revised and edited for publication by Alfred A. Knopf. The Maltese Falcon, considered to be his best work, was voted No. 2 of The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time by the Mystery Writers of America and is dedicated to his wife Josephine.
For much of 1929 and 1930, he was romantically involved with Nell Martin, a writer of short stories and several novels. He dedicated The Glass Key to her and, in turn, she dedicated her novel Lovers Should Marry to him. In 1931, Hammett embarked on a 30-year romantic relationship with the playwright Lillian Hellman. Though he sporadically continued to work on material, he wrote his final novel in 1934, more than 25 years before his death. The Thin Man is dedicated to Hellman. Why he moved away from fiction is not certain; Hellman speculated in a posthumous collection of Hammett's novels, "I think, but I only think, I know a few of the reasons: he wanted to do new kind of work; he was sick for many of those years and getting sicker."In the 1940s, Hellman and he lived at her farm, Hardscrabble Farm, in Pleasantville, New York.
Raymond Chandler, often considered Hammett's successor, summarized his accomplishments in The Simple Art of Murder :
Hammett was the ace performer, but there is nothing in his work that is not implicit in the early novels and short stories of Hemingway. Yet for all I know, Hemingway may have learned something from Hammett, as well as from writers like Dreiser, Ring Lardner, Carl Sandburg, Sherwood Anderson and himself ... Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse; and with the means at hand, not with hand-wrought duelling pistols, curare, and tropical fish ... He is said to have lacked heart, yet the story he thought most of himself [ The Glass Key ] is the record of a man's devotion to a friend. He was spare, frugal, hard-boiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before.
Hammett devoted much of his life to left-wing activism. He was a strong antifascist throughout the 1930s, and in 1937 joined the Communist Party.On May 1, 1935, Hammett joined the League of American Writers (1935-1943), whose members included Lillian Hellman, Alexander Trachtenberg of International Publishers, Frank Folsom, Louis Untermeyer, I. F. Stone, Myra Page, Millen Brand, Clifford Odets, and Arthur Miller. (Members were largely either Communist Party members or fellow travelers.) He suspended his anti-fascist activities when, as a member (and in 1941 president) of the League of American Writers, he served on its Keep America Out of War Committee in January 1940 during the period of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
Especially in Red Harvest , literary scholars have seen a Marxist critique of the social system. One Hammett biographer, Richard Layman, calls such interpretations "imaginative", but he nonetheless objects to them, since, among other reasons, no "masses of politically dispossessed people" are in this novel. Herbert Ruhm found that contemporary left-wing media already viewed Hammett's writing with skepticism, "perhaps because his work suggests no solution: no mass-action ... no individual salvation ... no Emersonian reconciliation and transcendence".In a letter of November 25, 1937, to his daughter Mary, Hammett referred to himself and others as "we reds". He confirmed, "in a democracy all men are supposed to have an equal say in their government", but added that "their equality need not go beyond that." He also found, "under socialism there is not necessarily ... any leveling of incomes."
Hellman wrote that Hammett was "most certainly" a Marxist, though a "very critical Marxist" who was "often contemptuous of the Soviet Union" and "bitingly sharp about the American Communist Party", to which he was nevertheless loyal. 12–13:
At the beginning of 1942, he wrote the screenplay of Watch on the Rhine , based on Hellman's successful play, which received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay). But that year the Oscar went to Casablanca . In early 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hammett again enlisted in the United States Army. He was a disabled veteran of World War I, a victim of tuberculosis, and a Communist, but he pulled strings to be admitted.[ citation needed ] However, biographer Diane Johnson suggests that confusion over Hammett's forenames was the reason he was able to re-enlist. He served as an enlisted man in the Aleutian Islands and initially worked on cryptanalysis on the island of Umnak. For fear of his radical tendencies, he was transferred to the Headquarters Company where he edited an Army newspaper entitled The Adakian. In 1943, while still a member of the military, he co-authored The Battle of the Aleutians with Cpl. Robert Colodny, under the direction of an infantry intelligence officer, Major Henry W. Hall. While in the Aleutians, he developed emphysema.[ citation needed ]
After the war, Hammett returned to political activism, "but he played that role with less fervour than before". He was elected president of the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) on June 5, 1946, at a meeting held at the Hotel Diplomat in New York City, and "devoted the largest portion of his working time to CRC activities".
In 1946, a bail fund was created by the CRC "to be used at the discretion of three trustees to gain the release of defendants arrested for political reasons."The trustees were Hammett, who was chairman, Robert W. Dunn, and Frederick Vanderbilt Field.
The CRC was designated a Communist front group by the US Attorney General.
The CRC's bail fund gained national attention on November 4, 1949, when bail in the amount of "$260,000 in negotiable government bonds" was posted "to free eleven men appealing their convictions under the Smith Act for criminal conspiracy to teach and advocate the overthrow of the United States government by force and violence." On July 2, 1951, their appeals exhausted, four of the convicted men fled rather than surrender themselves to federal agents and begin serving their sentences. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued subpoenas to the trustees of the CRC bail fund in an attempt to learn the whereabouts of the fugitives.
Hammett testified on July 9, 1951, in front of United States District Court Judge Sylvester Ryan, facing questioning by Irving Saypol, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, described by Time as "the nation's number-one legal hunter of top Communists". During the hearing, Hammett refused to provide the information the government wanted, specifically the list of contributors to the bail fund, "people who might be sympathetic enough to harbor the fugitives."Instead, on every question regarding the CRC or the bail fund, Hammett declined to answer, citing the Fifth Amendment, refusing to even identify his signature or initials on CRC documents the government had subpoenaed. As soon as his testimony concluded, Hammett was found guilty of contempt of court.
Hammett served time in a West Virginia federal penitentiary, where, according to Lillian Hellman, he was assigned to clean toilets.Hellman noted in her eulogy of Hammett that he submitted to prison rather than reveal the names of the contributors to the fund because "he had come to the conclusion that a man should keep his word."
By 1952, Hammett's popularity had declined as result of the hearings. He found himself impoverished due to a combination of the cancellation of radio programs The Adventures of Sam Spade and The Adventures of the Thin Man , and a lien on his income by the Internal Revenue Service for back taxes owed since 1943. Furthermore, his books were no longer in print.
During the 1950s, Hammett was investigated by Congress. He testified on March 26, 1953, before the House Un-American Activities Committee about his own activities, but refused to cooperate with the committee. No official action was taken, but his stand led to him being blacklisted, along with others who were blacklisted as a result of McCarthyism.
Hammett became an alcoholic before working in advertising, ... I knew he would now always be sick."and alcoholism continued to trouble him until 1948, when he quit under doctor's orders. However, years of heavy drinking and smoking worsened the tuberculosis he contracted in World War I, and then, according to Hellman, "jail had made a thin man thinner, a sick man sicker
Hellman wrote that during the 1950s, Hammett became "a hermit", his decline evident in the clutter of his rented "ugly little country cottage", where "signs of sickness were all around: now the phonograph was unplayed, the typewriter untouched, the beloved foolish gadgets unopened in their packages."He may have meant to start a new literary life with the novel Tulip, but left it unfinished, perhaps because he was "just too ill to care, too worn out to listen to plans or read contracts. The fact of breathing, just breathing, took up all the days and nights." Hammett could no longer live alone, and they both knew it, so he spent the last four years of his life with Hellman. "Not all of that time was easy, and some of it very bad", she wrote, but, "guessing death was not too far away, I would try for something to have afterwards."
Hammett died in Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan on January 10, 1961, of lung cancer, diagnosed just two months before.
A veteran of both world wars, Hammett is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Many of Hammett's papers are held by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. This archive includes manuscripts and personal correspondence, along with a small group of miscellaneous notes.
The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of South Carolina holds the Dashiell Hammett family papers.
Hammett's relationship with Lillian Hellman was portrayed in the 1977 film Julia . Jason Robards won an Oscar for his depiction of Hammett, and Jane Fonda was nominated for her portrayal of Lillian Hellman.
Hammett was the subject of a 1982 prime time PBS biography, The Case of Dashiell Hammett, that won a Peabody Award and a special Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America.
Frederic Forrest portrayed Hammett semifictionally as the protagonist in the 1982 film Hammett , based on the novel of the same name by Joe Gores.
Sam Shepard played Hammett in the 1999 Emmy-nominated biographical television film Dash and Lilly along with Judy Davis as Hellman.
There is an almost complete bibliography by Richard Layman.This last is an updated listing of the works described in Dashiell Hammett: A Descriptive Bibliography. Hammett's entry in American Hard Boiled Crime Writers also contains a bibliography.
The Continental Op
Nick and Nora Charles
Examples of Hammett's advertising copy for the Albert S. Samuels Company, a San Francisco jewelers, are given in:
In 2011, magazine editor Andrew Gulli found fifteen previously unknown short stories by Dashiell Hammett in the archives of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin.
Because of their popularity, Hammett's short stories were collected in many anthologies by different publishers. After their initial publication in pulp magazines, they were first collected in ten digest-sized paperbacks by Mercury Publications under an imprint, either Bestsellers Mystery, A Jonathan Press Mystery or Mercury Mystery. The stories were edited by Ellery Queen (Frederic Dannay) and were abridged versions of the original publications. Some of these digests were reprinted as hardcovers by World Publishing under the imprint Tower Books. The anthologies were also republished as Dell mapbacks. An important collection, The Big Knockover and Other Stories, edited by Lillian Hellman, helped revive Hammett's literary reputation in the 1960s and fostered a new series of anthologies. However, most of these used Dannay's abridged version of the stories. Steven Marcus, while editing the collection for the Library of America, was the first to return to the original magazine texts.[ citation needed ]
Along with the novels, these later collections have been reprinted in paperback versions under many imprints: Vintage Crime, Black Lizard, Everyman's library.
The Maltese Falcon is a 1930 detective novel by American writer Dashiell Hammett, originally serialized in the magazine Black Mask beginning with the September 1929 issue. The story is told entirely in external third-person narrative; there is no description whatsoever of any character's thoughts or feelings, only what they say and do, and how they look. The novel has been adapted several times for the cinema.
The Thin Man is a 1934 American pre-Code comedy-mystery directed by W. S. Van Dyke and based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. The film stars William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, a leisure-class couple who enjoy copious drinking and flirtatious banter. Nick is a retired police detective who left his very successful career when he married Nora, a wealthy heiress accustomed to high society. Their wire-haired fox terrier Asta was played by canine actor Skippy. In 1997, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry having been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
Nick and Nora Charles are fictional characters created by Dashiell Hammett in his novel The Thin Man. The characters were later adapted for film in a series of films between 1934 and 1947; for radio from 1941 to 1950; for television from 1957 through 1959; as a Broadway musical in 1991; and as a stage play in 2009.
Black Mask was a pulp magazine first published in April 1920 by the journalist H. L. Mencken and the drama critic George Jean Nathan. The magazine was one of several money-making publishing ventures to support the prestigious literary magazine The Smart Set, which Mencken edited, and which had operated at a loss since at least 1917. Under their editorial hand, the magazine was not exclusively a publisher of crime fiction, offering, according to the magazine, "the best stories available of adventure, the best mystery and detective stories, the best romances, the best love stories, and the best stories of the occult." The magazine's first editor was Florence Osborne.
Red Harvest (1929) is a novel by Dashiell Hammett. The story is narrated by the Continental Op, a frequent character in Hammett's fiction, much of which is drawn from his own experiences as an operative of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. The labor dispute in the novel was inspired by Butte's Anaconda Road massacre.
Sam Spade is a fictional character and the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett's 1930 novel, The Maltese Falcon. Spade also appeared in four lesser-known short stories by Hammett.
The Continental Op is a fictional character created by Dashiell Hammett. He is a private investigator employed as an operative of the Continental Detective Agency's San Francisco office. The stories are all told in the first person and his name is never given.
The Glass Key is a novel by American writer Dashiell Hammett. It was first published as a serial in Black Mask magazine in 1930, then was collected in 1931. It tells the story of a gambler and racketeer, Ned Beaumont, whose devotion to Paul Madvig, a crooked political boss, leads him to investigate the murder of a local senator's son as a potential gang war brews. Hammett dedicated the novel to his onetime lover Nell Martin.
The Dain Curse is a novel by Dashiell Hammett, published in 1929. Before its publication in book form, it was serialized in Black Mask magazine in 1928 and 1929.
Satan Met a Lady is a 1936 American detective film directed by William Dieterle and starring Bette Davis and Warren William.
The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 American film noir written and directed by John Huston in his directorial debut, based on the 1930 novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett and indebted to the 1931 movie of the same name. It stars Humphrey Bogart as private investigator Sam Spade and Mary Astor as his femme fatale client. Gladys George, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet co-star, with the last appearing in his film debut. The story follows a San Francisco private detective and his dealings with three unscrupulous adventurers, all of whom are competing to obtain a jewel-encrusted falcon statuette.
The Thin Man (1934) is a detective novel by Dashiell Hammett, originally published in the December 1933 issue of Redbook. It appeared in book form the following month.
Dell Publishing is an American publisher of books, magazines and comic books, that was founded in 1921 by George T. Delacorte Jr. with $10,000, two employees and one magazine title, I Confess, and soon began turning out dozens of pulp magazines, which included penny-a-word detective stories, articles about films, and romance books.
The Maltese Falcon may refer to:
The Maltese Falcon Society is an organization for admirers of Dashiell Hammett, his 1930 novel The Maltese Falcon, and hardboiled mystery books and writers in general. Founded in San Francisco in 1981, the organization is no longer active in the United States; however, a chapter in Japan has been active continuously since 1982. The Japanese branch of the society presents the Falcon Award, Japan's highest honor in the mystery field, to honor the best hardboiled mystery novel published in Japan.
Joseph Nicholas Gores was an American mystery writer. He was known best for his novels and short stories set in San Francisco and featuring the fictional "Dan Kearney and Associates" private investigation firm specializing in repossessing cars, a thinly veiled escalation of his own experiences as a confidential sleuth and repo man. Gores was also recognized for his novels Hammett, Spade & Archer and his Edgar Award-winning or -nominated works, such as A Time of Predators, 32 Cadillacs and Come Morning.
The Gutting of Couffignal (1925) is a hardboiled crime short story by Dashiell Hammett. It has been reprinted many times in different collections, namely: The Return of the Continental Op,The Big Knockover,Crime Stories and Other Writings, and The Big Book of the Continental Op.
Roadhouse Nights is a 1930 American Pre-Code gangster film. A number of sources including Sally Cline in her book Dashiell Hammett Man of Mystery claim it is based on the classic novel Red Harvest written by Dashiell Hammett. However the credits of the film itself say only "An Original Screenplay by Ben Hecht." Hammett receives no mention at all.
"The House in Turk Street" is an early short story by Dashiell Hammett, featuring the Continental Op. It was first published in Black Mask in April 1924. This story indicates Hammett was turning towards themes of increasing violence in his stories, and its savagery has been commented upon; particularly how it ends in a massacre.
Mister Dynamite is a 1935 American action film directed by Alan Crosland and written by Doris Malloy and Harry Clork. The film stars Edmund Lowe, Jean Dixon, Victor Varconi, Esther Ralston, Verna Hillie and Minor Watson. The film was released on April 22, 1935, by Universal Pictures.
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