Reading Early Hammett

A Critical Study of the Fiction Prior to The Maltese Falcon


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About the Book

Dashiell Hammett, like most successful writers, honed his skills in the trenches. Long before The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man made him a household name, Hammett developed his technique writing satirical magazine pieces, then moved on to churn out tales of sex, crime and adventure for pulp magazines. Characters like Sam Spade and Nick and Nora Charles made him famous, but Hammett perfected his style—and created the first hard-boiled detective fiction—writing stories and novels about an anonymous, middle-aged detective, known as the Continental Op.
This detailed examination of the early works of Dashiell Hammett takes a new look at one of the 20th century’s most influential crime writers and his creation of the hard-boiled detective story. Each chapter covers an element of Hammett’s early writing career—his magazine fiction; the Continental Op’s development as a character; the Continental Op novels; and the last Continental Op stories. A concluding chapter provides afterthoughts on Hammett’s career, style and place in the history of detective fiction. A chronology of works cited, a bibliography and an index supplement the text.

About the Author(s)

LeRoy Lad Panek, professor emeritus of English at McDaniel College (and “One of the most readable, prolific, and perceptive academic scholars of mystery fiction”—Mystery Scene), is the author of a number of books about detective fiction. He lives in Westminster, Maryland.

Bibliographic Details

LeRoy Lad Panek
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 219
Bibliographic Info: chronology, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2004
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1962-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

1. Hammett’s Magazine Writings      5
2. Making the Continental Op      69
3. The Op Novels      121
4. The Last Op Stories      169
5. Afterthoughts      193

Works Cited      205
Index      209

Book Reviews & Awards

“one of the most readable, prolific, and perceptive academic scholars of mystery fiction”—Mystery Scene; “fascinating and comprehensive…highly recommended”—Choice; “die-hard Hammett fans will undoubtedly enjoy this book, and scholars should find it an important addition”—Cercles; “excellent…informative, entertaining”—The Compulsive Reader.