> The Diane Johnson biog is probably the least
good---according to Willliam F.
> Nolan, anyway, who published a long list of corrections to all the factual
> Most recent, and fullest, is Joan Mellen's Hellman and Hammett, which ought
> to be available via Amazon.
> Get the Richard Layman if you see it (Shadowman) , and also look out for
> Nolan's A Life At The Edge. I also recall reading somewhere that Nolan was
> planning an updated biography (maybe in the preface to the Nightmare Town
> collection?) so that might me worth waiting for.
The one to get is the Layman book. Nolan didn't have access
to all the information that Layman had (later), so his
suffers only from having been written first. I'd love to read
an updated edition if Nolan does one.
Layman, by the way, was editor of "The New Black Mask"
series, along with Matthew Bruccoli, the guy who did the
descriptive bibliographies on Hammett and Chandler.
The problem with the Johnson bio is (as explained in the
Mellen book) that it was the biography "authorized" by
Lillian Hellman, who both suppressed and manufactured
information about Hammett's life. Hellman also tried to block
Layman from writing his book.
As for the Mellen book itself, it's got lots of good stuff
about Hammett after he stopped writing (for himself, at
least--one major thesis of the book is he helped with a lot
of Hellman's stuff), but it isn't very satisfying for readers
who want to know more about Hammett during his time in San
BTW, an interesting tidbit I stumbled across while reading a
biography on one of my favorite photographers--Edward
Weston--is that Hammett posed for Weston for a portrait
commissioned by one of the studios Hammett worked for in
Hollywood. Weston took the pictures but never printed any
because Hammett was completely blitzed during the shoot. I'd
love to get access to the Weston archives to see if the
negatives still exist.
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