Re: RARA-AVIS: Hammett's non-fiction

Warren Harris (
Thu, 4 Feb 1999 21:53:45 -0700 "Who Killed Bob Teal?" is reprinted more recently in "Murder Plus" from
1992, a collection of supposedly true crime stories by mystery writers.

However, I doubt the story really is a true crime story as the character of
Bob Teal appears as a supporting character in "Slipery Fingers" which is a
Continental Op story.

In "Slipery Fingers" Teal is described as "a youngster who will be a
world-beater some day"

In "Who Killed..." as "if ever a man had the makings of a crack detective
in him, this slender, broad-shouldered lad had." And it also indicates his

The familiar character of the Old Man, head of the San Francisco branch of
the Continental Detective Agency also appears and the story is bylined by
Hammett as an operative for the Continental Detective Agency, which only
exists in Hammetts Op stories.

It seems to me that this is an op story that was sold as a true crime story
to fit the market. Even the editor of the anthology, Marc Gerald, in his
introduction admits that the truthfullness of the story is in doubt.

I'll have to look for "Art of the Mystery Story."

> Re Duane's question below:
> "I wondered whether Hammett ever wrote any non-fiction, particularly
> about actual crimes -- perhaps info on some of the cases he
> investigated as a Pinkerton."
> Hammett wrote one article, something along the lines of "Memoirs of a
> Private Detective" for, I believe, *Saturday Review*. It was
> reprinted in *The Art of the Mystery Story* edited by Howard Haycraft
> in the mid-40s. One of his Continental Op stories, "Who Killed Bob
> Teal?" was rejected by *Black Mask*, so he added a paragraph at the
> beginning asserting that the story was true, with names and locales
> changed, and re-submitted it to *True Detective* where it a appeared
> as a truce crime article. How much it was based on an actual case is
> anyone's guess. The plot involved the Op trying to solve the murder
> of his partner in circumstances virtually identical to those
> surrounding the murder of Miles Archer in *The Maltese Falcon*. The
> Op figures out who the killer is by using the same reasoning Spade
> uses to figure out who killed Archer in *Falcon*. - Jim Doherty

Warren Harris

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