From: Frederick Zackel ( fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 19 Nov 2000

SELECTED LETTERS OF DASHIELL HAMMETT Richard Layman, editor Julie M. Rivett, associate editor Foreword by Josephine Hammett Marshall

"Got home to find a stack of letters from the Black Mask, one from Shaw telling me how good I am, one from Cody telling me the same thing . . . Overwhelmed by this applesauce I'm writing them to shoot me some more dough and I'll do them some more shots-in-the-dark. Merry Christmas!--D." To his wife (June 1, 1927)

"I am returning your invoice for excess corrections on The Glass Key. These corrections were made necessary by someone in your editorial department who, with limited amounts of time, energy, and red ink at his disposal, simply edited the Jesus out of my MS . . . If you'll take a look at the [original], you'll see you're lucky I haven't billed you for the trouble I was put to unediting it. Sincerely yours, Dashiell Hammett." To his publishers (December 20, 1930)

"I have been looking through a copy of Le Falcon de Malte and have decided that what I had last night was either a mouille songe or a humide reve. When I can take time from reading my own opera I am rereading Don Quixote . . . I'll get around to everything if I live long enough. I missed a lot of things in that San Francisco Public Library. Tu es un ange, Dash" To Lillian Hellman (December 30, 1936)

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 1933, 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.

Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) is the author of Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, and The Thin Man.

Richard Layman is the author of four books on Dashiell Hammett, including Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett. He is vice president of Bruccoli Clark Layman, a publisher of reference works.

Julie M. Rivett is the granddaughter of Dashiell Hammett, and Josephine Hammett Marshall his daughter.

Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett Publication date: March 2001 ISBN: 1-58243-081-0 Biography

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