RARA-AVIS: Hammett Update from San Francisco

From: Mark Coggins ( coggins@immortalgame.com)
Date: 23 Apr 2001

Well, I attended a panel discussion at Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books in San Francisco last night. The following folks were there:

1) Hammett's daughter, Josephine Hammett Marshall 2) Hammett's granddaughter, Julie Rivett 3) Joe Gores 4) Don Herron (author of the Dashiell Hammett Tour) 5) Richard Layman (one of Hammett's biographers and co-editor of the New Black Mask series)

and several other Hammett experts whose names I'm afraid I missed.

The topic was, of course, the volume of selected Hammett letters that Layman and Rivett co-edited. (Hammett's daughter wrote the forward).

I haven't had a chance to read the letters, but the discussion was great and I thought I'd share a few Hammett tidbits that I found interesting:

- No one on the panel could say for sure what Hammett thought of Chandler, but they did know that Hammett very much appreciated Chandler's essay, "The Simple Art of Murder". Hammett even went so far as to retype the essay from the magazine so that he could give out copies.

- There are about 600 more letters that didn't make it into the book.

- Hammett destroyed all of letters he received from Hellman, but Hellman kept Hammett's. Curiously, however, the only copies extant of many of the Hammett-to-Hellman letters are photocopies or photocopies of photocopies.

- There are original typescripts of Hellman plays with Hammett's writing in the margins.

- The daughter of Peggy O'Toole (model for Brigid O'Shaughnessy) is still alive and she remembers seeing about 20 letters Hammett wrote her mother. I guess only a few remain.

I got a signed copy of the volume of letters (of course) and I also got Layman to sign a first of his biography of Hammett and Gores to sign the British first of his novel, "Hammett".

But now I'm kicking myself for not bringing my firsts of Red Harvest, Falcon and The Glass Key (don't get too excited: no jackets) for Hammett's daughter to sign. Or would that not have been a good idea anyway??


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