RARA-AVIS: Two more Hammett stories

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 09 Oct 2002

I read "Arson Plus" (BLACK MASK, 1 October 1923) and and "Slippery Fingers" (BLACK MASK, 15 October 1923) (both originally under the Peter Collinson monicker). These are the first two Op stories. "Arson Plus" is a sort of American descendant of the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder."

One interesting thing about these stories is how closely the Continental Detective Agency works with the police. The Op is treated as their equal: he questions the suspects with them and cues them on how to act, he gives orders, he goes out with them chasing down clues. I knew the Pinkertons were a big agency, but I hadn't thought of them as working so intimately with the police. This is quite a different arrangement than loner private eyes a few years later. Spade and Hammer and the boys always battle the police and are treated by them with contempt (except for the standard one friend on the force who does favours, but complains).


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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