Re: RARA-AVIS: Two more Hammett stories

Date: 10 Oct 2002


Re your comment below:

> 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).

In fact, interstate wanted posters were often more likely to be put out by the Pinkertons than by the federal government in the early years of the 20th Century. When the federal government finally got into interstate police work in a big way, the nucleaus of the FBI's fingerprint identification file was a file that had already been maintained for many years by the Pinkerton Agency, and which was turned over to the Bureau by the Pinkertons.

Still, in light of the way the PI story developed post-Hammett, the Op's tight relationship with official law enforcement is remarkable. In another story, "Corkscrew," a town-tamer piece that is sort of a dress rehearsal for RED HARVEST, the Op even gets himself an appointment as an official police officer before carrying out his assignment!


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