RE: RARA-AVIS: Hammett's "Woman In The Dark": Thornton

From: Todd Mason (
Date: 18 Oct 2002

I remember it, after ten years +, as rather slight (aside from length) and, as Robert Parker wrote in his intro to the Knopf edition, more of a love story than DH usually attempted...another link to THE THIN MAN, perhaps. Most impressive to me was that even LIBERTY, which did some eccentric things
(such as listing reading times for each of its contents), could justify breaking this short novella at best (75 sparsely-lettered pages) into two installments...also that aside from a Mercury Press reprint, that no one bothered to reprint the story till the Knopf edition. Cain's THE BABY IN THE ICEBOX AND OTHER STORIES and the first of the Parker "completions" of Chandler, POODLE SPRINGS, came out about the same time, though...

I suspect your suspicions are more correct than not. TM

-----Original Message----- From: Brian Thornton [mailto:]

While we're on the subject of Hammett's work, I just finished "Woman In The Dark", which was serialized in two installments in Liberty magazine in 1933. It is interesting to note that the piece of fiction he published after this was "The Thin Man", and I think I can see why. This is a novelette (75 pages) that really doesn't seem to know what to do with itself. There is good characterization and a promising start, but the unconvincing ending seems slapped together, and uneven. Had he been in better form/health, Hammett could have fleshed this story out considerably, and he might have had something here. As it is, it remains a flawed masterpiece with too-swift transitions in the last ten or so pages.

It almost seems as if he ran out of gas and was just in a hurry to finish and sell it. Anyone else read this one? Thoughts?

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