RE: RARA-AVIS: Dashiell Hammett

Date: 23 Mar 2004


Re your question below:

> Thanks very much, Marc! I don't have the Layman
> book, so in a nutshell, were
> these revisions major? Did they "improve" the
> original versions, in your
> opinion?

Not really major, no. And the third and last
"Continental Op' novel, BLOOD MONEY, wasn't revised at all. Like RH and TDC, it had first appeared in two installments (entitled "The Big Knockover" and
"$106,000 Blood Money") in BLACK MASK (in fact, its magazine appearance, predates the magazine appearances of RH and TDC, though it was the last published in book form). When BLOOD MONEY was finally published in book form in the '40's, Hammett was in the Army and unavailable to do revisions.

In fact, all of Hammett's novels except for THE THIN MAN were serialized in BLACK MASK prior to being published as books.

The interesting thing about this is that the editor of BLACK MASK, Joseph T. Shaw, didn't like serials in BLACK MASK, so any novel that was serialized in his magazine had to be written so that each installment could stand on its own as a short story. Of the five Hammett novels published in BM, only THE MALTESE FALCON was written as a straightforward story. All the other novels were written so that each part could stand on its own as a short story. That why the article you read referred to them as "linked novellettes" rather than serial chapters.

Hammett's revisions for book publication usually amounted to trying to conceal the seams. He was largely successful, in my opinion, with RH and THE GLASS KEY, less successful with the clearly episodic TDC. Of course, the much shorter BM, made up of only two installments, wasn't revised at all.


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