Re: RARA-AVIS: ellroy on hammett and the op

From: Jacob Zumoff (
Date: 30 Sep 2007

This column raises an interesting question for me: it alludes to Hammett's having been asked to participate in the lynching of labour organiser Frank Little. Is there any legitimacy to this story? Of course, Hammett had been a Pinkerton, and the Pinkertons were bloodthirsty anti-labour thugs. However, from what I can tell:

--No scholarly treatment of Little's murder (as opposed to treatment of Hammett) mentions Hammett's role or, for that matter, the Pinkertons' role, in it.
(See for example, A. Gutfeld, Montana's Agony: Years of War and Hysteria, 1917-1921 (U P of Florida, chapter 3.)

--Hammett was likely not stationed in Butte at this time, but later.

--The provenance of this story seems to be Lillian Hellman, who recalled that Hammett had told her it while they were courting years ago.

So my question is, without underestimating the importance of being an anti-labour vigilante in Hammett's development, is there any reason to think that his (or Hellman's) story about Little was actually true?



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