RARA-AVIS: William Nolan's Hammett: A Casebook + Ross Macdonald

From: Vince Emery (vince@emery.com)
Date: 08 Jun 2009

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    Eric Chambers asked:

    > I just came across the information that William F. Nolan wrote a book
    called . 'Dashiell Hammett: A Casebook' Is this a biography or an analysis of Hammett's writing or what? Is it recommended reading?

    My reply:

    When William F. Nolan's book "Dashiell Hammett: A Casebook" was published in 1969, it was the first book on Hammett. It won the Edgar Award for Best Biographical/Critical Book of the Year.

    The book begins with an introduction by Philip Durham, the biographer of Raymond Chandler. It includes a 127-page section that is a combination biography and critical overview of Hammett's work, and a 49-page checklist of works by Hammett and about Hammett.

    "Dashiell Hammett: A Casebook" broke new ground in Hammett research. (Nolan is the only Hammett researcher to interview Hammett's boss Albert Samuels and fellow Black Mask writer Erle Stanley Gardner about Hammett.) But it was published 40 years ago, and many speculations in the book about Hammett turned out to be wrong when more evidence was uncovered by other Hammett researchers, especially David Fechheimer and Richard Layman.

    Fans of Ross Macdonald/Kenneth Millar will be interested to know that Millar edited the book (earning thanks in Nolan's "Acknowledgements" section), found a publisher for Nolan, and wrote a lengthy blurb for the book's dust jacket.

    I would not recommend "Dashiell Hammett: A Casebook" as an introduction to Hammett. Newer books are more accurate and more complete. However,
    "Casebook" still holds some value for detail-oriented Hammett researchers, and for Hammett/Nolan/Macdonald completists. The first printing was only 1,000 copies, so a copy with a dust jacket is a collectable item.

    What books about Hammett do I recommend? For my take on 16 books and 1 DVD about Hammett, see this list I wrote for Amazon.com:

    http://www.amazon.com/Books-and-a-video-about-Dashiell-Hammett/lm/R1W6AV47MJ UFTA/ref=cm_lm_byauthor_title_full

    Vince Emery

    Vince Emery Productions Publisher:
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    - LOST STORIES by Dashiell Hammett

    www.emerybooks.com Box 460279, San Francisco, CA 94146 USA vince@emery.com†††† Phone 1.415.337.6000

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