Mark Nevins asked:
> Speaking of Hammett, over the weekend I read the first 100 pages or so of
Diane Johnson's biography. [snip] I wonder what others think of this book? Is this the definitive biography, or is there one generally accepted to be better?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive biography of Hammett. The 3 major
biographies of Hammett ("Shadow Man" by Richard Layman; "Dashiell Hammett: A
Life" by Diane Johnson; and "Hammett: A Life at the Edge" by William F.
Nolan) were written years before the discoveries that made the 2001
publication of "Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett" such a groundbreaking
book, and before the personal revelations in Jo Hammett's shorter biography,
"Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers."
All 3 of the bios provide information that the others do not. All 3 of them
make assumptions that are now proven to be wrong.
I'd say that Nolan's bio provides the smoothest read, but Layman's packs the
most facts and has been the most useful one for my own research. I also use
Johnson's for research. I tell most Hammett fans the best book to start with
is "Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers." The best book for details is
unquestionably "Selected Letters," but it is not a biography.
Vince Emery Productions
- THE DASHIELL HAMMETT TOUR by Don Herron
- DISCOVERING THE MALTESE FALCON AND
SAM SPADE edited by Richard Layman
- HAMMETT'S MORAL VISION
by George J. "Rhino" Thompson
- LOST STORIES by Dashiell Hammett
Box 460279, San Francisco, CA 94146 USA
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