Miskatonic University Press

William Denton <wtd@pobox.com>

The Lazy Gink's Guide to a Complete Hammett Collection

Dashiell Hammett's novels are easy to find: any library or bookstore can get you Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, and The Thin Man. Getting all his short stories is a much tougher job. Three recent collections will give you most of them, and all the best and most popular ones (and lots that are less popular, and some that aren't very good): Crime Stories and Other Writings, Nightmare Town, and Lost Stories. After that you'll mostly have to go to collections from the 1940s and 1950s. (Some of the early stories were published under pseudonyms, but I'll skip that level of detail here. Check the full bibliography.)

Here is the full text of Hammett's first published short story, "The Parthian Shot" (from Smart Set, October 1922):

When the boy was six months old Paulette Key acknowledged that her hopes and efforts had been futile, that the baby was indubitably and irredeemably a replica of its father. She could have endured the physical resemblance, but the duplication of Harold Key's stupid obstinacy--unmistakable in the fixity of the child's inarticulate demands for its food, its toys--was too much for Paulette. She knew she could not go on living with two such natures! A year and a half of Harold's domination had not subdued her entirely. She took the little boy to church, had him christened Don, sent him home by his nurse, and boarded a train for the West.

Here is the full text of Hammett's second published short story, "Immortality" (from 10 Story Book, November 1922, as "Daghull Hammett"):

I know little of science or art or finance or adventure. I have never written anything except brief and infrequent letters to my sister in Sacramento. My name, were it not painted on the windows of my shop, would be unknown to even the Polish family that lives and has many children across the street. Yet I shall live in the memories of men when those names are on every one's lips now are forgotten, and when the events of today are dim. I do not know whether I shall be remembered as a great wit, a dreamer of strange dreams, a great thinker, or a philosopher; but I do know that I, Oscar Blichy, the grocer, shall be an immortal. I have saved nearly seventeen thousand dollars from the profits of my shop during the last twenty years. I shall add to this amount as much as I can until the day of my death, and then it is to go to the writer of the best biography of me!

Books in print

If you get these first three books, you have most of the stories, and certainly all the best ones.

Hammett, Dashiell. Crime Stories and Other Writings. New York: Library of America, 2001.

(In all the following listings I leave out stories already mentioned.)

Hammett, Dashiell. Nightmare Town. New York: Knopf, 1999.

Hammett, Dashiell. Lost Stories. Edited by Vince Emery. San Franciso: Vince Emery Productions, 2005.

Along with many stories that used to be very hard to find, this book also has a wealth of biography, history, and criticism, plus an introduction by Joe Gores. See the publisher's page for more details.

Loose ends

These books will fill in some blank spots.

Hammett, Dashiell. The Big Knockover. Edited by Lillian Hellmann. New York: Random House, 1966.

Layman, Richard. Discovering The Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade. San Francisco: Vince Emery Productions, 2005.

Bruccoli, Matthew J., and Richard Layman, eds. Hardboiled Mystery Writers: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross MacDonald: A Literary Reference. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2002.

This is an excellent collection that includes Hammett's testimony at the McCarthy trials and much more.

Out of print

To get the rest you have to go to out-of-print books. You can get them at your library (perhaps through interlibrary loan) or at used bookstores.

Hammett, Dashiell. The Adventures of Sam Spade and Other Stories. Edited by Ellery Queen. Spivak, 1944.

Hammett, Dashiell. The Return of the Continental Op. Edited by Ellery Queen. Spivak, 1945.

Hammett, Dashiell. Nightmare Town. Edited by Ellery Queen. Spivak/Mercury Mystery, 1948.

Hammett, Dashiell. The Creeping Siamese. Edited by Ellery Queen. Spivak, 1950.

Hammett, Dashiell. The Woman In the Dark. Edited by Ellery Queen. Spivak, 1951.

Uncollected stories

Some of these haven't been found even by biographers.

Last updated: 28 January 2010 14:29:57 EST