Cover image for Crime stories and other writings
Crime stories and other writings
Hammett, Dashiell, 1894-1961.
Uniform Title:
Works. Selections. 2001
Publication Information:
New York : Library of America : Distributed to the trade in the U.S. by Penguin Putnam, [2001]

Physical Description:
934 pages ; 21 cm.
Crime stories. Arson plus -- Slippery fingers -- Crooked souls -- The tenth clew -- Zigzags of treachery -- The house in Turk Street -- The girl with the silver eyes -- Women, politics and murder -- The golden horseshoe -- Nightmare town -- The Whosis Kid -- The scorched face -- Dead yellow women -- The gutting of Couffignal -- The assistant murderer -- Creeping Siamese -- The big knock-over -- $106,000 blood money -- The Main death -- This king business -- Fly paper -- The farewell murder -- Woman in the dark -- Two sharp knives -- Other writings. The thin man : an early typescript -- From the memoirs of a private detective -- Suggestions to detective story writers.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In the stories and novellas he wrote for Black Mask and other pulp magazines in the 1920s and 1930s, Dashiell Hammett took the detective story and turned it into a medium for capturing the jarring textures and revved-up cadences of modern American life. In this volume, The Library of America collects the finest of these stories: twenty-four in all, along with some revealing essays and an earlier version of his novel The Thin Man .

Mixing melodramatic panache and poker-faced comedy, a sensitivity to place and a perceptive grasp of social conflict, Hammett's stories are hard-edged entertainments for an era of headlong change and extravagant violence. For the heroic sagas of earlier eras Hammett substituted the up-tempo, devious, sometimes nearly nihilistic exploits of con men and blackmailers, fake spiritualists and thieving politicians, slumming socialites and deadpan assassins.

As a guide through this underworld he created the Continental Op, the nameless, laconic detective, world-weary and unblinking, who serves as protagonist of most of these stories. The deliberately unheroic Op is separated only by his code of professionalism from the brutality and corruption that run rampant in stories such as "Zigzags of Treachery," "Dead Yellow Women," "Fly Paper," and "$106,000 Blood Money."

Hammett's years of experience as a Pinkerton detective give even his most outlandishly plotted mysteries a gritty credibility, and his intimate knowledge of San Francisco made him the perfect chronicler of that city's waterfronts, back alleys, police stations, and luxury hotels. By connecting crime fiction to the realities of American streets and American speech, his Black Mask stories opened up new vistas for generations of writers and readers.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation's literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America's best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

Author Notes

Samuel Dashiell Hammett was born on May 27, 1894 in St Mary's County, Maryland. Raised in Baltimore and Philadelphia, he attended Baltimore Polytechnic until he was 13 years old, but was forced to drop out and work a series of jobs to help support his family.

At the age of 21 Hammett was hired by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency as an operative. After a stint in the United States Army during World War II, he married a nurse named Josephine Annas Dolan, whom he met when he fell ill with tuberculosis.

In 1922, Hammett began writing for Black Mask magazine. Using his background in detective work, he created the tough guy detective characters Sam Spade and the Continental Op, as well as debonair sleuths Nick and Nora Charles. By 1927, Hammett had written the Poisonville series, which later became the novel Red Harvest. He wrote more than 85 short stories and five novels during his lifetime. The novels include The Dain Curse, The Glass Key, The Thin Man, and The Maltese Falcon, which was later adapted into a classic movie starring Humphrey Bogart. He also wrote an autobiography entitled Beams Falling: The Art of Dashiell Hammett.

After his marriage faltered in the late 1920s, Hammett met Lillian Hellman, then a married 24-year-old aspiring playwright. In 1930, Hellman left her husband for Hammett. Eventually they both divorced their spouses and, although the two never married, they remained together until Hammett's death on January 10, 1961.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The first great author in the hard-boiled detective genre, Hammett remains one of the most entertaining, as demonstrated by this largest single gathering ever of his short fiction. This collection's main distinction is that editor Steven Marcus uses the original story texts from their appearance in Black Mask magazine, recovering occasional pieces of lost wording, chapter breaks and other niceties. However, because Hammett is such a standard figure, most of these stories will be familiar to mystery fans from readily available collections. Marcus repeats everything except "Tulip" and "Corkscrew" from The Big Knockover (1966), edited by Lillian Hellman, and every story from The Continental Op (1974), which he edited. The recent Nightmare Town (2001) scooped the original Nick and Nora-less Thin Man fragment out from under him, plus "Zigzags of Treachery," "Two Sharp Knives" and others that would have made this book a highly desirable purchase. Only "Arson Plus," "Slippery Fingers" and "Creeping Siamese" are unique to this selection. Unless you make a line-by-line comparison, you won't notice great differences between these texts and those in the other books (still, the Black Mask wording is the most satisfying). One senses a missed opportunity for the major collection Hammett fandom has longed for: the complete Continental Op short stories, in order, original texts, under one set of covers that would be irresistible. Nonetheless, for the non-specialist, this volume stands as the best compendium yet of this classic crime author's shorter fiction. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Hammett is hot: besides this collection, a new book of his letters is now available, and a scholarly biography is forthcoming. This anthology binds 24 of his top stories in their original form sans editorial cuts plus an early take on The Thin Man and some other goodies. This is a great companion to the publisher's 1999 release of Hammett's Complete Novels and is essential for all libraries. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Crime Stories
Arson Plusp. 3
Slippery Fingersp. 22
Crooked Soulsp. 35
The Tenth Clewp. 52
Zigzags of Treacheryp. 84
The House in Turk Streetp. 123
The Girl with the Silver Eyesp. 146
Women, Politics and Murderp. 191
The Golden Horseshoep. 219
Nightmare Townp. 264
The Whosis Kidp. 310
The Scorched Facep. 356
Dead Yellow Womenp. 395
The Gutting of Couffignalp. 450
The Assistant Murdererp. 483
Creeping Siamesep. 522
The Big Knock-Overp. 538
$106,000 Blood Moneyp. 592
The Main Deathp. 636
This King Businessp. 659
Fly Paperp. 711
The Farewell Murderp. 745
Woman in the Darkp. 783
Two Sharp Knivesp. 829
Other Writings
The Thin Man: An Early Typescriptp. 847
From the Memoirs of a Private Detectivep. 905
"Suggestions to Detective Story Writers"p. 910
Chronologyp. 915
Note on the Textsp. 926
Notesp. 932