Cover image for Dashiell Hammett : a daughter remembers
Dashiell Hammett : a daughter remembers
Hammett, Jo, 1926-
Personal Author:
First Carroll and Graf edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Carroll & Graf, 2001.
Physical Description:
172 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
General Note:
"An Otto Penzler book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3515.A4347 Z684 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3515.A4347 Z684 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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For more than forty years, since the day her illustrious father died, Jo Hammett has kept her silence. Now, for the first time, with uncompromising candor and profound admiration, she tells the story of Dashiell Hammett--Hollywood screenwriter and high-flying author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man--as she knew him. In Jo Hammett's earliest recollections, although her already famous father exists outside the sphere of the daily life she shares with her mother and sister, he writes to Jo frequently and visits when he can. Jo's memories of him are golden: She recalls a trip to the Santa Anita racetrack in a chauffeur-driven limousine, where Hammett plays more on the horses than he can afford; she recalls a Depression-era excursion to Beverly Hills and a splurge that would have supported an entire family for a month--on a riding outfit. With more ambivalence, she remembers the 1950s, when she assumes her responsibility as the sole designated correspondent with her blacklisted, imprisoned father and her role as go-between for him and Lillian Hellman. The notorious Hammett-Hellman romance, Dash's rude flirtations, his heavy drinking, his attraction to Communism, his quirks and betrayals and paternal love--Jo Hammett neither blinks at her father's faults nor diminishes his humanity. In straightforward prose, with unaffected charm, she offers in this generously illustrated volume a revealing personal reminiscence that contributes immeasurably to Hammett biography.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

This is the memoir Lillian Hellman tried her best to suppress by threatening Hammett's daughter when she was a child. Now, with both Hammett and Hellman long gone, Jo Hammett breaks her silence to render what she calls a family portrait. She has her father's breezy, irreverent style, his way of capturing character in a few strokes--as in her revealing that her father, hospitalized during World War I, used to throw pie tins over the hospital partitions where the shell-shocked soldiers lay. No other Hammett biography has what his daughter's has--the first-time published family photos, many of them captioned by Hammett himself; an ad for diamond jewelry that Hammett wrote; the Manhattan night-school listing of a class called "Mystery Story Writing," taught by Hammett at the height of his fame; Hammett's confession to Jo that he believed he was "as bad an influence on American literature as anyone I can think of." Jo's unblinking portrayal of Hellman, "the Boogie Man of my childhood," skewers her as manipulative while admiring her audacity. Jo Hammett writes impressionistically, as memory takes her, with powerful effect. In a foreword, Richard Layman (editor of Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett [BKL My 1 01], for which Jo Hammett was editorial advisor) provides a marvelous appreciation of both this memoir and Hammett himself. --Connie Fletcher

Publisher's Weekly Review

This short but compelling memoir is a must-read for anyone interested in the author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. Abetted by the most generous selection of photos ever to see print, it joins Lillian Hellman's writings on her years living with Hammett as one of the two comprehensive looks into his life from a personal viewpoint. Both portray an almost fiercely private individual "In our family much unsaid was nonetheless understood" but the paternal influence seems to have been passed on, with Jo Hammett commenting on her mother: "I realize that I didn't know her any more than my children know me." Insights and personal observations nonetheless build to a convincing portrait, with numerous humorous asides (comparing Hellman to good and bad cholesterol being quite the coup). The memoir encompasses several decades, with pictures bringing those eras to life, along with telling details in the text the fact, for example, that only two families on their block during the Depression owned a car. The cover price for this book is more than justified by the photographs, drawn from family archives, with a great many of these predating the previous "earliest known photo." Of particular interest to fans of Hammett's crime writing are several shots covering his years working as a Pinkerton operative and the time in San Francisco when he was writing the stories and novels that made his name. This is a perfect book for the Hammett enthusiast. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved