Dashiell Hammett

Also wrote as Peter Collinson, Daghull Hammett, Samuel Dashiell, Mary Jane Hammett

"Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons."

-- Raymond Chandler

Dashiell Hammett was born in St. Mary's County, Maryland, on May 27th, 1894, and died January 10, 1961, in New York, New York.

In between, he was one of the seminal creators in detective fiction. As if creating Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon wasn't enough, he was also responsible for The Continental Op and The Thin Man, the novel that introduced husband and wife sleuths Nick and Nora Charles to the world, and became the basis for a string of incredibly popular movies. His name appeared in the credits to Brad Runyon, The Fat Man, and other radio shows featuring his characters, and alongside Alex Raymond's on the private eye/spy daily comic strip Secret Agent X-9.

He grew up on the streets of Philadelphia and Baltimore. He became a detective at the ripe old age of nineteen when he joined the Baltimore branch of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, housed in the Continental Building.

You see, Hammett not only talked the talk, but he also walked the walk -- he actually was a private detective. He learned the detective racket from an older man, a short, squat, tough-talking fellow operative whom Hammett came to idolize and mythologize as "Jimmy Wright" (and who would later supposedly serve as the inspiration for The Continental Op).

Certainly, detecting was no easy racket. Years later, playwright Lillian Hellman, Hammett's off-and-on friend and lover, wrote of "the bad cuts on his legs and the indentations in his head from being scrappy with criminals."

Hammett left the Pinkertons in 1918, and enlisted in the Army, but tuberculosis contracted while in service prompted his medical discharge less than a year later. In fact, Hammett suffered from poor health, including bouts of tuberculosis and alcoholism, for the rest of his life. He eventually rejoined the Pinks, and worked out of their San Francisco office. In fact, somewhere out there is an account of some of the more peculiar cases Hammett was involved in while he was a Pinkerton Op, including his confession that he knew a man who once stole a ferris wheel.

However, the piece doesn't mention the murder of labour organizer Frank Little in the mining town of Butte, Montana, where Hammett was employed as a strike breaker, during a particularly brutal mining strike. The rumour is that Pinkerton agents may have played a part in Little's murder, and that it was this incident that hastened Hammett's departure from Pinkerton's, and possibly helped crystalize his left-leaning views (which later got him into so much trouble with McCarthy and his pals in the 1950's).

But it isn't because of his backstory as a REAL! LIVE! PRIVATE EYE! that we read Hammett these days, or it shouldn't be. The reason people still read him today isn't because of his biography -- as fascinating as it may be. Nope, it's because he was a great writer.

By 1922 , Hammett was a fledgling professional writer in San Francisco, seeing his first short story, "The Parthian Shot," published in the October 1922 issue of The Smart Set, and shortly after, "The Road Home" in the December 1922 issue of a relatively new pulp mag, Black Mask. His third Black Mask-published story, "Arson Plus," in the October 1, 1923 issue, introduced his ground-breaking character, The Continental Op -- the nameless operative of the Continental Detective Agency (possibly based on James Wright).

Hammett may not have been the first to write about a hardboiled private eye, but, as our pal Jim Doherty notes:

Carroll John Daly was undoubtedly first to publish a short story featuring a hard-boiled sleuth who defines his profession as a private detective ("Three-Gun Terry" in the May 15, 1923 issue of Black Mask), beating the first Op story, "Arson Plus" into print by a few months... But there's no reason to suppose that Hammett would never have created the Op had not Daly created Mack . In fact, it's possible the two stories were being written simultaneously. Daly, being a less careful writer, may have simply beat Hammett to the mailbox.

On the other hand, there's plenty of reason to suppose that Chandler wouldn't have created Marlowe, Macdonald wouldn't have created Archer, Nebel wouldn't have created Donahue, etc., etc., etc., had Hammett not first created the Op.

In other words, while Daly was undeniably first, Hammett was far more influential.

Encouraged by Black Mask's new editor, Captain Joseph Shaw, Hammett became one of the true stars of that pivotal pulp. Hammett's Continental Op eventually appeared in over three dozen stories, some of which formed the basis for the novels Red Harvest and The Dain Curse, were both published in 1929.

Hammett's best-known, and arguably best novel, however, was The Maltese Falcon, featuring Sam Spade in 1930). Of course, a big part of the novel's popularity can be traced to the classic film that was adapted from it in 1941, directed by John Huston, and starring Humphrey Bogart as Spade. The Glass Key (featuring the gangster Ned Beaumont, 1931), and The Thin Man (with Nick and Nora Charles, 1934) were also best sellers; and both went on to become successful films; and in the case of The Thin Man, a whole string of films.

But by 1934, Hammett's career as a published writer was essentially over. He had met Lillian Hellman, a script reader with ambitions to be a playwright the previous autumn, and they would soon embark on a long, tumultous and often tawdry relationship, full of high drama and cocktails, politics and art. Alas, very little of the art was Hammett's.

He never wrote another novel, and he only wrote few short stories. Always looking for money, he took a whack at scripting a comic strip, Secret Agent X-9, but his involement with that enterprise only lasted a year. He wrote a few things for radio, or at least lent his name to them. Thanks to the success of the film versions of his work, his reputation preceded him in Hollywood, and he dashed off a handful of screen stories, more for the money than anything.

He also became quite involved in Hellman's work, acting as a sounding board and editor, at least, and -- it's been suggested by many -- a co-writer. He and Hellman also became quite active in politics and both eventually joined the Communist party sometime in the late thirties, an event that would prove troublesome down the road. (Those who deny Hammett was ever actually a card-carrying member would do well to know that he once showed his party membership card to his daughter Jo -- a story confirmed via her daughter Julie Rivett, and related in Sally Cline's 2014 biography Dashiell Hammett: Man of Mystery. So, yes, Hammett was a member).

In 1942, swept with patriotic fever, Hammett, then forty-eight, enlisted in the American Army and was stationed in the Aleutians. Lillian and he had always been active in leftist politics, lending their names (and donating money) to various progressive causes, but with the end of WWII, the political pendulum had definitely swung the other way.

By the late forties, suspicions about Hammett's politics began to spread, and Hammett and his work were more or less blacklisted. The popular The Adventures of Sam Spade radio show, starring Howard Duff and Lurene Tuttle, was abruptly cancelled in 1950.

In 1951, Hammett was called to testify before HUAC in the trial of four communists accused of conspiring against the U.S. government. He declined to "name names," and went to prison for five months, despite his failing health. He was fifty-seven at the time.

Hellman herself was also eventually hauled before HUAC, and ordered to testify and to name names. Likewise defiant, she let loose with a powerful speech condemning the entire process, and the senators backed down.

Dashiell Hammett died on January 10, 1961.

He may never never written anything of true significance after 1934 (or at least, nothing close to the magnificense of his earlier work), but the myth of the private eye turned writer lives on. In the seventies, Joe Gores, another San Francisco private eye turned writer, wrote Hammett, a fictitious account of Hammett chucking the writing gig and going after a friend's killer. It was as much a loving tribute as it was a fictionalized biography, and was probably as true as fiction can get. It was eventually also made into a pretty interesting film.

Raymond Chandler described Hammet's writing style in his classic essay, "The Simple Art of Murder":

"Hammett wrote... for people with a sharp, aggressive attitude to life. They were not afraid of the seamy side of things; they lived there. Violence did not dismay them; it was right down their street. Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse ... He put these people down on paper as they were, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes. "

Or, as Ross Macdonald put it, in a a MWA Anthology in 1952,

"We all came out from under Hammett's black mask."

Or, a perhaps the last word should go to Hammett himself who once confessed to his daughter Josephine:

"I've been as bad an influence on American literature as anyone I can think of."

* * * * *


  • "Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons."

-- Raymond Chandler, from The Simple Art of Murder

  • "When I was 14 or 15 I read Hammett's The Thin Man and it was a defining moment. It was a sad, lonely, lost book, that pretended to be cheerful and aware and full of good fellowship, and I hadn't known you could do that: seem to be telling this, but really telling that; three-dimensional writing, like three-dimensional chess. Nabokov was the other master of that."

-- Donald Westlake

  • "In my formative years I read everything Hammett wrote..."

-- Robert B. Parker

  • "If not the greatest, Dashiell Hammett is certainly the most important American mystery writer of the twentieth century, and second in history only to Edgar Allen Poe, who essentially invented the genre."

-- Tony Hillerman

  • "As a novelist of realistic intrigue, Hammett was unsurpassed in his own or any time... We all came out from under Hammett's black mask."

-- Ross Macdonald

  • “Take your Chandler friend by the hand, put a piece of tape over his mouth, and tell him to just shut up and hear how it ought to be done. Hammett’s style does not date, as does Chandler’s, and The Glass Key puts to shame every other hard-boiled writer.”

-- Dilys Winn in Murder Ink

  • "the dean of the... 'hard-boiled' school of detective fiction."

-- The New York Times


  • "The Parthian Shot" (October 1922, The Smart Set)
  • "Immortality" (November 1922, 10 Story Book; as Daghull Hammett)
  • "The Barber and His Wife" (December 1922, Brief Stories; as Peter Collinson)
  • "The Road Home" (December 1922, Black Mask; as Peter Collinson; Hagedorn)
  • "The Master Mind" (January 1923, The Smart Set)
  • "The Sardonic Star of Tom Doody" (February 1923, Brief Stories; as Collinson; aka "The Wages of Crime")
  • "The Joke on Eloise Morey" (June 1923, Brief Stories, No. 4)
  • "The Vicious Circle" (June 15, 1923, Black Mask; as Collinson)
  • "Holiday" (July 1923, The New Pearsons)
  • "The Crusader" (August 1923, The Smart Set; as Mary Jane Hammett)
  • "The Green Elephant" (October 1923, The Smart Set)
  • "Arson Plus" (October 1, 1923, Black Mask; as Collinson; The Continental Op)
  • "Slippery Fingers" (October 15, 1923, Black Mask; as Collinson; The Continental Op)
  • "Crooked Souls" (October 15, 1923, Black Mask; aka "The Gatewood Caper"; The Continental Op)
  • "The Dimple" (October 15, 1923, Saucy Stories)
  • "Laughing Masks" (November 1923, Action Stories)
  • "It" (November 1, 1923, Black Mask; aka "The Black Hat That Wasn't There"; The Continental Op)
  • "The Second-Story Angel" (November 15, 1923, Black Mask)
  • "The House Dick" (December 1, 1923, Black Mask; aka "Bodies Piled Up"; The Continental Op)
  • "Itchy" (January 1924, Brief Stories)
  • "The Tenth Clew" (January 1, 1924, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "The Man Who Killed Dan Odams" (January 15, Black Mask)
  • "Esther Entertains" (February 1924, Brief Stories)
  • "Night Shots" (February 1, 1924, Black Mask; aka "The Judge Laughed Last"; The Continental Op)
  • "The New Racket" (February 15, 1924, Black Mask)
  • "Afraid of a Gun" (March 1, 1924, Black Mask)
  • "Zigzags of Treachery" (March 1, 1924, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "One Hour" (April 1, 1924, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "The House on Turk Street" (April 15, 1924, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "The Girl With the Silver Eyes" (June 1924, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "Death on Pine Street" (September 1924, Black Mask; aka "Women, Politics and Murder"; The Continental Op)
  • "The Golden Horseshoe" (November 1924, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "Who Killed Bob Teal?" (November 1924, True Detective Stories; The Continental Op)
  • "Nightmare Town" (December 27, 1924, Argosy All-Star Weekly)
  • "Tom, Dick or Harry" (January 1925, Black Mask; aka "Mike or Alec or Rufus"; The Continental Op)
  • "Another Perfect Crime" (February 1925, Experience)
  • "Ber-Bulu" (March 1925, Sunset Magazine; aka "The Hairy One")
  • "The Whosis Kid" (March 1925, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "The Scorched Face" (May 1925, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "Corkscrew" (September 1925, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "Ruffian's Wife" (October 1925, Sunset Magazine)
  • "Dead Yellow Women" (November 1925, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "The Glass That Laughed" (November 1925, True Police Stories)...Kindle it!
  • "The Gutting of Couffignal" (December 1925, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "The Nails in Mr. Cayterer" (January 1926, Black Mask)
  • "The Assistant Murderer" (February 1926, Black Mask; Alexander Rush)
  • "Creeping Siamese" (March 1926, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "The Big Knockover" (February 1927, Black Mask)
  • "The Advertising Man Writes a Love Letter" (February 26, 1927, Judge; satire)
  • "$106,000 Blood Money" (May 1927, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "The Main Death" (June 1927, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "The Cleansing of Poisonville" (November 1927, Black Mask; The Continental Op)

Part one of what would become Red Harvest)

Part two of Red Harvest

Part three of Red Harvest

Part four of Red Harvest

  • "Black Lives" (November 1928, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "The Hollow Temple" (December 1928, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "Black Honeymoon" (January 1929, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "Black Riddle" (February 1929, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "Fly Paper" (August 1929, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "The Maltese Falcon, Part 1" (September 1929, Black Mask; Sam Spade)
  • "The Maltese Falcon, Part 2" (October 1929, Black Mask; Sam Spade)
  • "The Diamond Wager" (October 19, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly; as Samuel Dashiell)
  • "The Maltese Falcon, Part 3" (November 1929, Black Mask; Sam Spade)
  • "The Maltese Falcon, Part 4" (December 1929, Black Mask; Sam Spade)
  • "The Maltese Falcon, Part 5" (January 1930, Black Mask; Sam Spade)
  • "The Farewell Murder" (February 1930, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "The Glass Key" (March 1930, Black Mask; Ned Beaumont)
  • "The Cyclone Shot" (April 1930, Black Mask; Ned Beaumont)
  • "Dagger Point" (May 1930, Black Mask; Ned Beaumont)
  • "The Shattered Key" (June 1930, Black Mask; Ned Beaumont)
  • "Death and Company" (November 1930, Black Mask; The Continental Op)
  • "On the Way" (March 1932, Harper's Bazaar)
  • "A Man Called Spade" (July 1932, The American Magazine; Sam Spade)
  • "Too Many Have Lived" ( October 1932, The American Magazine; Sam Spade)
  • "They Can Only Hang You Once" (November 1932, Collier's; Sam Spade)
  • "Woman in the Dark, Part One" (April 8, 1933, Liberty)

Later published as a stand-alone novel.

  • "Woman in the Dark, Part Two" (April 15, 1933, Liberty)
  • "Woman in the Dark, Part Three" (April 22, 1933, Liberty)
  • "Night Shade" (October 1, 1933, Mystery League Magazine)
  • "Albert Pastor at Home" (Autumn 1933, Esquire)
  • "The Thin Man" (December 1933, Redbook)
  • "Two Sharp Knives" (January 13, 1934, Collier's)
  • "His Brother's Keeper" (February 17, 1934, Collier's)
  • "This Little Pig" (March 24, 1934, Collier's)
  • "A Man Named Thin" (March 1961, EQMM)
  • "The Thin Man" (November 4, 1975, City Magazine)

Previously unpublished first draft; aka "The First Thin Man")

  • "So I Shot Him" (Winter/Spring 2011, The Strand Magazine)
  • "An Inch and a Half of Glory" (June 10-17, 2013, The New Yorker)

  • "The Man Who Loved Ugly Women" (pre May 1925, Experience?)
  • "A Tale of Two Women" (Saturday Home Magazine ?)
  • "First Aide to Murder" (Saturday Home Magazine ?)



Originally serialized in 1933 in Liberty Magazine


Intro by Lillian Hellman

Intro by Steven Marcus.

Edited by Kirby McCauley, Martin H. Greenberg and Ed Gorman, with stories featuring The Continental Op, Sam Spade, Nick & Nora, Alexander Rush & others.

This sampler includes selections from his novels and a short story, "Nightshade," and was released to mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of Hammett's The Maltese Falcon.

This long-awaited collection rounded up 21 long-lost stories, many appearing for the first time in book form. Not Hammett's best or even most important work, but anyone interested in Hammett or detective fiction could do far worse than this impressive book, with an intro by Joe Gores and fascinating and copious notes from editor Vince Emery. Illustrated.

Two never-before-published novellas featuring Nick & Nora Charles.

  • Dashiell Hammett: The Library of America Edition (2013)...Buy this book

Deluxe, two-volume set collecting all five novels, plus a 2nd volume featuring 24 classic tales, along with essays and an early, unfinished draft of The Thin Man.

Hard to believe, but there's still some uncollected stuff out there by Hammett. This volume, put together by Hammett scholar Richard Layman, and Hammett's granddaugher, Julie M. Rivett, a noted expert herself, raids the author's personal files for a wealth of rare and unpublished material, including several short stories, hree screen treatments (including one featuring a Sam Spade-like P.I. named Gene Richmond) and the only incomplete story, a snippet featuring Spade himself. Not essential Hammett, perhaps,but essential for anyone who gives a damn about American crime fiction.

Here it is! The long awaited COMPLETE collection of all twenty-eight stories and two serialized novels (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse), and some previously unpublished material. Also featuring an introduction byRichard Layman, who co-edited this must-buy with the aid of Julie M. Rivett, Hammett's granddaughter.


  • "The Great Lovers" (November 1922, The Smart Set)
  • "From the Memoirs of a Private Detective" (March 1923, The Smart Set; Hammett reminisces)
  • "In Defence of the Sex Story" (June 1924, The Writer's Digest)
  • "Mr. Hergesheimer's Scenario" (November 1924, The Forum)
  • "Vamping Sampson" (May 1925, The Editor)
  • "Finger-Prints" (June 1925, Black Mask; non-fiction)
  • "Genius Made Easy" (August 1925, The Forum)
  • "The Advertisement IS Literature" (October 1926, Western Advertising)
  • "The Cabell Epitome" (January 1927, The Forum)
  • "Poor Scotland Yard!" (January 15, 1927, The Saturday Review of Literature)
  • "Advertising Art Isn't ART - It's Literature" (December 1927, Western Advertising)
  • "Have You Tried Meiosis?" (January 1928, Western Advertising)
  • "The Literature of Advertising - 1927" (February 1928, Western Advertising)
  • "The Editor Knows His Audience" (March 1928, Western Advertising)

  • Hammett also wrote book reviews for The Saturday Review of Literature from 1927-1929 and for The NewYork Evening Post in 1930.

(The mind boggles!)

  • "Caution to Travelers" (November 1925, The Lariat)
  • "Goodbye to a Lady" (June 1927, Stratford Magazine)
  • "Curse in the Old Manner" (September 1927, The Bookman)


    (1930, Paramount)
    68 minutes
    Based on the novel "Red Harvest" by Dashiell Hammett and a story by Ben Hecht
    Screenplay by Garrett Fort
    Directed by Hobert Henley
    Starring Helen Morgan, Charles Ruggles, Fred Kohler, Jimmy Durante
    Red Harvest shape-shifts into an action-comedy in this pre-code flick, the first to be adapted from a Hammett work.

  • THE MALTESE FALCON ...Buy the video...Buy it on DVD
    (aka "Dangerous Female)
    (1931, Warner Brothers)
    80 minutes
    Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
    Directed by Roy Del Ruth
    Starring Ricardo Cordez as SAM SPADE
    Also starring Bebe Daniel, Una Merkal, Thelma Todd.
    Sexier and raunchier than John Huston's classic, but it's amazing how closely many of the 1941 remake's scenes -- and even how the actors hit their lines -- seem to have been lifted from this pre-code version..

    (1931, Paramount Pictures)
    83 minutes
    Based on an original story by Dashiell Hammett
    Screenplay by
    Oliver H.P. Garrett and Max Marcin
    Directed by Rouben Mamoulian
    Starring Gary Cooper, Sylvia Sidney
    Paul Lukas, Willam Boyd, Guy Kibee
    Cooper's a carny sharpshooter who plans to bust his gal (played by Sylvia Sidney) out of the slammer. This film was based on the only story Hammett wrote specifically for the screen.

    (aka "Woman in the Shadows")
    (1934, RKO)
    70 minutes, black and white
    Based on the novella by Dashiell Hammett
    Screenplay by Sada Cowan
    Directed by Phil Rosen
    Cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg
    Produced by Burt Kelly
    Starring Roscoe Ates, Granville Bates, Ralph Bellamy, Reed Brown Jr., Melvyn Douglas, Cliff Dunstan, Ruth Gillette, Joe King, Nell O'Day, Frank Otto, Charles Williams, Fay Wray
    I don't know much much about this one, but it evidently concerns an ex-con looking for a little peace and quiet, who's pestered by various strange women, ex-lovers and trigger-happy drunks.

    (1935, Paramount)
    Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
    Directed by Frank Tuttle
    Screenplay by Kathryn Scoia, Kubec Glasmon, Harry Ruskin
    Starring George Raft as NED BEAUMONT
    Also starring Edward Arnold, Claire Dodd, Rosalind, Charles Richman, Keith, Ray Milland, Ann Sheridan

    (1935, Universal Pictures)
    67 minutes
    Based on the short story "On the Make" by Dashiell Hammett
    Directed b
    y Alan Crosland
    Starring Edmund Lowe as MISTER DYNAMITE
    Also starring
    Jean Dixon, Victor Varconi, Esther Ralston.
    The hardest to find of all films based on Hammett's work. Originally planned as a second Sam Spade novel, Mr. Dynamite features a disreputable private eye hired by a gambler to solve a murder commited in his casino.

  • SATAN MET A LADY ...Buy this video...Buy it on DVD
    (1936, Warner Brothers)
    Based on the novel, The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
    Starring Warren William as TED SHANE (Sam Spade)
    and Bette Davis as Valerie Purvis (Miss Wonderly)

  • THE THIN MAN (1934, MGM)....Buy this video....Buy this DVD....Buy the DVD set
    Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
    Screenplay by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
    Directed by W.S. Van Dyke
    Starring William Powell as NICK CHARLES
    and Myrna Loy as NORA CHARLES

  • AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936, MGM) ...Buy this video...Buy this DVD ....Buy the DVD set
    Based on an original story by Dashiell Hammett
    Screenplay: Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
    Directed by W.S. Van Dyke
    Starring William Powell as NICK CHARLES
    and Myrna Loy as NORA CHARLES

    (1937, Universal)
    Based on the comic strip created by Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond
    Directed by Ford Beebe and Clifford Smith
    Starring Scott Kolk as SECRET AGENT X-9

  • ANOTHER THIN MAN (1939, MGM) ..Buy this video....Buy the DVD set
    Based on an original story by Dashiell Hammett
    Screenplay: Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
    Directed by W.S. Van Dyke
    Starring William Powell as NICK CHARLES
    and Myrna Loy as NORA CHARLES

  • THE MALTESE FALCON ..Buy this video ..Buy the DVD...Buy the 3-disc Special Edition
    (1941, Warner Brothers)
    Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
    Written and directed by John Huston
    Starring Humphrey Bogart as SAM SPADE
    with Mary Astor as Bridgid O'Shaugnessy
    Lee Patrick as Effie Perrine
    Sydney Greenstreet as Casper Gutman
    Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo
    Elisha Cook Jr. as Wilmer Cook

  • THE GLASS KEY ..Buy this video ..Buy this DVD
    (1942, Paramount)
    85 minutes
    Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
    Screenplay by Jonathan Latimer
    Directed by Stuart Heisler
    Starring Alan Ladd as ED BEAUMONT
    Also starring
    Veronica Lake, Brian DonlevyWilliam Bendix

    The second adaption of Hammett's nasty peek at dirty tricks and big-city politics.

  • SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN (1941, MGM) ..Buy this video....Buy the DVD set
    Based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett
    Directed by W.S. Van Dyke
    Starring William Powell as NICK CHARLES
    and Myrna Loy as NORA CHARLES

  • THE THIN MAN GOES HOME ..Buy this video....Buy the DVD set
    (1944, MGM)
    Based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett
    Directed by Richard Thorpe
    Starring William Powell as NICK CHARLES
    and Myrna Loy as NORA CHARLES

    (1945, Universal)
    13-part serial
    Based on the comic strip created by Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond
    Directed by Lewis D. Collins and Ray Taylor
    Starring Lloyd Bridges as SECRET AGENT X-9

  • SONG OF THE THIN MAN ..Buy this video....Buy the DVD set
    (1947, MGM)
    Based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett
    Directed by Edward Buzzel
    Starring William Powell as NICK CHARLES
    and Myrna Loy as NORA CHARLES

    (1951, Universal)
    Based on a character created by Dashiell Hammett
    Directed by William Castle
    Starring J. Scott Smart as BRAD RUNYON

  • THE BLACK BIRD...Buy this video
    (1975, Columbia)
    Based on characters created in
    The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
    A sorta sequel, sorta spoof of The Maltese Falcon, with Sam Spade's son hot on the trail of "the Black Bird."

  • HAMMETT.. Buy this video.... Buy this DVD
    (1983, Orion Pictures/Warner Brothers)
    Based on the novel by Joe Gores
    95 minutes
    Adaptation by Thomas Pope
    Screenplay by Ross Thomas and Dennis O'Flaherty
    Directed by Wim Wenders
    Executive Producer Francis Ford Coppola
    A Zoetrope Studios Production
    Frederick Forrest as DASHIELL HAMMETT
    Also starring
    Peter Boyle, Marilu Henner, Elisha Cook, Jr., Roy Kinnear, Lydia Lei, R.G. Armstrong, Richard Bradford, Michael Chow, David Patrick Kelly, Sylvia Sidney, Jack Nance, Elmer L. Kline, Royal Dano, Samuel Fuller
    A fictional, but affectionate, take on ex-P.I. Hammett, as he comes out of retirement to solve a real-life whodunnit. Based on Joe Gores' novel.

  • THE HOUSE ON TURK STREET ..Buy the video ..Buy the DVD
    (aka "No Good Deed")
    (2002, Seven Arts Pictures)
    Shooting Began: July 17, 2001 in Montreal
    Based on the short story "House on Turk Street by Dashiell Hammett
    Adapted by Christopher Canaan and Steve Barancik
    Directed by Bob Rafelson
    Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Milla Jovovich, Stellan Skarsgard, Doug Hutchison
    Evidently this takes serious liberties with Hammett's short story, which featured the Op. Jackson is a San Francisco cop (not a private eye), long overdue for a vacation, who tries to help a friend find his missing daughter and ends up being abducted by a gang of thieves.


  • Subsequent to the success of MGM's The Thin Man in 1934, the studio hired Hammett to write screen stories, which would be adapted and turned into screenplays by other writers. It kept Hammett in booze money for a while, anyway. They've appeared in various places over the years, and they were finally collected in the 2012 volume Return of the Thin Man.
  • "After The Thin Man, Parts 1 and 2" (1986, The New Black Mask, Nos. 5 and 6)
  • "Another Thin Man" (2012, Return of the Thin Man)


    60 minute radio special
    Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
    Starring William Powell as NICK CHARLES
    and Myrna Loy as NORA CHARLES

    (June 17, 1940)
    Based on a story by Dashiell Hammett
    Starring William Powell as NICK CHARLES
    and Myrna Loy as NORA CHARLES

  • THE THIN MAN (aka "The New Adventures of the Thin Man")
    (1941, NBC; 1946, CBS; 1948, NBC; 1950, ABC)
    Radio series
    Based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett
    Various castings

  • "TWO SHARP KNIVES" (December 22, 1942)
    Based on
    the short story by Dashiell Hammett
    Starring Stuart Erwin

    60 minutes
    Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
    Starring Edward G. Robinson as SAM SPADE
    The first radio adaptation of the Hammett classic, making Robinson the first (although certainly not the last) radio SAM SPADE. Generally considered far superior to the 1946 ACADEMY AWARD THEATRE version with Humphrey Bogart.

    (September 20, 1943)
    30 minutes
    Starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre

  • "TWO SHARP KNIVES" (June 7, 1945)
    Based on the short story by Dashiell Hammett
    Starring John Payne, Frank McHugh

    (1946, CBS; 1949, NBC)
    (later continued as Charlie Wild, Private Detective)
    Starring Howard Duff as SAM SPADE

  • THE FAT MAN (1946-50?, ABC)
    Based on a character created by Dashiell Hammett
    include Dashiell Hammett
    Starring J. Scott Smart as BRAD RUNYON

    (July 22, 1946)
    30 minutes
    Starring Alan Ladd, Marjorie Reynolds, Ward Bond

    30-minute adaption
    Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
    Starring Humphrey Bogart as SAM SPADE

    (January 10, 1948)
    60 minutes
    Based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett
    Starring Howard Duff as SAM SPADE

  • THE FAT MAN (1940's, Australia)
    Based on a character created by Dashiell Hammett
    Writers: Unknown
    Starring Unknown as BRAD RUNYON


    (1949, CBS)
    Starring Stanley Ridges, Abe Vigoda

    (1957-60, NBC)
    TV series
    Based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett
    Starring Peter Lawford as NICK CHARLES
    and Phyllis Kirk as NORA CHARLES
  • THE DAIN CURSE ..Buy the video..Buy the DVD
    (1978, CBS)
    6-hour serialized TV movie, later released as a two-hour version
    Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
    Directed by
    E.W. Swackhamer
    Starring James Coburn as HAMILTON NASH (The Continental Op in the book)
    (1994, Showtime)
    An episode of Showtime anthology, Fallen Angels, originally broadcast sometime in 1993-94.
    Based on the short story by Dashiell Hammett
    Screenplay by Donald Westlake
    Starring Christopher Lloyd as THE CONTINENTAL OP
  • DASH AND LILLY....Buy this video
    (1999, A&E)
    Made-for-TV biopic
    Written by by Jerry Ludwig
    Directed by Kathy Bates
    Executive producer: Stan Margulies
    Starring Sam Shepard as DASHIELL HAMMETT
    and Judy Davis as LILLIAN HELLMAN
    Also starring
    Bebe Neuwirth
    So-so bioflick with Sam Shepard as Dashiell Hammett and Judy Davis as Lillian Hellman. This original movie for A&E which covers the tumultuous relationship between the writers, the real life Nick and Nora, over a 30-year period of success, failure, romance and betrayals. Script is by Jerry Ludwig; executive producer is Stan Margulies ("Roots") and actress Kathy Bates (Misery) makes her feature directorial debut.



(No, really!)

    Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
    Music and libretto by Sean Carson
    Believe it or not, Sean Carson, a grad student in music composition at NYU, and a lifelong Dashiell Hammett fan, is writing an opera based on Hammett's Red Harvest. One scene (based on the chapter called "Laudanum") has already been presented in workshop form in New York City. The full-length version, when it's completed, should be about an hour and 15 minutes, scored for 7 instruments, with 6 singing roles.

Arranged chronologically

  • Nolan, William F.,
    Dashiell Hammett: A Casebook
    Santa Barbara: McNally and Loftin, 1969.

This one scored an Edgar, in 1970.

  • Layman, Richard,
    Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett...Buy this book
    New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981.

One of the first, and arguably still one of the finest books on Hammett.

  • Nolan, William F.,
    Dashiell Hammett: A Life on the Edge
    New York: Congdon and Weed, 1983

  • Johnson, Diane,
    Dashiell Hammett: A Life...Buy this book
    New York: Random House, 1983.

Allegedly commisioned by Hellman to "set the record straight."

  • Dooley, Dennis,
    Dashiell Hammett
    New York: Frederick Ungar, 1984

  • Mellen, Joan,
    The Legendary Passion of Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett...Buy this book
    New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Controversial, provocative, sometimes ruthless bio that slices and dices several myths about the so-called "real" Nick and Nora, turning the harsh glare of the spotlight on the often less-than-exemplary behavior of these two self-absorbed, over-mythologized writers. This is how Hammett would have written it, if he weren't the subject.

  • Hammett, Josephine, edited by Richard Layman with Julie M. Rivett
    Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers ....Buy this book ....Kindle it!
    Da Capo PressC, 2001.

Written by Hammett's second daughter, this short memoir is jammed with a ton of previously unpublished family photos (including several shots covering her father's years working as a Pinkerton operative) and her own personal anecdotes and wry asides. This is the book Lillian Hellman tried her best to suppress for years. And with good reason, it turns out. To be charitable, Hellman does not come off as a very nice human being here.

  • Layman, Richard, and Julie Rivett
    Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett ..Buy this book
    New York: Counterpoint, 2001.

An often-revealing, but also too often self-serving glimpse of the man behind The Op, Sam Spade, et al, through his personal correspondence.

  • Panek, Leroy Lad,
    Reading Early Hammett: A Critical Study of the Fiction Prior to the Maltese Falcon...Buy this book
    Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc.,2006.

Panek, the author of numerous books on crime fiction, including including The Origins of the American Detective Story, New Hard-Boiled Writers, 1970S-1990s and the Edgar-nominated The American Police Novel, hauls the Continental Op up on the slab for a thorough examination. A concluding chapter provides afterthoughts on Hammett’s career, style and place in the history of detective fiction.

  • Layman, Richard, editor,
    Discovering the Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade....Buy this book
    San Francisco: Emery Books, 2005.

Everything you always wanted to know about the Black Bird -- includes documents, photos and memorabilia about the book and movies (all three of 'em!), plus a full account of Hammett's detective career, a bibliography and about a zillion other treasure, the perfect gift for fans of Sam Spade, Hammett, film noir, and the history of cinema and literature.

  • Thompson, George "Rhino"
    Hammett's Moral Vision....Buy this book
    San Francisco: Emery Books, 2007.

The latest installment in Vince Emery's "Ace Performer" series is sub-titled "The Most Influential In-Depth Analysis of Dashiell Hammett's Novels" and he's not kidding. It's not only arguably the most influential but also perhaps the first and certainly one of the shrewdest, detailed and best-written. This volume collects the long-sought-after seven part essay that originally appeared in The Armchair Detective back in the early seventies, plus an intro by Hammett biographer/crime novelist William F. Nolan and a new chapter in which English professor-turned-cop Thompson discusses the impact Hammett has had on his own life.

All you ever wanted to know about the immensely popular radio show starring Howard Duff: the good, the bad and the blacklist. The success of the show upped the ante on Hammett's already popular creation, and the book delves into the subsequent comics strips, magazine articles and radio cross-overs and imitations, including bios on the principal players, a complete episode guide, an unproduced radio scrip and t is reprinted, and a reprint of "Babe Lincoln," a female detective that never came to be. Grams is the author of numerous books on old-time radio and old-time television, , including he staggering Radio Drama A Comprehensive Chronicle of American Network Programs, 1932–1962.

  • Herron, Don,
    The Dashiell Hammett Tour: 30th Anniversary Guidebook....Buy this book
    San Francisco: Vince Emery Productions, 2009.

A special, 30th anniversary edition celebration of what is pretty much mecca for any true hard-boiled crime buff: a pilgrimage to San Francisco, and Don Herron's Guided Tour of all things Hammett.

This punchy and apparently agenda-free bio gives Hammett's messy, controversial life another shake, hoping something new will fall out. Cline is to be commended for cutting to the chase, sidestepping much of the revisionism of previous biographies and trying to get down to some sort of truth, as well as weighing in on the literary side of things, all while trying to put everything into the context of the times. You can argue with some of her conclusions, but this seems to be the most authoritative attempt so far -- or at least until the next one comes out.

Of course we're still reading Hammett's work 90 years later because he was a great writer -- not because he worked for a few much ballyhooed years as a REAL! LIVE! DETECTIVE! The author deserves huge kudos for going beyond the usual "print the legend" stuff, and actually calling Hammett (or his ghost) on some of the stories from his days as a Pinkerton op. Not that it changes one bit my love for Hammett's writing, but it's about time Hammett's career as a detective wasn't just glossed over. Definitely a refreshing wake up call, fascinating and essential for anyone who gives a damn about detective fiction and good writing.

  • Fuller, Ken,
    Hardboiled Activist: The Work and Politics of Dashiell Hammett...Buy this book
    Glasgow: Praxis Press, 2017.

A provocative and in-depth study of Hammett's life and his works, with an unapologetic focus on his increasingly progressive politics.


Paste Magazine's take on Hammett's legacy. I don't completely buy it, but it is interesting. (May 2016)

From the only list that once really mattered (and one of the few that would have me), comes this very impressive bibliography.

From the 1934 edition

Eddie Dugan's definitive Q&A on Hammett's most famous work, including a mountain of stuff on not just the book, but the various film adaptations. Unfortunately, the complete FAQ has been missing in action for years, although snippets of it can be still be found at the above link.

Eddie Dugan's incisive, informative review of Joan Mellen's provocative biography.

Part of Mystery Net's extensive Mystery Time Line.

An article dating from the April 17, 2000 issue, about Hammett, Hellman and writer's block, by P.I. writer Dick Lochte.

A 1989 song dedicated to Hammett. Words and music by Irish blues/rock guitarist Rory Gallagher.

In this February 2002 essay, Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, herself the recipient of the Hammettt Prize, tackles the thin man. From The Guardian. A version of the same article appeared in The New York Review of Books.

Some great cover shots of some primo collectibles, coutesy of Eddie Dugan. Play it, Prof!

In this New York Sun article, Otto Penzler talks about the 75th anniversary of the publication of what he calls "possibly the greatest, and certainly the most famous, American detective novel" and argues that Hammett might just be the most influential American writer of the 20th century. (2005)

A link to an episode of NPR's Talk of the Nation, featuring a discussion of The Maltese Falcon on the book's 75th anniversary. Guests include Richard Layman, executor of Hammett's literary estate, and Robert B. Parker, the creator of Spenser. (2005)

January Magazine does Hammett right with this star-studded feature, including comments from Richard Layman, George Pelecanos, S.J. Rozan, Peter Robinson, Denise Hamilton, Ken Bruen, Loren D. Estleman and a cast of thousands. Plus yours truly, who is presumably there to cleanse the palate. No, really, check this out. An amazing job, and a superb tribute. (2005)

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to James Stephenson for a lot of the info on this page. Also, thanks very much to William Denton and the Hammett Bibliography on his Rara-Avis site for helping me plug the holes.

Illustration of Hammett by Canadian illustrator Jay Stephenson.

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