Rest in Pieces

The Fictionalized Lives of Private Eye Writers

The blurry line between detective story writer and detective was already old hat by the time Hammett came along, but that hasn't stopped other writers from ransacking the cherished memories of some of the late, great writers of the genre, and fictionalizing for their own purposes.

Sure, sometimes it's done with love and respect, a sort of left-handed tribute. But other times? Well, not so much...

Of course, Pinkerton himself was the first to fictionalize his life, so it hardly seems worth getting upset to discover that other writers have done it too.

  • Dashiell Hammett
    By Joe Gores, William F. Nolan, Ace Atkins, Owen Fitzstephen, et al.

Hammett almost certainly fudged his way through his March 1923 Smart Set piece, "From the Memoirs of a Private Detective," which seems to have been a green light for subsequent fictional biographers.

  • Raymond Chandler
    By William Denbow, Hiber Conteris, Gaylord Larsen, William F. Nolan, Roger L. Simon, et al.

It's a shame about Ray. This mostly private man's been picked at and probed, and has rarely been cast in a favourable light.


Nolan went where no man had gone before, fictionalized not one, not two, but THREE of the all-time great detective story writers: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Erle Stanley Gardner.

  • The Smiling Corpse (1935). Buy this book
    By Philip Wylie and Bernard A. Bergman

A "first-rate satircal farce" (Time) in which Hammett and fellow mystery writers G.K. Chesterton, S.S. Van Dine and Sax Rohmer "find themselves in a murder."

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