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Return of the Thin Man: Two…

Return of the Thin Man: Two never-before-published novellas featuring Nick… (edition 2012)

by Dashiell Hammett, Richard Layman (Editor), Julie M. Rivett (Editor)

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1391786,313 (3.43)2
Title:Return of the Thin Man: Two never-before-published novellas featuring Nick & Nora Charles
Authors:Dashiell Hammett
Other authors:Richard Layman (Editor), Julie M. Rivett (Editor)
Info:Mysterious Press (2012), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Read 2012, Fiction

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Return of the Thin Man: Two never-before-published novellas featuring Nick & Nora Charles by Dashiell Hammett



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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a review of the CD audiobook version, that I received as an early reviewer.

I am a huge fan of The Thin Man Movies, so I was eager to dive in to this recording. Initially, I was put off somewhat when I realized that this was not a true dramatization of the scripts, but rather a straight narration, although they utilize multiple narrators. For example, the narrator reads the stage directions.

However, once I got over that minor quibble, the entire read was very enjoyable. I particularly liked the background on Hammett's interaction with the studio producing the films. ( )
  jr864 | Jun 3, 2016 |
I thoroughly enjoyed Hammett's quick-witted dialogue and sly humor, and it was fun seeing the genesis of two of the movies, After The Thin Man and Another Thin Man. As with the novel The Thin Man, there's more "adult" humor and themes than how the stories were sanitized by the production code. I would have liked to learn more about the adaptation process from novella to screenplay. ( )
  louis.arata | Jul 31, 2015 |
Dashiell Hammett is often referred to as one of the ‘Big Three’ when it comes to pulp fiction along with Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain. He is known for his hard-boiled novels turned film noir classics including The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. Return of the Thin man is a collection of two previously unreleased novellas featuring Nick & Nora Charles from The Thin Man.

While “After the Thin Man” and “Another Thin Man” have been promoted as two never before published novellas, these are basically glorified screen plays by the pulp legend. The cynical ex-detective is back along with his very cleaver wife for some more drinking, flirting and crimes. But you really need to have read or seen The Thin Man before reading this because they are sequels that relay heavily on the character development that has already taken place.

The main problem is there are no stories here; nothing to demonstrate the power of Hammett’s pulp styles. These are just scripts for cashing in on the success of The Thin Man film adaptation. I think they would have worked a lot better if they were made into movies in the 1930’s. It reminds me of the recent movie release of Taken 2; all the plot and character development was in its predecessor, it is just cashing in on the success by trying to continue the story.

As a pulp fan I was looking forward to reading this and I really wanted to love it, but I was very disappointed. This is a gimmick release, not recommended for people new to Dashiell Hammett and Nick & Nora Charles. But if you loved The Thin Man there is a slight pleasure in seeing what Hammett had planned for these characters. The Thin Man was never a favourite of mine, I do really like Nora but for someone interested in trying the author I would recommend The Maltese Falcon or my personal favourite, Red Harvest.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2012/11/04/book-review-return-of-the-thin-man/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | Mar 16, 2015 |
After reading Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man, I was so impressed by the writing and intrigued by the characters that I instantly wanted to read more. When I learned that this book was also available, I immediately took steps to procure it. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by this follow-up book.

Return of the Thin Man packages up After the Thin Man and Another Thin Man, two screenplays written by Hammett after the successful Hollywood adaptation of The Thin Man. This title also includes a brief sketch of a potential screenplay by Hammett simply titled "Sequel to the Thin Man" as well as some short essays from the book's editors - Richard Layman, a Hammett biographer, and Julie M. Rivett, Hammett's granddaughter.

The details provided by Layman and Rivett are certainly helpful for context; they help to explain why I didn't like the offerings here as much as I did the original novel. These screenplays are not just the work of Hammett but also represent at least some influence by the writing team who took The Thin Man and re-worked it for a Hollywood movie. Even with their input here, however, these screenplays are not the final products that were turned into the later movies. These represent Hammett's finalized contributions to the project, but they were later further edited and amended to work as cinematic films.

Nevertheless, Hammett is trying his best here to write for movies and not to write a novel. The results are disastrous. Although Hammett certainly wasn't wordy in The Thin Man, he did rely on narration at least as much as he did dialogue. His sharp, snappy writing is a large part of what made the book such a compelling read. Here he is reduced to largely dialogue and some brief descriptive parts wherein he explains what a person or place should look like. Rather than reading quicker, this seemed to bog the screenplays down for me. They didn't have the rhythm and flow of the novel and rather than allowing for Nick's narrated observations to add some of the humor, these had to resort to slapstick situations. Cool and clever, witty and observant, step aside and make way for dog pee jokes. Yep.

The first of these screenplays, After the Thin Man, follows up The Thin Man quite quickly in terms of chronology. Nick and Nora return from their New York trip to a surprise party being held in their San Francisco home. The biggest surprise of all is when gunshots are heard and a man is found dead at their doorstep. And not just any man, but one who had been previously employed by Nora's family. Things get even more complicated when Nora's cousin calls in panic because her husband is missing.

There are so many things wrong with this particular story that it's hard to know where to start. Although it's important to remember context and the time in which Hammett was writing, his ridiculously stereotypical portrayal of the one Chinese character in the story is grating. Likewise, the death of a Latino former servant hardly seems to faze Nick whereas he gets right on the case of the missing husband. There is a very long section introducing many ancient members of Nora's family, which turns out to be largely unnecessary and therefore all the more painful that we had to get a lengthy description of each one's withered looks and moneyed snobbery. Suddenly Nick is on the complete opposite end of society and is friends with all kinds of crooks and lowlifes, which seems pretty strange for a fellow whose previous job was as a PI. It would appear that these folks would be his natural enemies, not his best friends. In addition to the sudden slapstick routines, any decently funny parts are often a re-hash of those told in The Thin Man. Meanwhile, the mystery itself is only somewhat interesting - just enough to hold your attention and remind you that Hammett is capable of much better - and has a rather convoluted trajectory.

Another Thin Man certainly has its share of flaws, but it is a great deal better than the previous offering. Nick and Nora return to New York City and then venture out to the home of an old family friend, Colonel MacFay. The colonel is being terrorized by a past employee that feels wronged by the old man and, during the time of the Charles's stay, is ultimately murdered. The mystery here is far more engaging than the previous one, even if it is a variation of the "locked room" mystery trope. Also, Hammett did a better job here of introducing fewer characters and making them all rather more interesting and well developed, regaining some of the glory of what made The Thin Man so superb. While Another Thin Man does present a far more intriguing mystery than After the Thin Man as well as more compelling characters, there is still something off on the humor and the storytelling.

However, a funny little Easter egg here is a cameo from Mimi and Gilbert Wynant. Meanwhile, a strange development here is that the screenwriters had added to Hammett's After the Thin Man a final scene with a pregnant Nora, so Hammett was forced into a corner of making the Charles couple into a Charles family for this follow-up screenplay. Nick, Jr. is the most uninteresting - and yet ridiculous - of babies ever introduced, who shows zero inclination to be entertained by those around him and at the age of one says "drunk" to indicate that someone bores him. Again, yep.

The final offering in this book is the "Sequel to The Thin Man" notes, which provide a rough draft of another story idea from Hammett. Despite being the latest written piece, Hammett seems to have completely ignored all that came between it and The Thin Man. It seems to rehash some of the plot details from After the Thin Man, ignores the fact of the Charles's parenthood, and re-introduces many of the characters from The Thin Man. While this is an interesting addition to see some more about Hammett's thoughts and his early writing process, the eight-page sketch is not worth writing home about and was never further developed.

All in all, I'm glad that I read this book to see what it was all about and spend just a little more time with Nick and Nora. It did have some glimmers here and there, and the mysteries were compelling enough to want to read on and see how they were resolved. Nevertheless, these screenplays lack the original panache of Hammett's novel and were pale imitations of that work. That's just too bad. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Dec 28, 2014 |
To the great credit of the producers of the audio version of this work, a great deal of effort went into peopling it with talented actors with distinctive voices, individuals who acted their roles with skill and verve. What's more, the work contains extended essays that explain the historical context of the screenplays, in the context of Dashiell Hammett's career and of the actual Thin Man movies themselves.

That having been said, I must confess that "The Thin Man" was my least favorite of Hammett's work, and I was never fond of the movies based on that character. The audio version of the screenplays confirmed my opinion. Maybe it is a reflection of my own failings, but I found the screenplay story lines difficult to follow. By 1/3 of the way into "After the Thin Man" I had lost track of who was who, and by halfway through I couldn't care less who had been murdered and why. Thinking I may have let my attention lag unduly, I was resolved to pay close attention in the second screenplay, "Another Thin Man." The results were the same, and not helped by the numerous confusing episodic scenes -- described in one sentence each -- that punctuate the last half of the work. (I am still not sure if they were intended to be a potpourri of successive episodes or if they were outlines of ideas to be fleshed out by subsequent writers and the film director.)

This was a project worth considering, and seems to have been enjoyed by many other readers and listeners. Fans of popular culture will appreciate the chance to compare the screenplays with the final versions of the movies that came from them. However, as read aloud, the bare screenplays did not contain enough description to hold my interest. What's more, the main character -- the supposedly tough but urbane "Nick" comes across (in the audio version) as a sardonic, snobbish lush who speaks in annoyingly prissy tones. By the middle of the series, I was strongly in favor of him being the next victim of murder. I am glad that others enjoyed the audio version, but I did not, despite my best efforts. ( )
4 vote danielx | Sep 24, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hammett, Dashiellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rivett, Julie M.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Layman, RichardEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rivett, Julie M.Editorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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A train whistle sounds as the Chief arrives slowly in the Santa Fe Station in San Francisco.
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After the Thin Man -- Nick and Nora investigate a love triangle gone wrong after a dead man is discovered at their door. Another Thin Man-- After a wealthy business partner of Nora's father's is murdered, Nick and Nora's investigation brings them into the killer's crosshairs.… (more)

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