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The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell…

The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett (edition 2015)

by Nathan Ward (Author)

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446450,079 (3.5)4
"A fascinating portrait of the overlooked Dashiell Hammett--from his years as a Pinkerton detective to becoming the author of arguably the most iconic detective novels of the twentieth century"--
Title:The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett
Authors:Nathan Ward (Author)
Info:Bloomsbury USA (2015), Edition: First Edition, 240 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction & Literature

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The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett by Nathan Ward


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I picked up this book as a fan of [The Thin Man] in both book and film form, resulting in curiosity about the man who created so many seminal detective novels. This was not the best book for that. Ward's book was focused solely on how Hammett went from being a Pinkerton detective to a novelist of realistic detective fiction (a fact I learned in the acknowledgements so stating of purpose fail on the author's part). Based on this book, big swathes of Hammett's life are guess and supposition and early sections of the book that deal with his formative years, his first turn as a Pinkerton, and his experiences in WWI are very thin and extraordinarily padded with "context," some of which is fascinating (for example, because of the style of engine, WWI ambulance drivers would often reverse up steep hills to keep the vehicle from stalling out) but mostly it makes it difficult to keep a through line and remember why exactly this tangent came up in relation to Hammett at all. Even Hammett's second experience as Pinkerton is a lot of "likely" or "similar to." There's really only clear details about Hammett once he became a writer, and even then, his own tendency to self-promotion makes it difficult to separate fiction from fact in many cases. Overall, so much of the book is padding and asides, it feels like what is already a slim read at 168ish pages, could have been a pleasant magazine article somewhere else. Not recommended if you're looking for a (comprehensive) Hammett biography. ( )
  MickyFine | Mar 28, 2019 |
Good solid bio on Hammett that covers his formative years & rise of his career rather than the slow fall due to TB, alcohol, & writers block. ( )
  SESchend | Sep 7, 2017 |
Nicely done brief treatment ( )
  dickmanikowski | Mar 11, 2016 |
Dashiell Hammett is a fascinating man. This short biography somehow manages to make him sound almost boring.

In theory it should have worked - Nathan Ward has a readable style, the story has enough interesting tidbits to make a fascinating read. And yet the book is repetitive and shallow - more a sketch than a full-fledged book.

The Pinkerton's years account is problematic because of the lack of sources - it is known that he was one of the detectives but none of the archives survived. Still the story is there. But for some reason the same point is repeated over and over - always seemingly for a different purpose but they do add up.

And then there is the problem of the depth of the story. It is supposed to be the biography of the man, the biography of the ex-detective that turned into the fiction writer. And that transition is almost missing - the chapters are going through the correct time and the actions but what it is missing is the details that could have made it a lot better work. Maybe they are not available; maybe they are just not that interesting. But even then, the book is too shallow and just skimming the surface.

At the end, there was nothing really new in this book (and I had never read a book about Hammett (I've read a few introductions so I knew the base facts)). It still is a well written book and the story is fascinating if you do not expect a deep personal study of the man that became Hammett. And still, I wish it had gone deeper. ( )
1 vote AnnieMod | Mar 7, 2016 |
This is the author Dashiell Hammett's biography. His works include The Maltese Falcon, Red Harvest, The Thin Man and more. This is not your average biography - I thought that it was a fascinating, enjoyable read. Some biographies are written in a documentary style or are a bit dry. The Lost Detective is far from that.

The memoir covers Dashiell Hammett's career as a Pinkerton agent, his short stint in the Army as well as his writing career. It delves into the necessity of having to find a career other than being an agent because of health issues.

We learn that Hammett was a lady's man, extremely intelligent, a very successful operative and then a great writer all despite his health issues. I found it fascinating and I wanted to keep turning pages like I was reading a thriller.

I received this book from Netgalley free in exchange for a review. For more information about Nathan Ward check out http://us.macmillan.com/author/nathan... ( )
  Diane_K | Jan 31, 2016 |
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"A fascinating portrait of the overlooked Dashiell Hammett--from his years as a Pinkerton detective to becoming the author of arguably the most iconic detective novels of the twentieth century"--

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