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Red Harvest / The Dain Curse / The Maltese…

Red Harvest / The Dain Curse / The Maltese Falcon / The Glass Key / The…

by Dashiell Hammett

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July 11, 2017

I'm not a big fan of Hammett, but I revisited this as my daughter was reading it for a RL book club. I can never remember the actual story here. Now I know why. There isn't a particle of story in it. A few people get bumped off, a lot of dumb slang gets thrown about, and a woman acts like a complete ninny. Pages and pages are spent in pointless argument about how to go about something, neither side presenting any new reasons for "doing it my way". I like me a good noir novel; this one failed to establish the atmosphere for me. I love a fine hard-boiled detective, but Sam Spade has nothing to love. Sorry to trash a classic, but I'm not impressed. Also, there's the misogyny, and the fairly distasteful representation of homosexuals.
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | Aug 5, 2017 |
This collection includes 4 novels that are listed on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. The Dain Curse is the lone one not on the list.
  jeshakespeare | Mar 27, 2017 |
THE DAIN CURSE | read 2016-08

Hammett lines up three stories, one two three, stitched together via Gabrielle Leggett (she of the titular curse), a few characters surrounding her, and of course the Continental Op and his associates. The setup suggests Hammett had a trio of novellas, each too wacky to expand into a noir novel, but linked together might offer opportunities unavailable if taken alone. The second is perhaps the oddest: an extended Weird shyster cult based on the Gaelic Church of Arthur Machen. A fight scene here could well have been an intentional homage to Machen.

The three scenarios echo Red Harvest in providing distinct sets of characters and locales, which nevertheless interlock and must be taken together to solve the case. Apparently the novel was stitched together from linked short stories published separately, something Hammett also did for Red Harvest.


Like Lew Archer, the Op is not a marquee leading man but an overweight, middle-aged workaday bloke.

Mickey Linehan, Al Mason, and Dick Foley each make an appearance, so there's a chance the reader will get to know the various Continental Op associates and their personalities. Two new associates play bit parts: MacMan and Drake. The Old Man also gets a very small bit of description, even has a phone conversation with the Op, so more than the obligatory nod at case's end. Tantalising to think of who this man is, and the nature of his relationship with the Op himself.

From the San Francisco force, O'Gar and Pat Reddy seem to get on well with the Op, who notes of the former "There was a lot of sense in his hard bullet-head, and he was comfortable to work with." [153] Other characters won't reappear in other novels, but Hammett takes as much care in writing their places as with any. Description of the rural sheriff Rolly was a particularly pleasant example, not urban but not a dimwit at all, it speaks well of the Op that he sees it and appears to acknowledge it, if only to himself.

Tempting to see Hammett poking fun at himself in the character of Fitzstephan, in more ways than one. Fitzstephan references Cabell at a cocktail party. [233]

RED HARVEST | read 2016-05

Strong similarity to Chinatown in opening set-up, including bedside visit with ailing patriarch. Interestingly, we never learn Continental Op's name, he's asked directly a couple times (almost a joke of Hammett's?) but his deflections never become wooden or overwrought. The Op discerns answers in clues given the reader, mostly correct but not always. They are not clues that point only to one answer, his experience allows him first to discern what the clue implies and then, to select from alternatives, when the reader is unlikely to do either. Fun and substantive.

Apparently the novel was stitched together from linked short stories published separately, something Hammett also did for The Dain Curse.

THE THIN MAN | read pre-2007

Recognisable from the movie, but a distinct tone, the screwball comedy much more a creation of Van Dyke than Hammett. Each work succeeds on its own terms. I suspect my reading experience was profoundly influenced by my familiarity with the film, and aim to re-read after becoming better acquainted with Hammett's distinct style.


To be read:
  elenchus | Jul 13, 2016 |
"Red harvest", "The dain curse", "The maltese falcon", "The glass key", "The thin man"
  IICANA | Apr 20, 2016 |
Having read Red Harvest some time ago, it was time to return to the next one in this collection. The Dain Curse proved to be a fun- if often over the top- classic of detective fiction. Though Hammett's writing is sharp and effective, it lacks a bit of the grittiness and emotional weight I've come to admire in the books of his successor, Raymond Chandler. Nonetheless, The Dain Curse was entertaining and executed well enough for me to overlook the somewhat zany, convoluted plot that linked what could have essentially been three stories into one. Looking forward to eventually getting to the others in this collection. ( )
1 vote Matthew.Ducmanas | Mar 18, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hammett, DashiellAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marcus, StevenNotessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Joseph Thompson Shaw
To Albert S. Samuels
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I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte.
It was a diamond all right, shining in the grass half a dozen feet from the blue brick walk.
Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth.
Green dice rolled across the green table, struck the rim together, and bounced back.
I was leaning against the bar in a speakeasy on Fifty-second Street, waiting for Nora to finish her Christmas shopping, when a girl got up from the table where she had been sitting with three other people and came over to me.
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Red Harvest
The Dain Curse
The Maltese Falcon
The Glass Key
The Thin Man
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0517338416, Hardcover)

Complete in one volume, the five books that created the modern American crime novel

In a few years of extraordinary creative energy, Dashiell Hammett invented the modern American crime novel. In the words of Raymond Chandler, "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."

The five novels that Hammett published between 1929 and 1934, collected here in one volume, have become part of modern American culture, creating archetypal characters and establishing the ground rules and characteristic tone for a whole tradition of hardboiled writing. Drawing on his own experiences as a Pinkerton detective, Hammett gave a harshly realistic edge to novels that were at the same time infused with a spirit of romantic adventure. His lean and deliberately simplified prose won admiration from such contemporaries as Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner.

Each novel is distinct in mood and structure. Red Harvest (1929) epitomizes the violence and momentum of his Black Mask stories about the anonymous detective the Continental Op, in a raucous and nightmarish evocation of political corruption and gang warfare in a western mining town. In The Dain Curse (1929) the Op returns in a more melodramatic tale involving jewel theft, drugs, and a religious cult. With The Maltese Falcon (1930) and its protagonist Sam Spade, Hammett achieved his most enduring popular success, a tightly constructed quest story shot through with a sense of disillusionment and the arbitrariness of personal destiny. The Glass Key (1931) is a further exploration of city politics at their most scurrilous. His last novel was The Thin Man (1934), a ruefully comic tale paying homage to the traditional mystery form and featuring Nick and Nora Charles, the sophisticated inebriates who would enjoy a long afterlife in the movies.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:07 -0400)

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Presents five novels by Dashiell Hamilton, all published between 1929 and 1934.

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