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Dashiell Hammett: Man of Mystery Hardcover – February 4, 2014


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“VERDICT: Man of Mystery delivers the goods on Hammett, in brief. . . . Keeping her subject squarely in focus, [Cline] offers a fairly succinct overview of his personality and career. Her analyses of his novels including The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, are lean. . . . What is found in abundance are salacious details, presented in standard linear narrative, as Hammett—lifetime consumptive, philander, and inebriate extra­ordinaire—treats people badly against an endless backdrop of crummy apartments, hotel penthouses, jail cells, army barracks, and Hollywood locales. . . . An entertaining and informative read.”—Library Journal

“Extremely well-written, it provides the best account thus far of Hammett’s view of life.”—National Review

“Sally Cline has captured the essence of Dashiell Hammett in a fast-paced and entertaining exploration of his life and his work. In pages filled with absorbing detail, Cline provides a scholarly reinterpretation with which future writers will have to grapple. This is an important achievement!"
—Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of History, Columbia University, and author of A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman

“Sympathetically written and scrupulously researched, Sally Cline’s Dashiell Hammett corrects the record and offers new insights into this complex and enigmatic man, giving us a vivid portrait not only of Hammett but also of his world and circle." —Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, author of Mencken: the American Iconoclast

“Sally Cline's Dashiell Hammett is incisive and authoritative, and especially good at seeing Hammett in the context of his times.” —Diane Johnson, author of Flyover Lives: A Memoir, Le Mariage, and Dashiell Hammett: A Life

About the Author

Sally Cline is an award-winning writer and scholar and the author of twelve books, including biographies of Zelda Fitzgerald and Radclyffe Hall. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1 edition (February 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161145784X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611457841
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 0.2 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,117,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Steve Dossey on March 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
First the writing style here is annoying....too much redundancy and restatement, in the intro she talks about using 4 different names for Hammett depending on the time context of his life.....so she blithely goes about calling him
"Dash" as if she knew him... quite pretentious........ really she needed a better editor........ and at times the writer asks a question about events she does not answer...we dont want a biographer asking questions that are not answered, even if there are no answers......there are recollections here from decedents of Hammett and that is somewhat useful in seeing that side of the picture of a complex and challenging personality.....and some of the Lillian info provides depth to that relationship....In addition, she,the author, talks about Dashiell's eldest drug addicted daughter providing really nothing new except some psychiatrist's comments...and then never completes some description of her fate, nor of his wife, Jose..........really there is not a lot new in terms of substance.....I am surprised anyone would publish such a gossipy and repetitive biography with little new facts.......Yes a man of mystery in his writing but not that much more in his mystery as a human being....at least not in this slim volume....
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dan on June 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Dashiell Hammett, Man of Mystery
by Sally Cline Dashiell Hammett: Man of Mystery[ASIN:161145784X

Cynical, altruistic, selfish, generous, violent, kind, creative, stymied: these adjectives all apply to the complex Dashiell Hammett, who has a claim to the title of godfather of American crime fiction.

Sally Kline's slim biography (264 pages--many devoted to her references) is meticulously researched and includes new material drawn from interviews with Hammett's longtime partner Lillian Hellman and Hammett's daughter Jo.

Hammett's father was a womanizing, brutal drunk, unable to hold down a job for long and who pulled his family from one town to another in search of work. Hammett also became an alcoholic who was at times rough with women. Brighter than his father, and more devoted to his mother, he moved through a variety of jobs as he grew, eventually finding work that he enjoyed and was good at as a Pinkerton's detective.

Bad health, notably tuberculosis, ended his Pinkerton's career and forced him to find other ways to support himself. He had an aptitude for writing and became an immediate hit with detective stories in pulp magazines, notably Black Mask. He was encouraged to write novels. The five he wrote from 1929 to 1934 were all both critical and financial successes: Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key and The Thin Man. Many critics felt he was equal of Hemingway. In these novels tough talk, authentic investigative practices, pell-mell plots and for the high-minded, an existential world view abound.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John B. Kachuba on May 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Any biography of a celebrity loses its credibility when the author has not performed the necessary research and presents the subject in a biased, or worse, whitewashed manner. Happily, this is not the case with Sally Cline’s examination of the life of Dashiell Hammett, the father of the “hard-boiled detective” story.

Like many readers, I knew about Hammett’s literary creations, Sam Spade and the Continental Op, and his masterpiece novel The Maltese Falcon. I knew that Hammett had been a Pinkerton detective and that, like so many great writers, including Fitzgerald, Hammett had worked on screenplays in Hollywood. But I didn’t know about the strange relationship he had with his wife Jose; his long affair with playwright Lillian Hellman; his debilitating alcoholism; his violent, womanizing behavior; his crippling writer’s block; or his public stand on civil rights, all of which are brought to life in this fine biography.

In addition to her own research, Cline draws on interviews with Hammett’s daughter Jo and with Hellman to give us an accurate picture of the man, warts and all. As a writer, what I appreciated most in the biography was Cline’s ability to examine Hammett’s work from a critical literary point of view and to show how he elevated the detective story—with us since Edgar Allen Poe—to the status of respected literary genre.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Hammett and the detective story genre.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rosebud Book Reviews on February 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
There are some things Sally Cline does extremely well – summarizing books and movies, explaining how literary techniques (such as, point of view) effect an audience, and presenting the historic background in which Hammett lived thought he himself didn’t seem to grasp or appreciate it.

I liked the no-holds bared presentation of his and Lillian Hellman’s lives. But some of Cline’s conclusions are questionable – for example, that Dash did better with companies of men rather than women and I missed the appeal of both Hammett and Hellman. They were public figures who were, for whatever reason, attractive to others.

Do we better understand his twenty years of writer’s block? Yes, but not in a way that is redemptive.
We are looking for something in his writing, in his life, that we don’t have in ours. After reading this book. I am still looking.

-J. Lehman, Rosebud Book Reviews.com
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