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The Continental Op Hardcover – 1974

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Editorial Reviews


'...the Continental Op features in seven superb stories in this collection. Please, dear reader, I beg you, buy this book and treat yourself to the work of a true master of the crime genre.' -- Vincent Banville IRISH TIMES 'Orion's magnificent Crime Masterworks series ...has collected seven of the finest Continental Op short stories in a single volume... It is a magnificent collection, marking year zero in the hard-boiled school of crime fiction... Hugely recommended.' BURTON EVENING MAIL 'Some of the best examples of Hammett's work, painting a bleak picture of an American society warped by brutality, greed and treachery.' WESTERN DAILY PRESS --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Short, thick-bodied, mulishly stubborn, and indifferent to pain, Dashiell Hammett's Continetal Op was the prototype for generations of tough-guy detectives. In these stories the Op unravels a murder with too many clues, looks for a girl with eyes the color of shadows on polished silver, and tangles with a crooked-eared gunman called the Whosis Kid. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394487044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394487045
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #675,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
While in graduate school at Yale, I actually went to the Beinecke Rare Book Library and read several special issues of BLACK MASK MAGAZINE published in the late 1940s that collected all of the Continental Op stories not included in THE CONTINENTAL OP or THE BIG KNOCKOVER. Most readers of Hammett are unaware that over the course of his career he wrote a vast number of stories featuring the overweight, verging on middle age detective who stars in this collection. One of the great tragedies in American literary history has been the failure to publish all of these stories. Having read all of them, I can attest that while on the whole not all of the out-of-print stories are as good as the ones in THE CONTINENTAL OP and THE BIG KNOCKOVER, several of them are quite excellent. My understanding is that after Hammett's death, Lilian Hellman, who had a low opinion of Hammett's detective fiction (jealousy? spite?) and held the copyright to his works, would not allow any of the works not already well-established in publishing to be published. I am not certain who holds the copyright now, but fairly soon it should be all in the public domain, and hopefully then these important stories will all be reprinted.
The Continental Op is Hammett's main detective, not the more famous Sam Spade (who appears in only one novel and a couple of short stories, as opposed to the two novels and seventy some odd short stories of the Continental OP). The stories in THE CONTINENTAL OP are the best featuring his main characters. It is impossible to stress precisely how good these stories are. The finest stories in this collection are the best things that Hammett ever wrote.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By James Paris on September 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op detective stories see the beginnings of the hard-boiled detective in American fiction. The nameless operative of the Continental Detective Agency that stars in all these stories is also faceless: All we know is that he's overweight. He's every bit as nasty as the later Sam Spade of THE MALTESE FALCON, and even approaches Jim Thompson's psychotically callous narrators. At one point, in "The Farewell Murder," his reaction to his client's grisly murder by slashed throat is an apparent nonchalance -- though he does nab the murderer in the end.
Between 1930 and today, however, there was a change in colloquial American that makes Hammett's language seem slightly fusty and unidiomatic today. The following are taken from my favorite story of the bunch, "The Girl with the Silver Eyes." The larcenous Elvira, for example, "sizes up as a worker." Another woman thinks her brother is "a choice morsel." An odd prolixity appears in the sentence "This Porky was an effective tool if handled right, which meant keeping your hand on his throat all the time and checking up every piece of information he brought in." A writer today would be more elliptical, but then. of course, the genre was still in its infancy.
Where Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe is a knight of the mean streets, the Op is an anonymous survivor. His name won't appear in the newspaper, but he'll collar the perpetrators and see them executed or otherwise put out of action. When the evidence is lacking, as in "The Golden Horseshoe," he is content to have the criminal swing for a crime he did NOT commit. Better yet, in "The House on Turk Street," he will arrange for the hoods to kill each other and walk away unharmed.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By George R Dekle on September 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
Overweight, cynical, and rawhide tough, this nondescript, nameless operative for the Continental Detective Agency slugs and schemes his way through a series of entertaining mysteries. He's the prototype for Clint Eastwood's "man with no name," Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, and dozens of other "hard boiled" detectives. The difference between the Op and his imitators comes in Hammett's hands-on familiarity with his subject matter. Hammett worked for a time as an operative for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and he puts his knowledge of the seamier side of human nature to good use in crafting the stories about the Continental Op.
The Op has no existence, no identity whatsoever, outside his job. He's not above a little "necessary brutality," and he doesn't mind "fudging the facts" to see to it that justice as he understands it is done. He has a slightly lopsided code of ethics and a totally jaundiced view of human nature, but he is dedicated to doing his job and doing it well. I only recently became a fan of the "detective story," but I have been a fan of the Continental Op for decades.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Burnett on July 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
I am astonished at the ignorance of most people about thewriting of Dashiell Hammett. Few people, if asked, could tell you thenumber of novels he wrote featuring Sam Spade (Answer: 1, although there are three short stories) or who the "Thin Man" was (Nope, not William Powell - it was the concrete-cased corpse). Even fewer would look at you with anything less than a blank stare if you mentioned the Continental Op, the unnamed, smart, tough and slightly tragic hero of these stories.

The Op shares many qualities with the intrepid Spade, but is different in one respect - his ability to work as part of an agency and report to the "old man". This alone makes him 180-degrees different from the ronin Spade.
The stories found in this book are stunning pieces of literature. Although they are the foundation upon which the genre "hard-boiled" would be built, they are indeed literary masterpieces, without a wasted word. They are tough-guy poetry, without the flowery sentimentality of Raymond Chandler, who was to follow in Hammett's footsteps.
What;s it all about? A coded telegram about a missing daughter...some sheets of dark grey paper hidden in a copy of "The Count of Monte Cristo"...the FOR HIRE flag on a taxi that was up when it should have been down...a newspaper story that appeared in only ONE COPY of ONE ISSUE...a spitted dog barbecuing over a fire...a voice which spoke from an orange tree... These things and more.
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