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68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best that Hammett ever wrote
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...
Published on September 20, 1999 by Robert Moore

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seven Continentl Op stories
These are some of the earliest of Hammet's stories featuring the unnamed 'Continental Op'. The stories are:

The Tenth Clew
The Golden Horseshoe
The House in Turk Street
The Girl With the Silver Eyes
The Whosis Kid
The Main Death
The Farewell Murder

Most of them are good, but the only one that approaches the excellence of...
Published on August 12, 2007 by Michael Dea


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68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best that Hammett ever wrote, September 20, 1999
This review is from: The Continental Op (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. Better than the two novels that Hammett wrote featuring to Op--RED HARVEST (which inspired Akira Kurosawa's YOJIMBO, which in turn inspired A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS; the wretched LAST MAN STANDING was a more straightforward remake) and THE DAIN CURSE, better than THE GLASS KEY and THE THIN MAN, and perhaps even better than THE MALTESE FALCON.
I would urge anyone interested in 20th century American Literature to read this book. Anyone who is genuinely interested in hardboiled detective fiction already has.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nameless, Faceless, and Definitely Hard Boiled, September 17, 2001
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This review is from: The Continental Op (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.
Even more than 75 years after they were written, these stories have something to tell us about ourselves today. Chandler was an Englishman; but Hammett was clearly a home-grown product of the streets. A former detective himself, he knew well the dark recesses of the American criminal mind, sometimes frighteningly so.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Original "Man with No Name", September 24, 2001
By 
George R Dekle "Bob Dekle" (Lake City, FL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Continental Op (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Spade, July 27, 2000
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This review is from: The Continental Op (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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Introduction to Hard-boiled Fiction & Hammett., April 14, 2004
This review is from: The Continental Op (Paperback)
"The Continental Op" contains seven short stories featuring Dashiell Hammett's terse, sharp-witted, and always unnamed operative from The Continental Detective Agency. "Black Mask" magazine published 36 Continental Op stories by Dashiell Hammett between 1923 and 1930 (eight which were later transformed into novels), so this is just a smattering. These stories are not as thematically complex as many of Hammett's novels, but the Op's first person narration renders the characters especially vividly. And his sardonic internal monologues sting like a branding iron, and leave about as strong an impression. Though Hammett's scathing cynicism is better articulated in his novels, "The Continental Op" is an excellent showcase of the elements which have made Hammett's work so popular for over eighty years: blunt talk, economic and very readable prose, femmes fatales, contemptible but colorful criminals, violence, mystery, and a decidedly unglamorous "everyman" protagonist who lives by his own strict code of conduct.
Unlike Hammett's novels, this collection of short stories includes an introduction by the book's editor, Steven Marcus. It won't be news to readers who are familiar with Dashiell Hammett's life and works, but readers who are new to Hammett may find the progression of Hammett's career, personal life and politics, discussed in Marcus' essay, interesting and helpful in placing his work in context. "The Continental Op" is an excellent introduction to the writing of Dashiell Hammett, similar to the manner in which the American public discovered his works in "Black Mask" during the 1920s. And if you're already a Hammett fan, these wonderfully entertaining stories are not to be missed.
Note: An entirely different anthology of Dashiell Hammett short stories, edited by Ellery Queen, was published under the same name, "The Continental Op", in 1945. It contained 4 stories, 3 of which are not in the current Vintage Books edition. I mention it so there will be no confusion. This Vintage Books edition, edited by Steven Marcus, was originally published in 1979 and contains these 7 stories: "The Tenth Clew", "The Golden Horseshoe", "The House in Turk Street", "The Girl with the Silver Eyes", "The Whosis Kid", "The Main Death", and "The Farewell Murder".
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of Fun, January 13, 2002
This review is from: The Continental Op (Paperback)
This is the first Dashiell Hammett book I've read. It's actually a collection of short stories revolving around the exploits of the Continental Op, a nameless private dick who works for the Continental Detective Agency. The Op is a hard-nosed, intelligent guy who always cracks his cases, along with a few heads. Hammett originally wrote these as serials for magazines way back in the 1920's. That was one of the things that surprised me about these stories. I couldn't believe they were written so long ago. The edginess and violence seems much more modern. These stories could easily have been written around the time that Raymond Chandler was banging out his Marlowe stories (during the 1950's). You cannot help but like the Op. He's sarcastic and smart and operates on his own code of justice. He's the kind of guy you would want to have around if you were in trouble.
All of the stories are good, but some are better than others. The best story, in my humble opinion, concerned a jewel heist gone bad in which the Op ends up in a gun battle in a dark apartment. The bodies stack up quickly in this one. Other stories involve a trip to Mexico, nine "clews" that don't add up, and a theft that the Op accidentally stumbles upon. All of the stories involve murder and mayhem. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how the stories would end while I was reading them, but Hammett always seems to make it end in an unexpected way. The writing style is quick and cool, with many neat metaphors I've come to expect from noir writings.
The introduction to this collection is pretty useless and boring. I recommended skipping it and going right to the meat. This is noir. Who needs an introduction? Read!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unheralded Classics, May 21, 2000
This review is from: The Continental Op (Paperback)
After reading the Maltese Falcon 5 times and getting over the fact that Hammett didn't write 10 more Sam Spade novels I picked up the Continental Op. Written during the 1920s these tales are every bit as gritty as the Raymond Chandler short stories that would come a decade or two later. The Op is a fat unromantic type that knows how to solve crime with his head and his hands. He encounters people that we would best avoid and puts them away or does them in. Some of the stories are superior to the others, but every tale is worth the telling.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classics from the pulps..., July 11, 2002
By 
Neal Reynolds (Indianapolis, Indiana) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Continental Op (Paperback)
During the years of radio drama, Dashell Hammett's Nick Charles and Sam Spade had their own weekly radio shows, and movie flings. But one series based on a Dashell Hammett character was puzzling: "The Fat Man". He was named J. Maxwell Smart, weighed 240 lb., and of course was one tough character. Yet, you'll never find him under that name in any Hammett story. The radio, tv, & movie character was, in fact, based on the nameless Continental Op.
Truly, he is the most interesting of Hammett's series characters. He is tough, ethical according to his code, and keeps his true emotions buried under the toughness and the physical bulk. He is a cynic, one who assumes that each person involved is undoubtedly lying. On the occasions that a female character makes a play for him, he assumes that she has an angle. And he, in turn, formulates his own lies which have the effect of bringing out the truth. There are times that he is as surprised at the outcome as the reader is.
Hammett is skillful in the way he keeps the op in character, and the reader needs to be alert to catch some of the subtleties such as a restrained sense of humor when the crooks trap themselves by thinking he's after them when he's completely unaware of what they've done; a buried feeling of remorse when a client is murdered because the op had the wrong assumption; a decision not to unnecessarily involve an erring wife who's resigned herself to having her infidelity revealed.
These stories indeed have literary value while being engrossing crime stories. If you enjoy today's tough police detectives such as Harry Bosch, you will find these far earlier stories engrossing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seven Continentl Op stories, August 12, 2007
By 
Michael Dea (Calgary, Alberta Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Continental Op (Paperback)
These are some of the earliest of Hammet's stories featuring the unnamed 'Continental Op'. The stories are:

The Tenth Clew
The Golden Horseshoe
The House in Turk Street
The Girl With the Silver Eyes
The Whosis Kid
The Main Death
The Farewell Murder

Most of them are good, but the only one that approaches the excellence of the the Continental Op novels ('Red Harvest' and 'The Dain Curse')is 'the Main Murder'. In this story Hammet displays his talent for creating memorable secondary characters and crackling dialogue.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hammett's most original, prolific, and least known detective character., December 18, 2003
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This review is from: The Continental Op (Paperback)
For a man who actively wrote for only a short period of time, it's amazing Dashiel Hammet has such a high percentage of quality stuff. "The Thin Man", "The Glass Key", "The Maltese Falcon" and 'Red Harvest' all defined the modern detective story and the image of the modern detective. Guys like Sam Spade and Nick Charles--always clever, handsome or tough, never-say-die, except to opposing bad guys.
So when I ran across him in "Nightmare Town", another collection of Hammett stories, I pursued more.

I was intrigued by the Op character because he's NOT the Bogie or William Powell type. He's middle-aged, short, overweight, thinning hair, is always cautious and seldom foolish (and for good reason). He has a workmanlike approach to his job, focuses on the facts, and avoids entanglements with the dames. He takes pride in a job well-done, and has an appropriately-placed sense of right, wrong and how justice should be served. Evidently, the Op is based on Hammett's own experience working as an agency detective with parts of other real-life colleagues thrown in.

I thoroughly enjoyed these stories, even though their setting is the America of eighty years ago and the jargon is sometimes obscure. The plots are good, characters believable, and the protagonist is a likable, clever, and tough detective.

Some of Hammett's best writing is within these pages. All you detective story fans-if you haven't read it, pick this one up for sure.

If you read and like this collection, pick up 'Red Harvest', Hammett's novel where the Op goes against an entire city's underworld. First rate stuff.
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The Continental Op
The Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett (Paperback - July 17, 1989)
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