on August 2, 2014
Please note that this review is of an edition of The Thin Man that sold for about a buck. It is not about any edition of The Glass Key, nor is it about the ten-dollar edition of The Thin Man. This review now evidently appears under everything Hammett ever wrote, but I did not post it under everything Hammett ever wrote. Why can't Amazon stop reviews from "bleeding" like this? Again, the following pertains only to an edition of TTM that sold for about one dollar.
DO NOT buy the Kindle edition of The Thin Man. Reading this cheap Kindle version is like walking a path that ought to have been cleared through the jungle for us but turns out instead to be overgrown with vines. Several other one-star reviewers are exactly right about this but maybe they're not adamant enough. Not only does Nora's name appear here as "Nona," it also appears as "Noma." More than half of the paragraph returns are missing, so, for instance, chapter numbers appear on the same line as text; and dialogue is often very difficult to follow, as each single paragraph might contain words being spoken by more than one character, so the reader must be constantly on guard to catch every last quotation mark. This is especially trying when so many of the conversations consist of rather rapid-fire interrogations. Only a few of the first lines of paragraphs are indented; most are left-justified instead. Here are more word-glitches from just the first 1/4 of this book (and by no means is this list complete): the word "people" does indeed appear here as "pea-pie." The word "hello" is printed as "FIello." We get "in ease" instead of "in case." The word "He" appears as "Fle" and "his" is written as "Ins." Instead of "you" we keep seeing "von." We get "carrving" for "carrying" and "look" for "took." The word "police" is printed as "pohee." The word "hut" is repeatedly used instead of "but." We also find "lover lip," "egg-flog" "fireescape," "ping-pang," and "saundproofing. " It's not too hard to decipher "$iooo" or even "Wbat'd"--but what about "iz1/2"? Or how about this sentence: "I said, 'Sb-h-h." And yet there are even worse sentences: "she was thing to find my father" is one clause that I have not yet made sense of, nor have I managed yet to decipher: "he was glad to find me inane alive." Or how about this little gem, which I promise you I've transcribed accurately: "He wore a black derby hat, a black overcoat that fitted him very snugly, a dark suit, and black shoes, all looking as if he had bought them within the past fifteen bought them with the past fifteen calibre automatic, lay comfortably in his hand, not pointing at anything." Shouldn't readers be offended that someone would offer this slop for sale? I say we must be! Stuff like this shouldn't even be given away, but to sell it, even for just a buck and change, is a blasphemy. The Thin Man is a masterpiece of the genre that it in fact helped establish and it deserves to be honorably enshrined in exactly the forms and words that its author intended.
on January 12, 2005
Of all five of Hammett's novels, "The Glass Key" most resembles a "traditional" whodunit with its linear plot, subtle hints, red herrings, false leads, and disclosure of the murderer in the final chapter. It's his only novel with enough clues to allow readers to figure out who did it--although the identity of the killer will still surprise most readers (including this one, to be honest). What distinguishes it from a typical murder mystery, however, is Hammett's fastidious prose, scurrilous characters, noir ambience, and borderline misanthropy.
Ned Beaumont, a self-described "amateur detective" with an independent streak and a gambling habit, is the loyal underling to shadowy political boss Paul Madvig, whose major concern is to see his candidate, Taylor Henry, reelected to the Senate. When the Senator's son is murdered alongside a dimly lit street, Madvig is the chief suspect, the papers (controlled by the opposition) go on the attack, and Beaumont intervenes with an attempt to clear his boss's name. While not above resorting to ethically dubious behavior, Beaumont retains a vein of rectitude under his tough-guy exterior, and he's even willing to undergo the most brutal thrashings at the hands of the criminal opposition out of loyalty to his own superiors--as long as they themselves don't cross the line.
His fourth novel in three years (1929-1931), "The Glass Key" is bleaker and more cynical than its predecessors, and the mood spirals further downward as the story unfolds. (One can almost imagine Hammett's brooding temper darkening with each stiff drink.) While most of his fiction deals with the underworld and its corruption and squalidness, this work shows most effectively the seedy alliances among businessmen, political bosses, elected officials, law enforcement, media figures, and organized crime in Prohibition-era America.
on July 7, 1999
Forget those movies. They took a grimly funny novel about a group of predatory monsters and turned it into a series of light comedies. As splendid as William Powell and Myrna Loy are, they cannot hold a candle to the Nick and Nora portrayed in this novel.
Hammett did not write a novel about a sophisticated couple who genteelly solve a murder while pouring cocktails and trading quips. He wrote a dark novel about an ex-detective who has married a wildly wealthy woman, and wants to spend the rest of his life managing her money. He is only faintly connected to the murders, having known the victim and his family briefly several years before, and wants nothing to do with the whole business. He is continually dragged in, however, and very nearly becomes a victim himself. Even a cursory reading of the novel should demonstrate that Hammett was up to much more than a series of one-liners with detective interruptions. Why else would Hammett, one of the most economical of authors, bring the novel to a halt to include a case history of Alfred Packer, the only American convicted of the crime of cannibalism?
There is much more here than Hollywood, or anyone else that I know of, has yet realized.
on August 1, 2008
Boy, these reviews are all over the place, aren't they! Well, they at least give you the plot so I don't have to. Here are some quick comments:
There is so much going on in this book that most people miss much of it the first time (as these reviews show), especially if they don't know Hammett's life. As noted, Hammett modeled Nick and Nora on himself and his paramour, budding playwright Lillian Hellman, so it's interesting to see how he dealt in fiction with their relationship and his ultimate failure to cope with success.
Yet, "The Thin Man" works - and works well - as a straight, hard-boiled detective novel, too (which is why none of the characters are particularly likeable). Also, Nora, one of the few, strong female detectives of the pulp magazine era, has inspired countless woman (including Myrna Loy) through the decades.
Hammett's sparse style of writing, which many critics (including myself) think Hemingway merely popularized, revolutionized American literature. Each of Hammett's words had to do its part. Similarly, unlike those of earlier detective novels, Hammett's characters committed murder and other mayhem for actual reasons! The notion greatly affected Chandler, Macdonald, and all the others who toiled in the garden Hammett created. His books are all classics of American literature.
Some of these reviewers have made too much of the "alcoholism" in the book. Fact is, a certain, large segment of society in the `30s - products of Prohibition - did (or wanted to) drink the way the book's characters do and thought nothing of it. Basically, everybody drank in those days. Even the President of the United States had a bootlegger.
To my mind, an alcoholic is a person who drinks because he or she _has_ to; these characters drink because they _want_ to. Those revisionist Puritan reviewers just don't understand the context of the drinking in "The Thin Man".
Speaking of Puritans, the city of Boston banned "The Thin Man" upon release (thereby greatly increasing its sales) because Nora asks Nick if he got an erection while wrestling with one of the female characters. The word - heard without reaction on TV and in the movies these days - was simply too much for the city fathers. ("Just a little one" Nick answered, if memory serves.) The movie producers could not chance a similar ban on the movie so they cut a lot of the dark humor out of it but introduced Hammett to a lot of people over the world. The problems come when the viewers don't realize the book and the movies are two very different animals.
I would love to see "The Thin Man" made into a movie now - when the producers would respect the work while employing fantastic production values. I'm sure they would remember that Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon" did not succeed as a movie until the third try when new producer John Huston wisely utilized most of Hammett's cutting but sparkling dialogue.
Hammett wrote five novels and, while they share similar traits, each one is different from the others and each one is an American classic. "The Thin Man" sees an older, wiser, possibly drunker, Hammett playfully poking fun at himself, Hellman, and the genre he mostly created while staying within the confines of that genre - a difficult trick. "The Thin Man", the most commercially successful of the five, can stand proudly next to its brothers. You'll enjoy it!
on July 6, 1999
I believe it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who once said, "Hammett is one of those good writers ruined by Hollywood." This book shows Fitzgerald's quote in action.
Don't misunderstand me, 'The Thin Man' is an excellent story. It's amuzing, tense, and contains possibly Hammett's most memorable characters, but it's also a complete departure from his previous novels. In a way, 'The Thin Man' is a farewell. Here we have a once hard-boiled detective, Nick Charles, who has settled down with his wise-cracking wife, Nora, and doesn't want anything to do with his previous work. Instead, Nick drinks, and drinks, and drinks, and goes to parties, and hosts parties, and the like. Whenever anyone questions Nick over the case that he's rumored to be working, Nick simply claims that he doesn't want anything to do with being a detective and leaves it at that.
This being Hammett's final novel, I believe that it an all too valid assumption that Hammett was using the character of Nick to symbolize himself and his own mentality. To connect this with Fitzgerald's comment, following the publication of 'The Thin Man', some movie studio handed Hammett a check for something like $40,000 for use of the characters, cementing his literary decrepitude, and he never worked again.
But it is a good read, very good, and while I would have liked to have given it the full five stars, i've chosen to remain with four, as 'The Thin Man' just doesn't compare with many of Hammett's other classics.
on March 15, 2005
This is one of the best crime novels ever written because it transcends the genre so beautifully, you won't even care about the mystery plot. The characters make it biting, strong and unforgettable, freaks and weirdos alike... Nick and Nora Charles are 2 of the most perfect literary creations in all of fiction. Hollywood cleaned them up a little and made them classy social lushes, but in their original written form, they're cynical, world weary wise acres. Their heavy drinking only adds to the book's appeal. Dashielle dedicated it to his long time love Lillian Hellman, as she, in turn, dedicated a few of her plays to him. The Maltese Falcon is the most famous of Hammett's works, The Daine Curse, his most complicated, Red Harvest, his most violent, The Glass Key, his most bitter. But the Thin Man is the most entertaining. You'll feel like reading it with a bottle of booze at your side.
on April 26, 1997
Dashiell Hammetts creative light burned bright but for a brief 5-10 year period. In "The Glass Key," his penultimate novel, Hammett melded the world of the "hard-boiled detective"--shady underground figures, powerful men and, of course, a beautiful woman--with a theme that recurs throughout his ouvre--of basic trust between kindred souls.
Often over-shadowed in the eyes of readers by the novels that preceeded and followed, "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Thin Man," "The Glass Key" is Hammett at the very top of his form. Writing as no one had before, or has since
"The Glass Key" is probably Dashiell Hammett's best-constructed novel. Our detective this time is not a professional sleuth, but Ned Beaumont, a sharp, tough, unglamorous, right-hand man to Paul Madvig, a powerful corrupt-as-the-next-guy businessman with political ambitions. Paul intends to win an upcoming city election and marry a Senator's daughter. But only a few weeks before the election, Taylor Henry, the Senator's son and brother of Paul's intended, is found murdered in the street. The police are desperate to solve this high-profile case. The city's various political forces are inclined to use Taylor Henry's death to leverage the upcoming election. Information is power, and whoever knows the identity of the murderer may control the election. Paul Madvig's now-precarious influence appoints Ned Beaumont as special investigator for the District Attorney's Office, and the newly-credentialed Ned sets out to sort out the murder before it sorts out the power structure in this unnamed Depression-era city.
"The Glass Key" explores the interdependent cultures of politics, industry, and news media, which combine to thoroughly immerse the city in corruption. As much as I admire Hammett's themes and enjoy his stories, I've never considered the stories, themselves, to be plausible. I wouldn't have much trouble believing that the characters or events described in "The Glass Key" could actually have existed, though. This is the most grounded in realism of any of Hammett's novels, and it's the most tightly written. The novel is evenly paced and, like its protagonist Ned Beaumont, is spare, focused, and direct in its purpose. Despite the story's third-person narration that never reveals anyone's thoughts or emotions, the characters are well-drawn and never flat. Ironically, the narrative's objectivity seems, if anything, to intensify its brutality. By focusing its attention on the personal and professional machinations behind city politics, "The Glass Key" creates an insider's view of power in America, circa 1930. By keeping the identity of the murderer and the outcome of the power plays secret until the very end, Hammett keeps us interested. Although it lacks "The Maltese Falcon"'s exotic characters and more ambitious themes, "The Glass Key" is among Hammett's best works, and I believe it's his second-best novel.
on September 1, 2014
Thid as ufradable ! I have never seen a kindle book as bad as this one. It may be cheap but it's still not worth it !!! You would think it was translated from a foreign language. I have yet to ask Amazon for my money back but I'm going to on this one.
on October 14, 2014
This is a classic tale by a famous writer of "hard-boiled" crime fiction; and in and of itself it's worth reading. BUT...this Kindle edition has absolutely the worst formatting I have ever encountered, and it's so bad it detracts from the experience and degrades Hammett's prose. The principal fault is in the paragraphing. Fundamental writing rules include starting a separate paragraph whenever dialogue from a character is used: this permits the reader to clearly distinguish who is speaking to whom. Unfortunately, in this book that is almost never the case: two--sometimes three-characters' dialog is included in the same paragraph, usually the same line. It forces the reader to re-read just to decide who's talking. Since most of Hammett's writing technique is to let the dialogue carry the thread of the narrative, this flaw is disconcerting and highly distracting. In essence you have to read the book two or three times to understand what's going on.
Quite aside from that, whoever did the scanning needs to get a better OCR program and scanner. The book is shot through with typos that are clearly OCR errors, including innumerable "non-words" that make the reader stop and try to figure out what word is meant.
All in all, I'd say the cost of this book, even in Kindle format, is hardly justified in view of the very, very bad editing. Get another edition.