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Large Collection of Hammett Stories in One Enduring Volume.,
This review is from: Dashiell Hammett: Crime Stories and Other Writings (Library of America) (Hardcover)"Crime Stories and Other Writings" contains 24 short stories and 3 additional selections, arranged chronologically, which Dashiell Hammett wrote between 1923 and 1934. The stories all first appeared in pulp fiction magazines and span all but one year of the master of detective fiction's career. "Crime Stories" offers three stories which cannot be found in any other volume currently in print: "Arson Plus" and "Slippery Finger", which were first published in "Black Mask" magazine under the pseudonym Peter Collinson, and "Creeping Siamese". These stories all feature the Continental Op detective, an always nameless, stubbornly practical character whom Hammett based on a fellow detective from his days at Pinkerton Detective Agency, Jimmy Wright, and on himself. Nineteen of this book's stories feature the Continental Op, making it the largest collection of Op stories available. Among the best of these are "Zig Zags of Treachery", "The House on Turk Street", "The Whosis Kid", and "The Big Knockover". "The Girl with the Silver Eyes" is a follow-up to "The House on Turk Street", so be sure to read "Turk Street" first. "The Big Knockover" and "$106,000 Blood Money" were originally a two-parter, but were published as a single novella in 1943. As their styles differ somewhat, the stories are more successful when separated, as they are here. The story called "Women, Politics and Murder" in this volume has been called "Death on Pine Street" in other volumes; they're the same story. It's interesting to note that "Fly Paper" was inspired by two real cases of murder that employed the same peculiar method. Among the five stories that do not feature the Continental Op is the novella "Woman in the Dark". It's mediocre, but has often been published as a stand-alone volume.
The three "Other Writings" to which the book's title refers are: "The Thin Man: An Early Typescript", "From the Memoirs of a Private Detective", and "Suggestions to Detective Story Writers". The early version of "The Thin Man" was written in 1930, four years before the final product was to be published and bears only the most superficial resemblance to the now-famous sleuthing of Nick and Nora Charles. It's a good story that introduces a new detective, John Guild of the Associated Detective Bureau. That it was never finished is regrettable. "From the Memoirs of a Private Detective" is 29 short anecdotes and words of wisdom gained from Hammett's experience as a real detective, first published in "The Smart Set" in 1923. Some of these are very funny. In "Suggestions to Detective Story Writers", Hammett, frustrated by the abundant inaccuracies in detective fiction written by non-detectives, sets the record straight on 24 common errors. This was first published in "The New York Post" in 1930 and is interesting, if out of date at this point. Editor Stephen Marcus has included a Chronology of the important events in Dashiell Hammett's life in the back of the book, as well as explanations of potentially cryptic slang terms and period references in "Notes", also found in the back.
With 24 short stories and 3 additional pieces of writing, "Crime Stories and Other Writings" is the most comprehensive single volume of Dashiell Hammett's short fiction available. Hats off to the Library of America for publishing 3 stories that are not currently found in any other volume. Unfortunately, you will still have to buy all four collections of Hammett's short stories to get all available stories: this one plus "Nightmare Town" from Knopf and "The Continental Op" and "The Big Knockover" from Vintage Crime. If you don't care to have every story, but would like a sizable sampling that includes some of Hammett's best, "Crime Stories and Other Writings" is an excellent choice. It contains the largest number of stories, presented in an attractive compact hardback volume and printed on thin acid-free paper, making it far more durable than other collections. This is a nice volume for both the casually curious and the addicted Dashiell Hammett fan.