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The Continental Op Paperback – July 17, 1989
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From the Inside Flap
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.
About the Author
Dashiell Samuel Hammett was born in St. Mary’s County. He grew up in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Hammett left school at the age of fourteen and held several kinds of jobs thereafter—messenger boy, newsboy, clerk, operator, and stevedore, finally becoming an operative for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency. Sleuthing suited young Hammett, but World War I intervened, interrupting his work and injuring his health. When Sergeant Hammett was discharged from the last of several hospitals, he resumed detective work. He soon turned to writing, and in the late 1920s Hammett became the unquestioned master of detective-story fiction in America. In The Maltese Falcon (1930) he first introduced his famous private eye, Sam Spade. The Thin Man (1932) offered another immortal sleuth, Nick Charles. Red Harvest (1929), The Dain Curse (1929), and The Glass Key (1931) are among his most successful novels. During World War II, Hammett again served as sergeant in the Army, this time for more than two years, most of which he spent in the Aleutians. Hammett’s later life was marked in part by ill health, alcoholism, a period of imprisonment related to his alleged membership in the Communist Party, and by his long-time companion, the author Lillian Hellman, with whom he had a very volatile relationship. His attempt at autobiographical fiction survives in the story “Tulip,” which is contained in the posthumous collection The Big Knockover (1966, edited by Lillian Hellman). Another volume of his stories, The Continental Op (1974, edited by Stephen Marcus), introduced the final Hammett character: the “Op,” a nameless detective (or “operative”) who displays little of his personality, making him a classic tough guy in the hard-boiled mold—a bit like Hammett himself.
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"The Tenth Clew" is a whodunit story, but in the age of the internet, it is a bit dated. With "The House on Turk Street" we get dropped into the action (and it is never really clear to me what the case is), and introduced to the femme fatale that later appears in "The Girl With the Silver Eyes". Imposters crop up again in "The Golden Horseshoe". "The Main Death" illustrates the Op's pragmatic nature and his flexibility when it comes to the law. Double-crosses galore occur in "The Whosis Kid". The final story in the volume is "The Farewell Murder". In the last story, the Op is scrambling to find evidence to link the murderer to the crime.
Note, this isn't the complete set of Continental-Op stories. They are spread throughout a variety of collections, but it is a great introduction to the character! A highly recommended collection by one of the masters of the genre.
Anyone who is a fan of the classic, hard-boiled noir will enjoy this collection of short stories. All of the stories are entertaining, but one of my favorites was "The House on Turk Street", which has the Op kidnapped by a trio of thieves, one of which is a dangerous woman who the Op reads instantly as being the most lethal of the group. I also enjoyed "The Whosis Kid", where the Op has to deal with a notorious criminal.
It's too bad that these stories are so hard to find in print. Luckily, Amazon came through.
Great collection and well worth the money.
He got it from being an actual detective writing brief case-summaries on typical yet extraordinary cases. Yet he went on to supply a lyricism and a creative and dramatic flair that were particuarly his own. He saw the color even as he navigated the lines. He put on the show even as he witnessed and unraveled it.
You never know where you are going on a Hammett caper. And you will never end up where you think you should. But it will always be where you are supposed to go. Just keep your eyes open along the way.
It is not Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes at work here. Rather, it is the truth of the street. Perceived through an eye that knew every kind of crime and criminal and character and semi-innocent bystander there was. There is never anyone totally innocent or wholly heroic in a Dashiell Hammett story, just as life itself --
He invented film noir, the hardboiled style, the realistic detective story. He clearly influenced Hemingway and Faulkner. Indeed, he is at the foundation of almost all modern American storytelling. And most people don't even know who he is ... Ah well, genius will out, just as criminality, to the discerning eye.
Perhaps it is a crime to be so good.
Most recent customer reviews
Great book and worth time to read again.
A collection of short stories.
WHAT I LIKED:
Stories include The Tenth Clew, The Golden Horseshoe, The House in Turk Street, The Girl with...Read more