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.