Dashiell Hammett

Man of Mystery

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About The Book

Dashiell Hammett changed the face of crime fiction. In five novels published over five years as well as a string of stories, he transformed the mystery genre into literature and left us with the figure of the hard-boiled detective, from the Continental Op to Sam Spade—immortalized on film by Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon—and the more glamorous Thin Man, also made iconic with the aid of Hollywood. A brilliant writer, Hammett was a complex and enigmatic man. After 1934 until his death in 1961, he published no more novels and suffered from a writer’s block that both shamed and maimed him. He is identified with his tough protagonists, but his tuberculosis compromised his masculine identity and alcoholism may have been his answer. A former Pinkerton detective who valued honesty, he was attracted to women who lied outrageously, most notably Lillian Hellman, with whom he conducted a thirty-year affair. A controversial political activist who stood up for civil liberty, he was also a very private man. In this compact new biography, Sally Cline uses fresh research, including interviews with Hammett’s family and Hellman’s heir, to reexamine the life and works of the writer whom Raymond Chandler called “the ace performer.”

Product Details

  • Publisher: Arcade (February 4, 2014)
  • Length: 264 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781611457841

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Raves and Reviews

“VERDICT: Man of Mystery delivers the goods on Hammett, in brief. . . . Keeping her subject squarely in focus, [Cline] offers a fairly succinct overview of his personality and career. Her analyses of his novels including The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, are lean. . . . What is found in abundance are salacious details, presented in standard linear narrative, as Hammett—lifetime consumptive, philander, and inebriate extra­ordinaire—treats people badly against an endless backdrop of crummy apartments, hotel penthouses, jail cells, army barracks, and Hollywood locales. . . . An entertaining and informative read.”—Library Journal

“Extremely well-written, it provides the best account thus far of Hammett’s view of life.”—National Review

“Sally Cline has captured the essence of Dashiell Hammett in a fast-paced and entertaining exploration of his life and his work. In pages filled with absorbing detail, Cline provides a scholarly reinterpretation with which future writers will have to grapple. This is an important achievement!"
—Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of History, Columbia University, and author of A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman

“Sympathetically written and scrupulously researched, Sally Cline’s Dashiell Hammett corrects the record and offers new insights into this complex and enigmatic man, giving us a vivid portrait not only of Hammett but also of his world and circle." —Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, author of Mencken: the American Iconoclast

“Sally Cline's Dashiell Hammett is incisive and authoritative, and especially good at seeing Hammett in the context of his times.” —Diane Johnson, author of Flyover Lives: A Memoir, Le Mariage, and Dashiell Hammett: A Life

“VERDICT: Man of Mystery delivers the goods on Hammett, in brief. . . . Keeping her subject squarely in focus, [Cline] offers a fairly succinct overview of his personality and career. Her analyses of his novels including The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, are lean. . . . What is found in abundance are salacious details, presented in standard linear narrative, as Hammett—lifetime consumptive, philander, and inebriate extra­ordinaire—treats people badly against an endless backdrop of crummy apartments, hotel penthouses, jail cells, army barracks, and Hollywood locales. . . . An entertaining and informative read.”—Library Journal

“Extremely well-written, it provides the best account thus far of Hammett’s view of life.”—National Review

“Sally Cline has captured the essence of Dashiell Hammett in a fast-paced and entertaining exploration of his life and his work. In pages filled with absorbing detail, Cline provides a scholarly reinterpretation with which future writers will have to grapple. This is an important achievement!"
—Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of History, Columbia University, and author of A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman

“Sympathetically written and scrupulously researched, Sally Cline’s Dashiell Hammett corrects the record and offers new insights into this complex and enigmatic man, giving us a vivid portrait not only of Hammett but also of his world and circle." —Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, author of Mencken: the American Iconoclast

“Sally Cline's Dashiell Hammett is incisive and authoritative, and especially good at seeing Hammett in the context of his times.” —Diane Johnson, author of Flyover Lives: A Memoir, Le Mariage, and Dashiell Hammett: A Life

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