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Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett was born in St. Mary's County, Maryland, on May 27th, 1894. He became a detective in 1915 when he joined the Baltimore branch of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, housed in the Continental Building. Hammett learned the detective trade from James Wright, a short, squat, tough-talking operative, whom Hammett came to idolize. Hammett left the Pinkertons in 1918 to enlist in the Army, but tuberculosis contracted while in service prompted his medical discharge less than a year later. dashiell hammett

He eventually settled in San Francisco, and by 1922 he was a professional writer, publishing his first hard-boiled short story, "Arson Plus," in the October 1923 issue of the pulp magazine Black Mask. This story featured his ground breaking character, the Continental Op -- the nameless operative of the Continental Detective Agency. Hammett's Continental Op novels Red Harvest and The Dain Curse were published in 1929; The Maltese Falcon (featuring Sam Spade, 1930), The Glass Key (featuring the gangster Ned Beaumont, 1931), and The Thin Man (with Nick and Nora Charles, 1934) were all best sellers; the final three became successful films. He wrote a handful of screenplays in Hollywood, was active in leftist politics in the 1940's and 1950's, and died on January 10, 1961. He never wrote anything of significance after 1934.

Raymond Chandler described Hammet's writing style in The Simple Art of Murder:

Hammett wrote... for people with a sharp, aggressive attitude to life. They were not afraid of the seamy side of things; they lived there. Violence did not dismay them; it was right down their street. Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse ... He put these people down on paper as they were, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes.

Exhibit of Hammett's work HARD-BOILED MARYLAND main page

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