Samuel Dashiell Hammet was born in 1894 in Maryland and died in 1961. He was an American author of hard boiled detective novels and also short stories. In his works, he portrays cynical characters and complicated plots to bring out hardboiled mystery fiction. His major works include Sam spade, secret agent X-9, continental Op and Nick and Nora Charles among others. His greatest contribution to fictional literature is his mystery writings. In fact, his 1929 novel known as Red harvest was among the best 100 English novels that were published between 1923 and 2005.
Hammet never finished school and at the age of twenty one, he worked at the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Later, he joined World War I and II even with delicate health out of a bout of tuberculosis.
The work at Pinkerton National Detective Agency is primarily thought to be responsible for his acute imagination and mystery works.
Hammett is an author who got his experiences from people he knew on a personal level or had known about their experiences from other people. Raymond Chandler in his novel “The simple art of murder” presents Hammett as one who lacked heart, and yet it seemed that most of the time he thought of himself. He is regarded as hardboiled in the sense that what he wrote, most of the authors could not even in the whole of their careers. He was original in his works. It was during his tuberculosis treatment that he met and married a nurse who bore him two daughters.
His career in writing started in 1922 when he wrote for a magazine known as Black Mask Magazine using the name Peter Collinson. The stories in this magazine featured a detective by the name of Sam Spade and in others, Continental Op. His earlier work at the detective operative came in well to shape out these two characters. His hard boiled characters in these magazines were men often bachelors with no family ties, and who lived lonely lives with a code of personal honor.
Hammet was not lucky in his marriage and he therefore saw it as a god given chance to venture into writing in Hollywood. It was while in Hollywood that Hemmet met and Lillian Hellman in the year 1930. Lilian was previously married to a scriptwriter and she was aspiring to be a playwright. Lillian in a presentation of a compilation of Hemmet’s novels asserted that. “I have been asked many times over the years why he did not write another novel after The Thin Man. I do not know. I think, but I only think, I know a few of the reasons: he wanted to do a new kind of work; he was sick for many of those years and getting sicker. But he kept his work, and his plans for work, in angry privacy and even I would not have been answered if I had ever asked, and maybe because I never asked is why I was with him until the last day of his life”.
They had an affair until his death but never married. Hammet regarded Lillian as the inspiration behind the character Nora in his novel entitled Nora and Nick Charles. It was in Hollywood that he got involved in films. His movie series titled The Thin Man starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. The Maltese Falcon was not so successful but with the inspiration of Humprey Bogart in 1941, it effectively brought out Hemmet’s hero to life.
The Red Harvest was Hammet’s novel in 1929. He based the story on his experiences in his job at the detective job. The story is narrated by a character called the continental Op. the story starts when continental Op is called by Donald Willsson who sadly gets killed before they could meet. Op’s work on investigation of the murder starts. He meets, Elihu who is Willsson’s father. Elihu who is an industrialist has his problem by the fact that he faces threats from a group of gangs who he had initially invited to the city of Personville to resolve a land dispute.
Op and Elihu have a deal that after resolving the murder and the city crime, he gets $ 10,000 but as soon as Op resolves the Donald’s murder case, Elihu does not want to honor the deal.
Op decides to engage in friendship with Dinah Brand, Donald Willsson’s lover and Max Whisper Thaler, a gangster in order to extract important information that could be useful in destroying Elihu. Unfortunately, Dinah is murdered and Op is the main suspect as the murderer uses Op’s ice pick to execute the killing. His fellow agent is also not sure whether Op is innocent.
Op is lucky eventually to find Reno Starkey a gangster who finally confesses that he murdered Dinah. Reno also kills Whisper and finally Elihu has control over the city.
Another work of Hemmet is The Dain Curse. In this story, Continental Op is investigating a diamond heist which is viewed as an inside job. The story is further told of a curse in the Dain family where they are supposedly prone to violent killings of people around them. Gabrielle Legget is a member of the Dain family who is involved in a mysterious cult and also involved in drugs. Legget is missing and her mother is the first suspect. The twist caves in when Op discovers that Legget’s father has a skeleton in the closet. Continental Op is sure to unravel the twists of the Dain Family which are characterized by robberies, spells and human sacrifices.
Maltese Falcon is a detective novel by Hemmet published in 1930. In this story, Sam spade and Miles Archer meet Ruth Wonderly who is looking for her sister who is apparently missing. Her sister, she asserts was involved with a man named Floyd. They plot that Wonderly is to Floyd and Mills is to follow her in view of getting her sister back. The story is involved in mystery realizations.
The Thin Man is another novel published in 1934. This novel was the core of the film series of 1934 where William Powel and Myrna Loy starred. The story is based in New York City. Nick Charles is a private detective while his wife Nora is very clever. Nick is the son of an immigrant from Greece while Nora comes from a wealthy family. The couple has no children but have a schnauzer by the name Asta (Folsom, 113)
Charles investigates a murder in the Wynants family. The couple tries to solve the murder case and is involved in a lot of dialogue in the midst of taking alcohol. The characters are thought to be the reflections of Hemmet himself and his lover Lillian Hellman.
The Glass Key was published in 1931 and is the story of Ned Beaumont famous for gambling and racketing. Because of his involvement with Paul Madvig a politician, he investigates the murder of senator’s son. While the investigation continues, a gang war ensues. Hemmet’s contribution in this novel is an influence to the film Miller’s crossing.
As we have realized Sam Spade is a popular character by Hemmet. The character is portrayed in Maltese Fiction of 1930 as well as in major films and adaptations. In the magazine Black Mask, Sam Spade character is fundamental for the development of Hemmet style of hard boiled novel style. The character Spade portrays the values of a keen eye for detail and a great determination for the achievement of justice. Spade is viewed to one who has seen the good, the bad and the ugly but still maintains a clear look of the situation, seemingly untarnished (Bleiler, 213).
Hemmet asserts that Spade is not real in the fact that he is a dream that every private detective would have wanted. A man who is able to take care of himself in any situation and to get the best information from any person regardless of his status or role in a given crime, he comes across in his endeavor to curb crime and criminality.
Humprey Bogart starred as Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon. However, he did not fit the role in the fact that his hare was not blonde and his gait was small. He was also considered dark for the role.
Ricardo Cortez also played Sam Spade in the film Code first of 1931. It however was not a great success.
The continental Op was another character by Hammett. The character portrays a private detective with the attributes of deceit in the execution of his duties. An example is in series $106,000 Blood Money where Op is not sure whether he should expose his fellow private detective or let an informant gets a $106,000 reward who Op believes murdered but has no tangible evidence. The revelation of his fellow detective’s corrupt ways will in essence ruin the agency’s reputation. He comes up with a brilliant idea where both the detective and the informant kill each other in a fierce confrontation.
Due to his inhuman job where he on a day to day basis faced cruelty, misery and injustice, Op has no sympathy for humans. In the Dain Curse however, he saves a woman three times from murder and helps her get off her drug addiction.
Samuel Danhiell Hammet was born in 1894 in Maryland and died in 1961. He was an American author of hard boiled detective novels and also short stories. In his works, he portrays cynical characters and complicated plots to bring out hardboiled mystery fiction. His major works include Sam spade, secret agent X-9, continental Op and Nick and Nora Charles among others. His greatest contribution to fictional literature is his mystery writings. In fact, his 1929 novel known as Red harvest was among the best 100 English novels that were published between 1923 and 2005.
It is his work at the Pinkerton National Detective Agency that gave the foundation for Hemmet’s contribution to hard boiled style of novel writing. Though his works are very old, they are still famous among many English literature scholars. Many of his novels have been transformed to film series. His works seem to have been greatly influenced by the people he came across in a day to day basis.
Even though Hemmet was unlucky in marriage, in the literature arena, he is considered as a great author with a great captivating style of writing full of mystery.
Bleiler, Everett, The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Publishers. 1948. Print.
Folsom, Franklin, Days of Anger, Days of Hope, Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 1994. Print.
Layman, Richard. and Bruccoli, Matthew. Hardboiled Mystery Writers: A Literary Reference New York: Carroll & Graf, 2002, Print