Dashiell Hammett Complete Novels: Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, and The Thin Man (Library of America #110)

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3 thoughts on “Dashiell Hammett Complete Novels: Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, and The Thin Man (Library of America #110)

  1. 60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Nice Hardback Anthology of Great Noir Fiction., July 23, 2004
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    mirasreviews (McLean, VA USA) –
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    This review is from: Dashiell Hammett Complete Novels: Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, and The Thin Man (Library of America #110) (Hardcover)

    This is a nice compact hardback edition of Dashiell Hammett’s five novels, which he wrote between 1929 and 1934. A veteran of Pinkerton detective agency in several cities, Hammett turned his intimate familiarity with crooks, low-lives, and the seedier side of life into hard-boiled, hard-hitting detective stories. This was a time when urban corruption was the rule, and private detectives, journalists, and police officers shared information. Two of these novels, “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Glass Key” are American classics. Another, “The Thin Man”, inspired one of Hollywood’s best-loved movie franchises. Hammett’s novels lift the veil of propriety from the subcultures in which they take place, laying bare violence, corruption, and pervasive cynicism. But they’re not dreary. The sharp prose crackles, and the heroes stand apart from the corruption while swimming in it, steadfast in their own codes of conduct, their iconoclastic ideologies rooted securely in realism. These five novels all appeared as serials in magazines prior to being published as novels. “The Thin Man” appeared first in “Redbook”, the others in “Black Mask”.

    “The Maltese Falcon” (1930) and “The Glass Key” (1931) are flawless. “The Maltese Falcon” features private detective Sam Spade, a irresistible femme fatale, and the ruthless pursuit of an ancient gold statuette. The last pages of the book are some of the most hard-hitting and cynical in all of noir fiction. And they’re brilliant. “The Glass Key” explores political corruption that leads to personal tragedy in an unnamed American city. Oddly, the detective is the right-hand man of a crime boss. “Red Harvest” (1929) features the adventures of Hammett’s most popular detective, the Continental Op, in a town called Personville, or Poisonville to those who know it better. The always unnamed detective for the Continental Detective Agency finds himself responsible for cleaning up a mining town that is ruled by violence and mob warfare. The novel’s opening paragraph deserves to be read several times. “The Thin Man” (1934) is an attempt at humor among New York’s blue-blooded, cold-blooded upper crust. Hard-boiled humor is interesting in concept. But I find the characters in this novel more pitiful than funny, and Hammett’s style was in decline at this point. At least his characteristic cynicism wasn’t. “The Dain Curse” (1929) is another Continental Op novel. This one is melodramatic, absurd, and not up to Hammett’s usual standards. Hammett fans shouldn’t miss it, but others may find it pointless. I described the novels in order of descending quality. “Complete Novels” organizes them chronologically.

    Five novels is a lot to pack into one book. But “Complete Novels” doesn’t resemble a door stop. It’s a handy size actually. The print is not too small, but the pages are quite thin. Editor Stanley Marcus, a literary critic and frequent admirer of Hammett’s work, has included a Chronology of Hammett’s life and several pages of notes on the novels in the back of the book. The chronology is informative and provides all of the apparently significant events in Hammett’s life. The notes are mostly definitions of colloquialisms used in the novels, which are useful. The notes also contain an introduction to “The Maltese Falcon”, written by Hammett in 1934, in which he explains the origins of that novel’s characters. It’s quite interesting. For those who prefer to own these novels separately, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard hs published some handsome trade paperback editions. But if you want hardback and don’t mind all five novels in one volume, this is quite a nice book.

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  2. 20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Classic crimes, September 7, 2003
    By 
    E. A Solinas “ea_solinas” (MD USA) –
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    This review is from: Dashiell Hammett Complete Novels: Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, and The Thin Man (Library of America #110) (Hardcover)

    He’s known best for the creation of Sam Spade and the Maltese Falcon. But Dashiell Hammet was responsible for a lot more — the hardboiled crime novel as we know it today, with femme fatales, charmingly sinister crooks and cynical antiheroes.

    “Red Harvest” introduces the Continental Op, cool-as-a-cucumber private detective who arrives in Personvilles (often pronounced “Poisonville”) for a client, Donald Wilson, who has been suddenly murdered. Soon the Continental Op finds himself being hired by Donald’s father Elihu to clean up Personville. To do so, he’ll have to fight fire with fire, and play dirty with the many dangerous crooks.

    “The Dain Curse” starts off with an ordinary diamond heist where things don’t seem quite right. It soon leads the Continental Op to Gabrielle Leggett, a young woman with a drug habit, an attachment to a cult, a bizarre family secret, and who is convinced in the “Dain Curse” that has supposedly slain her entire family. The Op sets out to discover the origins of the cult and cure Gabrielle of her drug use…

    “The Maltese Falcon” starts with a simple case, in which a young woman asks the private investigators Sam Spade and Miles Archer to trail her sister’s lover. Except not only does she not have a sister, but she’s wrapped up in a bizarre hunt for the priceless, elusive Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade must unravel a tangle of lies and murder to find out who killed Miles, and what is going on with the Falcon.

    “The Glass Key presents Ned Beaumont, a gambler-turned-murder-investigator who has to start investigating when a Senator’s son is murdered. What he uncovers is more than murder, but deception, desperate political games, gangsters and money.

    “The Thin Man” brings us Nick and Nora Charles, wealthy and dysfunctional New Yorkers who seem like unlikely detectives. When a friend reintroduces Nick to the family of eccentric genius Richard Wynant, they find a confusing web spun around Wynant (the Thin Man). His ex-wife has married a bitter rival, and his kids aren’t being forthright. Who is the Thin Man, and what has he done?

    Hammett’s writing style is spare and to-the-point, but is shockingly vivid when it needs to be (such as the human sacrifice scene in “Dain Curse”). His leading men are hardened, cynical, and live by their own sense of justice, but surprisingly deep and human. The supporting characters are also good: sighing femme fatales, cultured obese gangsters, accursed damsels, charismatic cult leaders, frightened young girls, and corrupt politicians.

    There’s a certain amount of narrative awkwardness in some of the books; “Curse” reads like three novellas, and “Harvest” is virtually impossible to understand at first. Some of the books may need to be read multiple times to really absorb the story, so that their complexity and twisting storylines can be fully appreciated.

    Only a handful of authors have managed to do what Dashiell Hammett did for the crime novel. His complete novels are a searing, twisting, deliciously noir read. Highly recommended.

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  3. 12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A vivid view of the depression and prohibition eras, July 25, 2002
    By 
    Neal C. Reynolds (Indianapolis, Indiana) –
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    This review is from: Dashiell Hammett Complete Novels: Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, and The Thin Man (Library of America #110) (Hardcover)

    I have reviewed each of these books separately. Having them all together in one volume is invaluable. And reading these consecutively is hardly boring, because there’s a world of difference between them.

    RED HARVEST featuring the Continental Op is a real romp through a completely corrupt town which gets what’s coming to it because a corrupt police official makes the middle aged fat man protagonist mad. There’s an underlying theme of corruption as a true poison.

    THE DAIN CURSE is again the Continental Op, and here you see glimpses of a tender side to a character who is basically completely self controlled. And in this, you see the very weak female character turn into an admirably strong woman.

    THE MALTESE FALCON is of course the true classic, a study of greed and deception. Sam Spade’s story of a character named Flitcraft gives the reader the author’s perspective on the randomness of life.

    THE GLASS KEY gives a sleazy view of politics and makes a couple of points about friendship.

    THE THIN MAN appears lightweight after the first four, but a second reading reveals a portrait of a very able person who allowed passion to leave his life, and is slowly going down the drain.

    Crime fans will especially love this collection, but there is a whole lot of value concerning human nature and the framework of society here.

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