• Title: The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett
  • Author: Nathan Ward
  • ISBN: 9780802776402
  • Page: 313
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The Lost Detective Becoming Dashiell Hammett A Edgar Award NomineeBefore he became a household name in America as perhaps our greatest hard boiled crime writer before his attachment to Lillian Hellman and blacklisting during the McCarthy e
    A 2016 Edgar Award NomineeBefore he became a household name in America as perhaps our greatest hard boiled crime writer, before his attachment to Lillian Hellman and blacklisting during the McCarthy era, and his subsequent downward spiral, Dashiell Hammett led a life of action Born in 1894 into a poor Maryland family, Hammett left school at fourteen and held several jobsA 2016 Edgar Award NomineeBefore he became a household name in America as perhaps our greatest hard boiled crime writer, before his attachment to Lillian Hellman and blacklisting during the McCarthy era, and his subsequent downward spiral, Dashiell Hammett led a life of action Born in 1894 into a poor Maryland family, Hammett left school at fourteen and held several jobs before joining the Pinkerton National Detective Agency as an operative in 1915 and, with time off in 1918 to serve at the end of World War I, he remained with the agency until 1922, participating alike in the banal and dramatic action of an operative The tuberculosis he contracted during the war forced him to leave the Pinkertons but it may well have prompted one of America s most acclaimed writing careers.While Hammett s life on center stage has been well documented, the question of how he got there has not That largely overlooked phase is the subject of Nathan Ward s enthralling The Lost Detective Hammett s childhood, his life in San Francisco, and especially his experience as a detective deeply informed his writing and his characters, from the nameless Continental Op, hero of his stories and early novels, to Sam Spade and Nick Charles The success of his many stories in the pulp magazine Black Mask following his departure from the Pinkertons led him to novels he would write five between 1929 and 1934, two of them The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man now American classics Though he inspired generations of writers, from Chandler to Connelly and all in between, after The Thin Man he never finished another book, a painful silence for his devoted readers and his popular image has long been shaped by the remembrance of Hellman, who knew him after his literary reputation had been made Based on original research across the country, The Lost Detective is the first book to illuminate Hammett s transformation from real detective to great American detective writer, throwing brilliant new light on one of America s most celebrated and remembered novelists and his world.

    One Reply to “The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett”

    1. A bit short but delves into the one part of Hammett's life the other biographies tend to skimp on: his Pinkerton detective years and how they affected his later writing. Extremely well researched.

    2. themaineedge/buzz/mystDashiell Hammett’s name is synonymous with the hard-boiled crime fiction that he essentially invented back in the early part of the 20th century. Characters that he created have become literary icons, templates for the many writers who would follow in his footsteps. Heck, the name Sam Spade has essentially become shorthand for a certain type of detective thanks to Hammett’s brilliant “The Maltese Falcon.”Nathan Ward’s new book “The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashi [...]

    3. Much has been written about Hammett (1894-1961), but this book covers a little known period of his life and helps answer a question I have wondered about over the years. How did Hammett go from being a Pinkerton Detective to writing detective novels? Hammett was a High School dropout and a U.S. Army ambulance driver in WWI who acquired tuberculosis. Hammett joined the Pinkerton agency as an entry level worker. Hammett did most of his writing in the 1920 and 1930s.The book is well written and met [...]

    4. Dashiell Hammett is a rare writer, in that he completely changed a genre of writing, once thought exploitative and uninventive, and gave detective/crime/noir a new life that continues today. Crime stories aren’t puzzles to be solved by super geniuses anymore. It’s regular people who aren’t that nice or extraordinary, who may or may not be legitimate detectives, just doing boring but necessary work and noticing clues that seem obvious to us because they are. Think Philip Marlowe, Marge Gund [...]

    5. When one thinks of such tales as The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, surely American classics, many would assume that the author was a fascinating character. That may have been true yet much of what we know about Dashiell Hammett is fiction itself as stories that he told have been proven untrue and little of his early writing may be found today. Even suppositions by Ward have scant basis, such as his speculation that working for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency where he was required to [...]

    6. If you are looking for a biography of Dashiell Hammett, this is not it.The Lost Detectivevery specifically concentrates on Hammett's career as a Pinkerton detective and how those experiences shaped his writing. Fascinating reading.

    7. "The Lost Detective" is a biography of Dashiell Hammett. The first half of the book talked about Hammett's life before his writing career. The author searched for documents or first hand information about Hammett. However, apparently there is little known about this time except the stories that Hammett told about himself. Hammett periodically worked for the Pinkerton's, but none of his case reports still remain and Pinkerton's strongly discouraged their employees from telling accurate stories ab [...]

    8. A look at the early life of Dashiell Hammett author of the Maltese Falcon and other noir mysteries and how it influenced his writing style and stories. Although initially interesting, the book loses its focus in the later chapters when it wanders away from Hammett's work as a Pinkerton detective and its influence on his writing, which formed the basic thesis of the book, and discusses his life in Hollywood, his drinking, carousing and affairs with Nell Martin and Lillian Hellman while alluding t [...]

    9. Disappointing. The first have is all speculative about what may have happened to Hammet while a Pinkerton agent. It completely lacks facts to back it up, and speculative biography is not a genre I want to read. The second half I did not find satisfying. For that part, I guess I wanted more detail.I don't disagree with the basic premise of the book. I don't feel the author supported their argument well with sourced arguments or strong textual support from Hammet's work.Pretty much a waste of time [...]

    10. note: this was a free eBook from NetGalleySamuel Dashiell Hammett was born on a farm in Maryland in 1894. He was known as “Sam” until he began using his middle name when he became a writer. He left school at thirteen and “knocked” around the country until 1915 when he joined the Pinkerton Agency. He enlisted in the Army in 1918 and served in the Motor Ambulance Corp. However, he became ill with the Spanish Flu and later contracted Tuberculosis. He spent most of his time in the Army as a [...]

    11. Dashiell Hammett is best known today for the Humphrey Bogart rendition of his novel, The Maltese Falcon, but his influence on the detective novel goes much further. Prior to Hammett’s novels, most popular detective novels featured armchair gentlemen detectives like Sherlock Holmes who sat back and solve entire mysteries with a few clues and deductive reasoning. Hammett, who in his earlier years worked for The Pinkerton Detective Agency, felt that none of these mysteries portrayed real life cas [...]

    12. As the title makes clear, this book sets out to tell us what there is to know about Hammett's work as a detective, and how this life experience informed his writing. Happily, it turns out to be a very interesting story, at least if you have any interest in Hammett, author of "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Thin Man." Of course, I saw the movie versions before I read the books, in fact I saw the TV series of the Thin Man with Peter Lawford before I saw the movies. The books are great, and I liked l [...]

    13. New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.Premise: Everyone familiar with Hammett’s writing knows it was inspired by his time as a Pinkerton Detective. But what does that actually mean? Nathan Ward attempts to reconstruct Hammett’s pre-writing career and its impact.I enjoyed reading this book, but it’s trying to fill a very specific niche. It’s not a complete biography; it’s not much about the later part of Hammett’s life. It is mostly an at [...]

    14. This is the author Dashiell Hammett's biography. His works include The Maltese Falcon, Red Harvest, The Thin Man and more. This is not your average biography - I thought that it was a fascinating, enjoyable read. Some biographies are written in a documentary style or are a bit dry. The Lost Detective is far from that. The memoir covers Dashiell Hammett's career as a Pinkerton agent, his short stint in the Army as well as his writing career. It delves into the necessity of having to find a career [...]

    15. "The Lost Detective" looks at Dashiell Hammett's early life and experiences as a Pinkerton detective to give context to his career as a mystery writer. Ward does give some very interesting glimpses of Pinkerton cases, and some context to the times that shaped Hammett. However, the book suffers somewhat from the fact that little is known about Hammett's early life, and what little is known seems often to be exaggerated or inaccurate. While the very fact that Hammett romanticized his own life tell [...]

    16. Biography focusing on Hammett's Pinkerton years, and the years when he was actually writing the Black Mask stories and novels, so it ends pretty much when Hammett becomes famous and stops writing. There's lots of good research and reporting in here, with many partial interviews with people who knew Hammett in San Francisco, and worked with him. It has good insight and background on the Pinkertons, and makes a strong case that a lot of Hammett's style, especially in the Op stories, owes a lot to [...]

    17. Ward reconstructed the formative years of Dashiell Hammett, particularly his time as a Pinkerton (and establishes that writing and re-writing field reports to suit the agency's signature bureaucratic style was a key shaper of his subsequent fiction writing) and his stint in the WWI army, as well as his contraction of a variety of STDs and tuberculosis. Among the unpleasant surprises (to the reader and to Hammett's own family, when they found out in the 50s) is the string of Pinkerton jobs, inclu [...]

    18. I could never understand why he wanted anything to do with that bragging liar, Lillian Hellman. Such an odd man. The true thin man. Tubercular. The Pinkerton operative. Left his wife when he realized he was happier being unencumbered. A drunk. Self-educated. Appealing. But then I have a fascination with tall, emaciated men.

    19. Well done shirt book on the life of Dashiell Hammett that covers his time as a detective for Pinkerton's, the beginnings of his writing life and his personal life. Lots of research in this book (read the Acknowledgments) including his daughter's memories. From the Continental OP to Nick and Nora Charles a terrific book.

    20. Quick read, and actually told me a few things about Hammett I didn't know - the extent and severity of his TB, lots of good detail on his Pinkerton's work - and that he might have been a worse husband than I thought. Also, that Blanche Knopf should probably get a bit more credit in starting that legendary house than she does.

    21. A fascinating investigation of Hammett's years as a Pinkerton op and transition to a brief but brilliant writing life. I was fortunate to hear Ward speak at the BK Public Library -- fitting given Hammett's fondness for libraries.

    22. Interesting read if you're a Hammett fan. I particularly liked all the parallels the author draws between Hammett's life, both from his career as a detective and after, to his works.

    23. Good solid bio on Hammett that covers his formative years & rise of his career rather than the slow fall due to TB, alcohol, & writers block.

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