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Nightmare Town: Stories [Paperback]

Dashiell Hammett
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 12 2000 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
"Hammett's pioneering hard-boiled style has been much imitated, but the original--packs a wallop."--The New Yorker

Here are twenty long-unavailable stories by the master who brought us The Maltese Falcon. Laconic coppers, lowlifes, and mysterious women double- and triple-cross their colleagues with practiced nonchalance. A man on a bender awakens in a small town with a dark mystery at its heart. A woman confronts a brutal truth about her husband. Here is classic noir: hard-boiled descriptions to rival Hemingway, verbal exchanges punctuated with pistol shots and fisticuffs. Devilishly plotted, whip-smart, impassioned, Nightmare Town is a treasury of tales from America's poet laureate of the dispossessed.

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From Amazon

Because he was silenced by illness, debt, harassment, and writer's block for so many years before his death in 1961 at the age of 66, any fresh appearance of work by Dashiell Hammett deserves to be treated with special attention and respect. The editors of this new collection of 20 of his best--and most representative--stories from pulp magazines such as Black Mask in the 1920s and 30s remind us how much influence Hammett had on the mystery genre, both in print and on screen. The opening of the title story has all the impact of a long shot in a terrific noir film: "A Ford--whitened by desert travel until it was almost indistinguishable from the dust-clouds that swirled around it--came down Izzard's Main Street. Like the dust, it came swiftly, erratically, zigzagging the breadth of the roadway." Then, in a perfect jump cut, "a small woman--a girl of twenty in tan flannel--stepped into the street. The wavering Ford missed her by inches, missing her at all only because her backward jump was bird-quick." We know we'll see that woman again, that the driver of the Ford, "a large man in bleached khaki" who carries a thick, black walking stick will be somehow changed by the encounter.

Seven of the stories in this meaty collection are about Hammett's most autobiographical creation, the San Francisco agency detective called the Continental Op, a shorter, chunkier version of Hammett's own days as a Pinkerton agent. Sam Spade, now fixed indelibly in our minds as Humphrey Bogart, stars in three others. There are also two early versions of The Thin Man, Hammett's last detective, and both are more interesting and definitely rougher-edged than the slick Nick and Nora Charles versions, which made the author a bundle in Hollywood. Taken together, these stories will remind the forgetful how important a literary icon Hammett was and inspire first-timers to seek out such other treats as The Big Knockover, The Maltese Falcon, The Continental Op, and The Dain Curse --Dick Adler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Smart and tough is the formula for the art of Hammett (The Maltese Falcon; The Thin Man), widely acknowledged as the master innovator of the hard-boiled detective novel. These 20 previously uncollected novellas and short stories feature enigmatic plots of devilish intricacy, rife with fisticuffs and pistol shots, and populated by stiffs, laconic coppers, lowlifes and droll, world-weary detectives. Sam Spade shows up several times, as does the Continental Op, smoking his Fatimas and grilling coy, mendacious women. The delicate balance between extremes of brutality and cleverness makes most of these stories classic studies in suspense. Moods are set with smoky authenticity, and characters are powerful talkers and smooth operators, with dialogue unforgettable for its tough, blunt energy. In "His Brother's Keeper," a story of betrayal and redemption is told through the eyes of a dumb prize-fighter, so that the reader is always a step ahead of the narrator, but is sympathetic toward him. "Ruffian's Wife" is a fine literary exploration of a woman's disillusionment as she discovers her husband's true nature, even as she stands by him. "A Man Named Thin" is a detective, a suave narrator/protagonist whose father is both annoyed at his son's poetry writing and impressed by his creative case-solving. With an informative introduction by William Nolan briefly outlining Hammett's life, this volume offers a broad, exciting selection of seminal works by the robust, quintessentially American godfather of the genre. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The 'Burbs of Noir Dec 11 2001
Format:Paperback
I bought this book for its snappy cover and intro on Hammett's fascinating life. But the stories themselves are mostly a let-down. Hammett really hit his stride with the novels, and it's hard to tell from these early magazine pieces how good a writer he'd become. Still, the violence, corruption and sexy seediness that make his other work so much fun are here in embryo. If you're already a Hammett fan, reading these stories is like watching an all-star's warm up swings before he nails a home run. If not, let "The Maltese Falcon" or "Red Harvest" knock your socks off before you make the trip to Nightmare Town.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good for the historical pulp flavor, but flawed Sept. 11 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
As a long-time fan of 'classic' noir/detective fiction (Hammett, Chandler, MacDonald, Thompson) and it's stylistic roots in the pulps, I have to say I'm somewhat disappointed with this volume. There's alot here in terms of sheer number of stories, but aside from the very worthwhile Sam Spade shorts (which bump it to 3 stars), it's very uneven in quality. Your taste buds will like the delicious descriptive and atmospheric elements (particularly for hard-core Chandler fans like me...his inspirations via Hammett are in good supply) but the story construction leaves much to desire. The better part of the book is made up of hastily conceived vignettes that will remind you just as to why most of 'pulp' writing was considered disposable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Stories from a Private Detective Aug. 9 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
These stories were printed in the 1920s by "Black Mask" magazine, one of the monthly pulp magazines that entertained America before radio and television. Some of the stories were repeated in later works ("Who Killed Bob Teal") and never reprinted in Samuel Dashiell Hammett's lifetime. The stories are still entertaining today, and also provide a glance at a life that few of us know.
SDH worked as a Pinkerton detective for years, seeking fun, travel, adventure. The stories reflect his life as a private detective would see it: a world of crime and corruption. Would this work damage an operative expecially when de didn't have a normal family and home life? Does this reoccur today?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gee. why aren't there any books by Joe McCarthy? July 12 2001
Format:Paperback
Great addition to the works of Hammett. I'm only half way through it, but the first story is worth the price of admission. I wish the slime that sent Dash to prison could see how beloved he is today. For that matter, I wish he could. Thank you, Black Lizard. The Continental Op lives. For those who remember, even Dorothy Parker said nice things about Hammett. For those who don't, you might start with "The Maltese Falcon", "The Glass Key", (which became "Yosimbo" and " A Fist Full of Dollars"), or "The Big Knockover". This is the guy who created"Crime Fiction", and Big Jim Thompson, John McDonald and Ross McDonald would be the first to credit him. If those names mean nothing to you, you are very fortunate, you have some great reading to do! If you know who they are, you have probably already ordered this so enjoy! Black Lizard, More Please!
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