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Nightmare Town: Stories [Paperback]

Dashiell Hammett
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 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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Review

"Nightmare Town, with its crystalline prose as spare as Hammett himself, is a welcome treat." --The Baltimore Sun

"Hammett's work carries an authenticity and raw power that few writers, before or since, have been able to equal." --The San Diego Union-Tribune

"Hammett's legacy as a giant of crime fiction lives on. The stories are gritty and realistic, full of crisp, sparse dialogue. . . . Like the sting of whiskey as it goes down and the pungent smell of a strong cigar, Hammett's stories and characters don't fade quickly." --The Columbus Dispatch

From the Back Cover

"Nightmare Town, with its crystalline prose as spare as Hammett himself, is a welcome treat." --The Baltimore Sun

"Hammett's work carries an authenticity and raw power that few writers, before or since, have been able to equal." --The San Diego Union-Tribune

"Hammett's legacy as a giant of crime fiction lives on. The stories are gritty and realistic, full of crisp, sparse dialogue. . . . Like the sting of whiskey as it goes down and the pungent smell of a strong cigar, Hammett's stories and characters don't fade quickly." --The Columbus Dispatch

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Customer Reviews

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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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5.0 out of 5 stars HAMMETT'S HELL Oct. 24 2000
Format:Paperback
Dashiell Hammett is The Man. He wrote with such realism and truth, he was so dead-on right in almost anything he said, and he managed to convey important lessons and wisdom, sometimes without you even realizing that you were retaining these valuable pieces of information. Nightmare Town, a collection of a variety of his short stories has a few brilliant selections, a few average ones, and yes, even a few not so good fictions. The title story is one of the strongest in the book, and the Continental Op stories-- my favourite ones in the book overall-- are above-average as well. Even the stories that aren't all that excellent usuallly do have a good punchline at the end-- contrary to what those not in the know believe, Dash Hammett did have a great sense of humour, and if you read carefully enough, you'll be amazed at the wit and irony you'll find. Even though this book doesn't do him the best justice and others are superior to it, this collection is great for the non-fan as well as the Hammett lovers. Bing, bang, boom-- 5 stars!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gee. why aren't there any books by Joe McCarthy? July 11 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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3.0 out of 5 stars Good for the historical pulp flavor, but flawed Sept. 10 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Words shot out like armor-piercing bullets Aug. 9 2005
By Leonard Fleisig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
echo through the twenty short stories and novellas by Dashiell Hammett contained in Nightmare Town.

Before turning to a full-time writing career, Hammett traveled around the country holding a series of different jobs. Most notably he spent considerable time as a detective for the Pinkerton Agency. He worked in Baltimore, San Francisco, and in mining towns throughout the American west. He was exposed to murderers, grifters, con artists, graft, violent union-busting by the Pinkertons (which he abhorred and which help turn him into a lifelong radical) and corporate and governmental corruption. He made friends with other hardboiled detectives and saw first hand how life was on the dark side of town. He drank in bars that served `hard drinks for hard men. These experiences suffused Hammett's writings and the ultra-realistic atmosphere he created lifted almost single-handedly the detective genre from parlor room mysteries to the very real, very gritty streets of the country.

Although best known as the author of such detective classics as The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, and The Glass Key, Hammett wrote almost one hundred stories in a twelve-year period from 1922 to 1934 for pulp detective magazines such as Black Mask, True Detective Stories, and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Many of the stories in Nightmare Town have not been seen in print since their original publication. Some of the stories are rough around the edges but they are all terse and well-written. It is easy to see how Hammett's craft evolved from these short stories evolved into his full length classic.

The title story, "Nightmare Town", is a barn-burner. Steve Threefall awakens from a drunken bender in a small-town jail on the California-Nevada border. The town is violent and corrupt. From the time he awakes from his drunken stupor until the stories climax the reader is taken on a dramatic roller coaster ride. This short story reminded me of a classic boxing match between Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns which lasted under three short rounds but which many boxing fans claim to be the most intense nine minutes of boxing they have seen. This is early Hammett and the story is not terribly polished but it is immensely enjoyable. This sea-change brought about by Hammett was described succinctly by Raymond Candler (noted in William Nolan's excellent introduction): "He took murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it into the alley. Hammett gave murder back to the people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse."

In "Ruffian's Wife" we see the hard-edged life through the eyes of the wife of a seemingly violent thug. She takes delight in having such a husband and living on the edge of violence, until the violence comes to her door step. There are stories involving Sam Spade and the Continental Op, two figures made famous in Hammett's full-length novels. The cynical world-weary view of the world is already apparent even if it is clearly a work in progress. In an unusual turn the detective in "The Assistant Murderer" is painted by Hammett as fat, squat, and ugly. No matinee idol for Hammett.

The last story is perhaps the most intriguing. Entitled "The First Thin Man", it is an early, incomplete, draft of The Thin Man. The story line is dramatically different even if some of the characters remained the same. Further, Nick and Nora Charles are nowhere to be found. It is the equivalent of a literary archeological dig and well worth the price of the book on its own.

Nightmare Town may not be the best place to start for someone who has not yet read Hammett. Because these stories represent some of Hammett's earliest work I think it best for a reader to start with The Thin Man, Maltese Falcon, and the like. Once someone reads those books I think it a safe bet they will thirst for more. Nightmare Town is an excellent way for someone to drink in a bit more Hammett than I previously thought existed. These are terrific stories.

L. Fleisig
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HAMMETT'S HELL Oct. 24 2000
By Shadow Woman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Dashiell Hammett is The Man. He wrote with such realism and truth, he was so dead-on right in almost anything he said, and he managed to convey important lessons and wisdom, sometimes without you even realizing that you were retaining these valuable pieces of information. Nightmare Town, a collection of a variety of his short stories has a few brilliant selections, a few average ones, and yes, even a few not so good fictions. The title story is one of the strongest in the book, and the Continental Op stories-- my favourite ones in the book overall-- are above-average as well. Even the stories that aren't all that excellent usuallly do have a good punchline at the end-- contrary to what those not in the know believe, Dash Hammett did have a great sense of humour, and if you read carefully enough, you'll be amazed at the wit and irony you'll find. Even though this book doesn't do him the best justice and others are superior to it, this collection is great for the non-fan as well as the Hammett lovers. Bing, bang, boom-- 5 stars!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nightmare Town by Samuel Dashiell Hammett presents 20 classic noir tales from the pen of a master of the genre April 25 2011
By C. M Mills - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Nightmare Town and other stories presents twenty noir classic tales by Dashiell Hammett. Many of the stories were out of print until 1999 when this superb collection was published by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Company.
Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) is along with Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain one of the masters of the noir hardboiled school of detective fiction which emerged into prominence in the 1920's and 1930's. Hammett is best known for such classic novels as "The Maltese Falcon"; "Red Harvest': "The Glass Key" and "The Thin Man".
Nightmare Town and other stories is a good introduction to Hammett and his world of double dealing, thieving and murderous low life types. The stories are violent and brutal. The best stories in this collection are:
Nightmare Town: The secrets of a corrupt town are revealed as detective Steve Threefall finds murder, corruption and a love affair in a tough California town.
House Dick-murder A murder in a hotel room is solved by the house detective.
His Brother's Keeper-A dumb boxer tells the story of his murdered brother and a life of hard knocks on the fight circuit.
Hammett is good in his use of slang among members of the underworld.
the Second-Story Angel-A sexy girl thief falls into the window of Carter Brigham a crime writer.
Too Many Have Lived- A San Francisco poet is murdered.
A Man Named Thin and The First Thin Man-Hammett used these early tales as prelimnary sketches to his famous "The Thin Man" novel. Nick and Nora Charles do not appear in the stories.
Famous Hammett detective Sam Spade of San Francisco appears in a "Man Called Spade" and two other stories in this book.
Also appearing are the Continetal Op Detective.
This is an uneven collection; some storie are better than others as is natural in an anthology of an author's oeuvre. The stories are complicated and contain several characters. An enjoyable read!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beware of What Edition You Buy Feb. 8 2009
By S. P. Graham - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'm giving this book three stars because, in my view, Hammett's writing is always superb. However, a strong caveat - the Amazon review system does not clearly distinguish between various editions of this work. I was looking forward to reading the Sam Spade short stories, and early versions of the Thin Man so you can imagine my disappointment (and returning books from NZ is a hassle) that the edition I purchased (the Boomer Books effort) contains none of those items.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Noir Original Feb. 29 2008
By Symbolic - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Black Mask publishings and novels of Dashiell Hammett are the genesis of noir fiction. However, as Dashiell Hammett was in fact a private eye, he has a credibility and a realism not found in other Noir. The origin of his writing was in paperwork on his missions as a private detective. As for this particular collection, the title story opens with the proverbial bang. The character of this story with his drunken ride through the southwest and use of a cane as a weapon is vastly unique, entertaining, and fun. One can see the unique quality of the work that only a man of Hammett's past and originality could write.
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