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Woman in the Dark [Paperback]

Dashiell Hammett
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 17 1989 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
A young, frightened, foreign woman appears at the door of an isolated house. The man and woman inside take her in. Other strangers appear in pursuit of the girl. Menace is in the air.

Originally published in 1933, Hammett's Woman in the Dark shows the author at the peak of his narrative powers. With an introduction by Robert B. Parker, the author of the celebrated Spenser novels.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Other than Nick Charles in The Thin Man , Hammett's protagonists have never been particularly successful romantically. "Brazil," in this story, iswith mixed results. Luise Fischer stumbles into Brazil's remote country house in the middle of the night, running away from her boyfriend, Kane Robson, and his bodyguard, Conroy, who arrive on her heels. In the fracas that ensues when she refuses to leave with them, they kill her great Dane. Brazil beats them up, leaving Conroy seriously injured. Brazil and Luise flee to Brazil's friends in the city, where the police find them, shoot Brazil as he escapes and arrest Luise on trumped-up charges. Out on bail, she discovers that Brazil is at a sanatoriumrun by a friend of Robson's. She goes back to Robson; the man she loves is under his power. First published in Liberty magazine in 1933 and issued as a pulp paperback in the 1950s, the novella is short enough to read in an hour. There are a few vintage Hammett lines, but they are overwhelmed by stilted dialogue; this slight effort has none of the power of The Maltese Falcon or The Glass Key . Robert B. Parker has written an introduction, billed as an "appreciation." 25,000 first printing; BOMC dual main selection; QPBC selection.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Dashiell Samuel Hammett was born in St. Mary’s County. He grew up in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Hammett left school at the age of fourteen and held several kinds of jobs thereafter—messenger boy, newsboy, clerk, operator, and stevedore, finally becoming an operative for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency. Sleuthing suited young Hammett, but World War I intervened, interrupting his work and injuring his health. When Sergeant Hammett was discharged from the last of several hospitals, he resumed detective work. He soon turned to writing, and in the late 1920s Hammett became the unquestioned master of detective-story fiction in America. In The Maltese Falcon (1930) he first introduced his famous private eye, Sam Spade. The Thin Man (1932) offered another immortal sleuth, Nick Charles. Red Harvest (1929), The Dain Curse (1929), and The Glass Key (1931) are among his most successful novels. During World War II, Hammett again served as sergeant in the Army, this time for more than two years, most of which he spent in the Aleutians. Hammett’s later life was marked in part by ill health, alcoholism, a period of imprisonment related to his alleged membership in the Communist Party, and by his long-time companion, the author Lillian Hellman, with whom he had a very volatile relationship. His attempt at autobiographical fiction survives in the story “Tulip,” which is contained in the posthumous collection The Big Knockover (1966, edited by Lillian Hellman). Another volume of his stories, The Continental Op (1974, edited by Stephen Marcus), introduced the final Hammett character: the “Op,” a nameless detective (or “operative”) who displays little of his personality, making him a classic tough guy in the hard-boiled mold—a bit like Hammett himself.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Romance Hard-Boiled. June 25 2004
Originally serialized in "Liberty" magazine in 1933, "Woman in the Dark" barely qualifies as a novella. It's more an extended short story. The book is subtitled "A Novel of Dangerous Romance", and some critics have suggested that this is Hammett's least cynical work in its view of love. I don't think it is, but it might be his most optimistic portrayal of love for one of his detectives. "Woman in the Dark" is romantic in its own hard-boiled way.
A foreign woman, Luise Fischer, trying to leave her domineering lover, takes refuge at the home of a no-nonsense ex-con name Brazil. Her lover and his henchman try to coerce her to return, and Luise and Brazil are forced to flee together when the altercation turns nasty. "Woman in the Dark" really isn't a fully fleshed-out story. It feels like a vignette: Lots of texture. Interesting characters, about whom we learn almost nothing. It's the story of an incident and its aftermath among a small group of people. I enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend it to Hammett fans. But this is Hammett Lite. 3 1/2 stars. The Vintage Crime edition includes an inconsequential introduction by Robert B. Parker.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Skillfully written. March 25 2004
This pamphlet sized publication is really a short story which can easily be read in one sitting. It's about an ex-con and a mystery woman who meet one stormy night and are forced to take flight from the woman's rich boyfriend as well as the police. Hammett's craftsmanship as a writer is well demonstrated here.The dialogue is superb; crisp, uncomplicated and studded with 1930s slang. The narrative portion of the text is equally remarkable with sentence structure that can best be described as elegant in its simplicity. Hammet provides the exact amount of information necessary to move the story forward. No more, no less. Leaving to the reader's imagination the tasks of fleshing out the characters and supplying the individual backstories that led up to the situations contained in these pages. The Woman in the Dark is storytelling in its most refined form and a great example of Dashiell Hammett's best work.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lacks the zip July 25 2002
Hammett's style is good enough that you do care about the two main characters. But something's missing. It is almost as if he was lacking interest in his own story. Maybe not.
Whatever the case, it's worth reading just because it's Hammett. It tells the story of a guy who got a bad rap the first time around, and just a few weeks after getting out of jail, he finds himself in danger of going back. There's a feeling of hopelessness here and the ending seems a bit ambiguous.
It's a good crime adventure short, but far from the best Hammett. It's still worth having in your collection.
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