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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
Format:Paperback
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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2.0 out of 5 stars Leaving us in the dark April 29 2004
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Dashiell Hammett hit gold with his rough-edged anti-heroes and shadowy plots. But he struck out in "Woman in the Dark," a tepid novella that originally appeared in "Liberty" magazine before vanishing for twenty years. Since this will be interesting only to Hammett completists, maybe it should have stayed lost.
A lovely young woman stumbles to a smalll house with an injured foot. It turns out the inhabitant of the house is Brazil, an ex-criminal who did time for killing a man in a brawl. A thug arrives to bring the girl, Luise, back to the man she is living with -- except Brazil punches him out. Now they're both in trouble... and in danger... and on the lam.
"Woman in the Dark" isn't a particularly thrilling thriller. Hammett's heart didn't seem to be in this tale; it's slow and wandering, and the grand showdown is somehow anticlimactic. What's more, it's very rushed -- it almost feels like Hammett scribbled it out with the intent of expanding it into a full-length novel.
Hammett's gritty, somewhat minimalist writing is a little awkward this time around. "One of the men pulled off his cap -- it was a gray tweed, matching his topcoat -- and..." is only one example of the unusually choppy style. But his sense of atmosphere is still unparalleled, with all the grime, grease and smoke of his urban backdrop.
The characterizations are sketchy at best. Brazil is much like Hammett's other anti-heroes, with a tough-guy attitude over some very intense feelings. Love interest Luisa is a walking paper doll, a typical exotic kept woman who falls for our anti-hero -- although it's never quite clear why they do fall in love.
"Woman in the Dark" is an unusually flat, sketchy novel by a classic mystery author. One of Hammett's few misfires, this is a curiosity but nothing worth getting excuted about.
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3.0 out of 5 stars really only of interest to fans Oct. 25 2000
Format:Paperback
Love may be a many splendored thing, but it sure as heck ruined Dashiell Hammett. This story originally appeared in three installments in Liberty magazine in April, 1933. He had met Lillian Hellman two years earlier, with whom he was to share a rather troubled but now mythical romance (and an unrepentant and slavish enthusiasm for Joseph Stalin) for the rest of his life. The next year he published his final novel, The Thin Man, and then fell silent with a writer's block that ranks second only to that of Joseph Mitchell in legend.
Woman in the Dark is certainly not a novel; at best it's a novella and even then it feels more like the outline for a longer work. The woman of the title is Luise Fischer, the Swiss-born kept woman of a wealthy thug named Kane Robson. Having walked out on him one evening, she twists her ankle and stops for help at cottage occupied by Brazil, a phlegmatic ex-con, who once killed a man in a barroom brawl. When Robson shows up with a henchmen to demand that Luise come back to him, Brazil punches the other man who bangs his head, perhaps fatally, on the fireplace mantle. Now both Brazil and Luise have a reason to take it on the lam :
He emptied his glass and went to the front door, where he made a pretense of looking out at the night.
As he turned from the door he caught her expression, though she hastily put the frown off her face. His smile, voice were mockingly apologetic : 'I can't help it. They had me away for a while--in prison, I mean--and it did that to me. I've got to keep making sure I'm not locked in.' His smile became more twisted. 'There's a name for it--claustrophobia--and that doesn't make it any better.'
'I am sorry,' she said. 'Was it--very long ago?
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