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'If Dashiell Hammett ends up rubbing (or bending) elbows with Mark Twain, why, probably neither man will mind.' (Chicago Sun Times, on Hammett: Complete Novels) In scores of stories written for Black Mask and other pulp magazines in the 1920s and 1930s, Dashiell Hammett used the vernacular adventure tale to register the jarring textures and revved up cadences of modern America. His stories opened up crime fiction to the realities of American streets and American speech. These texts, along with some revealing essays and an early version of his novel The Thin Man, are reprinted here for the first time without the cuts and revisions introduced by later editors. Hammett's years of experience as a Pinkerton detective give even his most outlandishly plotted mysteries a gritty credibility. Mixing melodramatic panache and poker faced comedy, his stories are hard edged entertainment for an era of headlong change and extravagant violence, tracking the devious, nearly nihilistic exploits of con men and blackmailers, slumming socialites and deadpan assassins. As guide through this underworld he created the Continental Op, the nameless and deliberately unheroic detective separated from the brutality and corruption around him only by his professionalism. Steven Marcus is the editor.
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