Dashiell Hammett

Primer for the Trump Apocalypse: Wisdom from Two Masters

How’s the Apocalypse working for you? My only surprise is the celerity with which it has unfolded; with such speed, the waters must have risen around Noah’s Ark during the Deluge. But I am taken aback by the surprised alarums of our clown dynasty and eminent members of the media who are shocked—shocked!—at the avalanche of lies emanating from the White House.

What did we expect? Anyone who has dealt with a used car salesman or with a drummer selling swamp land in Florida knows Trump. Any woman who has had to fend off unwanted advances from a leering “gentleman crook” who mutters “Now don’t get scared, lady, I ain’t gonna crack you on the bean!” recognizes the type.[1]

To admirers of Dashiell Hammett, the Trump Apocalypse is not a surprise. As an operative for Pinkerton’s detective agency, Hammett came in contact with the Underworld of North American society. His novels portray crooks, thieves, murderers, pick-pockets, swindlers, forgers and assorted criminals with all the precision of a chronicler who has experienced what he writes about. (more…)

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Hammett

(excerpt from chapter 6 “Reds,” Ivie and Giner, Hunt the Devil)

Dashiell Hammett, 1894-1961. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Dashiell Hammett, 1894-1961. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1920s and early 30s, Dashiell Hammett transformed American detective fiction. Hammett joined the Pinkerton’s Detective Agency in 1915. During World War I he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis (an ailment that would plague him throughout his life) in the army during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Discharged honorably from the military in poor health, Hammett moved to San Francisco where he quit detective work and wrote short stories that were published in H.L. Mencken’s The Smart Set and Black Mask.

Between 1927 and 1933, Hammett wrote the five novels that constitute–along with his Continental Op short stories–his main body of work. In the mid-1930s he lent his active support, along with other American intellectuals, to the anti-fascist (Loyalist) cause in the Spanish Civil War. At the height of his career at age 48 (shortly after the release of John Huston’s film of The Maltese Falcon), he re-joined the army as a private during World War II. By this time, the FBI considered him “to be among the upper echelon of the Communist Party in the United States.”[1]
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