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5 Dashiell Hammett Books we should all read

By May 27, 2016January 9th, 2018Authors

Dashiell Hammett was an author of classic hard boiled detective novels and even if you’ve never heard of him you will have probably heard of his most famous literary character, a certain detective by the name of Sam Spade.

Born in Maryland on May 27, 1894 Dashiell grew up on his family farm and upon leaving school at thirteen worked for Pinkerton National Detective Agency although he soon became disillusioned with the work there. Whilst serving his country during WWI Dashiell contracted tuberculosis which affected his life both professionally and privately with him becoming an alcoholic and being advised that it was unwise for him to live with his wife and children full time. This along with his experiences with a detective agency contributed to his unique writing style and Sam Spade has become an iconic literary detective that has withstood the test of time.

1, The Maltese Falcon

Probably the best known of the Sam Spade novels The Maltese Falcon has all the ingredients of a proper detective novel. Sam is a detective with his own moral code and an air of being worldly worn. When his partner is murdered Sam is the prime suspect and he must prove his innocence, add into the mix a beautiful but mysterious woman, demands for money he cannot pay and a gold statue of a falcon that everybody wants and you have the makings of an un-putdownable detective novel.

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2, The Thin Man

Nick Charles has left his detecting days behind, or so he thought but when Julia Wolf, a former acquaintance, is found dead he and his wife are pulled into one last case. Is her missing boss Clyde Miller Wynant her killer? All the clues point to him but Charles isn’t so certain and of course he cannot leave this case to the cops, he has to follow his hunch and make sure the right man pays for Julia’s murder.

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3, Red Harvest

The first and probably best known novel that follows a Continental Detective Agency employee who we only ever know as Continental Op. In Red Harvest we are taken to Personville a town better known as Poisonville, a place where everybody is corrupt and the only remaining honest citizen lies dead. What follows is the classical story of a lone gunman versus an entire town and a triumph of good over evil no matter what the odds may be.

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4,The Glass Key

Bordering on the biographical, The Glass Key follows Ned Beaumont, a tall, thin, moustache-wearing, TB-ridden, drinking, gambling, hanger-on of the political leader of a corrupt city. However with this being a Dashiell novel Beaumont isn’t all he looks and he wants out, he wants to better himself and that out has appeared in the guise of a senator’s daughter. But is he prepared to commit murder to escape his lot? And if not, who is it that is trying to frame him?

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5,The Dain Curse

We’re back with the short, squat and utterly unsentimental Continental Op who also happens to be the best private detective around is introduced to Miss Gabriel Dain Leggett who is young and wealthy and has a penchant for morphine and religious cults. She also has an unfortunate effect on the people around her. They die – violently. Is she the victim of a family curse? Op has his doubts and finds himself confronting something infinitely more dangerous.
A bizarre and well crafted novel this is a book that should be on every crime lover’s bookshelf.

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Dashiell Hammett died from lung cancer on January 10, 1961; his books ensure he is not forgotten.

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