NIGHTMARE TOWN by Dashiell Hammett

NIGHTMARE TOWN

KIRKUS REVIEW

This collection of 20 stories, most of them out of print for many years, is must reading for hardboiled fans. It doesn’t matter a bit that they don’t live up to the uncritical claims Hammett biographer William F. Nolan’s introduction makes for them, though it would be nice if Hammett handled the heroine’s viewpoint in “Ruffian’s Wife” with the same cool efficiency as the hero’s viewpoint in “One Hour,” or made the O. Henryish “Second-Story Angel” into as sharp an anecdote as the noir western “The Man Who Killed Dan Odams.” What matters is that the editors have preserved between one set of covers all three Sam Spade short stories, seven heretofore uncollected ones starring the Continental Op, a generous sampling of Hammett’s uneven non-series work, and a pair of headliners: the title novella, a fast-moving ode to the city man stranded in the middle of nowhere, and “The First Thin Man,” a 50-page fragment that shows Clyde Wynant’s murder hooked up to a completely different plot without a trace of Nick or Nora Charles. An answered prayer for Hammett fans, and a revelation for any serious reader of detective fiction—even if the revelation is often of how hard Hammett must have worked to spin his Black Mask straw into the gold of Red Harvest and The Maltese Falcon. (Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection)

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-40111-3
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999




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