In the past month, I found myself on a Dashiell Hammett binge for an inexplicable reason. Hammett was the author of some of crime noir's best hardboiled detective novels. His most famous being ones like The Maltese Falcon; The Thin Man; The Dain Curse. While he wrote other notable stories, it is these that made him famous. Many of his famous novels were turned into movies and I suspect, like me, that is where you know the likes of detectives Sam Spade and Nick Charles from. Hammett was also married to Lillian Helmann, the famous playwright.
I chose two very opposite stories to read. Red Harvest is one of his earlier works and not as famous. However, I found myself identifying characters in the story, who would be used for the foundation of other characters in like The Maltese Falcon. From a writing standpoint, it was interesting to see that development over time.
The story itself is one of racking up the body count, double-crosses, sex for sex sake, and a hardboiled detective in over his head. It was an easy read and should be taken as a simple crime novel escape. The crimes themselves aren't that noteworthy. Like I said, it was an earlier novel.
However, you can see Hammett's improvement in storytelling with The Thin Man. I love The Thin Man movies! They still have a big fan base and channels like TCM show them on a regular basis. So I was expecting to pretty much know the story and not be really surprised. I was wrong.
The book is somewhat different from the movie in the plot. And the characters are more fully developed, leaving a lot to learn about the lead characters, Nick and Nora. You also get a glimpse of elite New York back during Prohibition that doesn't really translate in the movies. The visits to speakeasy's, the way business was done, and even policing, expose a whole different side that the movie doesn't have time to delve into on the big screen.
It turns out that I enjoyed the book, The Thin Man, ever bit if not more than the movie. That says something. Hammett also has a unique way for his characters to tell their stories. Both of these novels are first person but in The Thin Man, the lead character Nick has a way of dismissing society norms that will bring a smile to your face. It is a refreshing technique.
I hope to read The Maltese Falcon at some point down the line. But if you like these kind of stories, I would say pick up The Thin Man which I give 5 of 5 on the rating scale. Then if you are wanting more, and a quick escape, Red Harvest which is 4 of 5.