December 20, 2003

The Thin Man

The Thin Man
Dashiell Hammett


(December 20, 2003)

An old friend gave this to me to reread. I'd forgotten how good it is.

Everyone remembers that this is the end of Hammett's writing career, that he's turning in this book toward frivolity and the silver screen, and that he's not going to write another Maltese Falcon or another Dain Curse. And, no, this doesn't have the grit and torment of Red Harvest, which is such a wonderful example of what a great writer in a truly foul mood can accomplish.

But, taken on its own, The Thin Man is a fine and interesting book. It's not fluffy, the way the films were, there's steel just beneath the veneer, and you really wonder what Hammett could have done if the publisher's of his era weren't quite so prissy about unconventional sex. Nora Charles is a revelation; we know her well, now, but in her day she must have been an original, and a shock.