Tuesday, August 23, 2016

An insightful, but slightly lacking portrait of one of America's most influential writers

Dashiell Hammett: Man of MysteryDashiell Hammett: Man of Mystery by Sally Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This biography of one of the greatest crime writers is a bit too Freudian for my tastes in the beginning, and since it contains so much about his relationship with Lillian Hellman and his struggles against red-scare tinged U.S. Government, I think it ends a bit abruptly. There should have been some about the difficulty Hellman had in getting Hammett (twice a veteran) buried at Arlington.
On the other hand, the book is well researched, often contesting accounts in previous biographies. It is quite readable, and provides unflinching insight into Hammett's fiction as well as his lengthy writer's block. It may be even more valuable in what it tells us about not only his complicated relationships with his wife and Hellman, but also his influence and help on Hellman's celebrated plays.
This book is not just for Hammett scholars, but a good read for anyone interested in some of the history of the United States, as seen through the life of unique and surprisingly influential person.

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