Private Investigations

Private Investigations

The Novels of Dashiell Hammett

Book - 1985
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Gregory examines each of Hammett's novels— Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, and The Thin Man —in terms of their form and theme to make clear their twofold appeal. She shows that they succeed not only as popular fiction but as literature. Through literary analysis she shows that within each of his works there are intri­cate literary strategies to be probed and analyzed symbolically, metaphysically, and metafictionally to yield the sharp vision we expect of art.


His first novel, Red Harvest, provides an excellent example of his strategies. Filled with action, vivid characters, and remarkable colloquial dialogue, Red Har­vest is a study of personal systems, of ethical responsibility, of the individual's impotence against an overwhelming de­structiveness of corruption, chaos, and death; yet all of this is subtly woven into dramatic action that thrilled audiences of sensationalized fiction.


This dual structure provides an on­going sense of revelation. Once a reader discerns that there is meaning beyond the action-filled maelstrom of motion and death that marks Hammett's works, a pattern of increasing complexity ap­pears. Thus not only is The Dain Curse an exciting story of murder and a family curse, it is a metafictional survey of detective fiction styles. Gregory shows that Hammett uses the conventions of detective fiction in this novel as a means of addressing epistemological issues that bring into question the basic premises of the genre. Indeed, in his most famous work, The Maltese Falcon, Hammett creates a work that is itself a testament to the unknowability of human conduct, for in it he manipulates details, charac­terization, and plot until the very con­cept of mystery emerges as the central point of the book. For Hammett the great­est mystery was always the complexities of human consciousness.

Publisher: Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, c1985
ISBN: 9780809311651
Branch Call Number: 813 H215 Zg
Characteristics: xiv, 205 p. ; 23 cm


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