• The Lost Detective

  • Becoming Dashiell Hammett
  • By: Nathan Ward
  • Narrated by: Brian Holsopple
  • Length: 5 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-06-15
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios for Bloomsbury
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.4 (11 ratings)

Regular price: $19.95

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Publisher's Summary

Before he became a household name in America as perhaps our greatest hard-boiled crime writer, before his attachment to Lillian Hellman and blacklisting during the McCarthy era, and his subsequent downward spiral, Dashiell Hammett led a life of action. Born in 1894 into a poor Maryland family, Hammett left school at 13 and held several jobs before joining the Pinkerton National Detective Agency as an operative in 1915. With time off in 1918 to serve at the end of World War I, he remained with the agency until 1922, participating in the banal and dramatic actions alike of an operative. The tuberculosis he contracted during the war forced him to leave the Pinkertons - but it may well have prompted one of America's most acclaimed writing careers.
While Hammett's life on center stage has been well-documented, the question of how he got there has not. That largely overlooked phase is the subject of Nathan Ward's enthralling The Lost Detective. Hammett's childhood, his life in San Francisco, and especially his experience as a detective deeply informed his writing and his characters, from the nameless Continental Op to Sam Spade and Nick Charles. The success of his many stories in the pulp magazine Black Mask led him to novels; he would write five between 1929 and 1934, two of them (The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man) now American classics. Though he inspired generations of writers, after The Thin Man he never finished another book - a painful silence for his devoted fans - and his popular image has long been shaped by the remembrance of Hellman, who knew him after his literary reputation had been made.
Based on original research across the country, The Lost Detective is the first book to illuminate Hammett's transformation from real detective to great American detective writer, throwing brilliant new light on one of America's most celebrated and remembered novelists and his world.
©2015 Nathan Ward (P)2015 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Jean on 12-22-15


Much has been written about Hammett (1894-1961), but this book covers a little known period of his life and helps answer a question I have wondered about over the years. How did Hammett go from being a Pinkerton Detective to writing detective novels? Hammett was a High School dropout and a U.S. Army ambulance driver in WWI who acquired tuberculosis. Hammett joined the Pinkerton agency as an entry level worker. Hammett did most of his writing in the 1920 and 1930s.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. The book is based on original research. Ward states he spent many hours in the Library of Congress researching for the book. Ward also interviewed local San Francisco literary historians and Hammett researchers. This book makes a great addition to the biographies on Hammett. Ward is a good storyteller so the book is a delight to read. The book is short at about 5 hours and Brian Hollsopple did a good job narrating the book.

Years ago I took the Maltese Falcon Walking Tour in San Francisco and found it interesting and fun besides being good exercise walking up and down the San Francisco streets.

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5 of 6 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Fred on 09-09-16

The man behind the great books

I love His books but knew nothing of the man. This book helped me learn a lot about Dashell Hamett the man who was and why his books have lasted through time. If your a Hamett fan you will love this book.

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