Hammett: A Wandering Sentences Job

It was another case for Race Zobeck, Confidential Pure Text Dick.

The email came winging in lazily over the transom. The client’s moniker was LaViolette. Marc LaViolette. At least that’s what he claimed. . . .

He’d gotten bit by the Pure Text Bug, see. And he had a problem:

In your Feb 5th 2012 blog the edits to “Bodies Piled Up” are listed for the texts as it appears in Dead Yellow Women (1947) and Terry Zobeck notes that the text is used for the reprint in Nightmare Town (1999).

I grabbed my copy of Nightmare Town to amend the text as I had done for “The Man Who Killed Dan Odams” and others only to discover an edit I could not make.

Marc singled out the pure text note: 83     10     bottom     which adds “and telephoned Stacy. She had seen no one in the corridor nearby as she entered the room.”

I cannot locate this text in my book, Marc stated. But he knew who to ask. “Could Terry compare the Black Mask version with that from Nightmare Town?”

Could he? Sure, what the hell.

I yelled into the inner office where Terry was spinning the cylinder in his roscoe and counting the pretty slugs. “Take the cap off the whiskey and pour yourself a stiff shot,” I advised. “We’ve got a live one.”

Terry “Race” Zobeck instantly suspected the problem “may well be an issue with the version in Nightmare Town, since I did not do a thorough cross check with that version — only a quick scan to determine that it appeared to be based on Dannay’s edit.”

“Okay.” He popped a couple of pills pinging through the paneling to celebrate. “Found it. Kind of amusing.

“Two paragraphs are involved. Among them are three sentences that begin ‘She had.’

“I think whoever transcribed the story from Dead Yellow Women let their eyes wander from the first to the third one and lost several lines in the process.

“In Nightmare Town the original paragraphs are erroneously combined into a single one — page 44, the last full paragraph. It reads:

The maid who had discovered the blood said that she had straightened up Develyn’s room between ten and eleven that morning, but had not put fresh towels in the bathroom. It was for this purpose that she had gone to the room in the afternoon. She had gone there earlier — between 10:20 and 10:45 — for that purpose, but Ingraham had not then left it.

“The following is what was cut from Nightmare Town — it should come after ‘to the room in the afternoon’ in the text above:

She had found the door unlocked, with the key on the inside and, as soon as she entered, had seen the blood and telephoned Stacey. She had seen no one in the corridor nearby as she entered the room.

She had straightened up Ingraham’s room, she said, a few minutes after one.

“The Nightmare Town text then picks up with ‘She had gone there earlier.'”

Race notes the bold text above — as documented back in 2012 — is the original Hammett wording deleted by Fred Dannay for his 1947 paperback collection, one of ten.

We’ve been warning people off the Dannay edits in favor of pure text Hammett for a few years. Now there’s another ding against relying on the 1999 Nightmare Town when you’re trying to get into some real Hammett.

And another case of the pure text blues gets put to bed. . . .

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