Hammett: “Angel,” Resurrected

Our now regular Guest Blogger Terry Zobeck returns for another installment — following “This King Business” and “Death and Company” — detailing the various changes made by Frederic Dannay when he was editing Hammett for paperback. I couldn’t help but look into my copy of A Man Named Thin, which assures us on the front cover that this is the “First book collection of these stories” — no problem there — and that it is “COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED” — whoa!!! There we must disagree. Here’s Terry with a list of abridgments for:


“The Second Story Angel” was published in the November 15, 1923 issue of Black Mask.  Dannay reprinted it in his final selection of Hammett’s short stories, A Man Named Thin.  It’s a tale about a struggling writer — hmm, wonder what the inspiration for this was? — searching for a plot for his next story when he is visited by a lovely lady burglar in the night. Rather than turn her over to the police, he pays a bribe to the detective on the scene. In return, he hopes she will tell him her life story, which he will then use for his fiction. The story resolves with an amusing twist; I suspect Hammett meant to be a little more risqué, but had to settle for a simple kiss. It is set in New York City rather than San Francisco; however, Hammett provides no details of the city that would give the story a sense of place, unlike what he often did with his stories set in San Francisco.

Like many of Hammett’s stories that Dannay included in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and/or collected in the digest volumes, he took the blue pencil to “The Second Story Angel.” In providing the original text, I’ve used the same format as my earlier posts — page number, line number, whether it is from the top or bottom of the page, and the text corrections. The page numbers refer to the digest first edition A Man Named Thin (1962):

Page no.    Line #     Top/bottom     Text

73                 2                top

         of various divers popular magazines

74                 17              bottom

         to a position outside without the next room

74                 15              bottom

         on the intruders part

75                 8                top

           Should be a new paragraph: Then he drove a fist

75                 13              bottom

            lay a tool, a very small pinch bar

76                 2 & 3         top

            of the former to her temples and face and of the latter between her the lips

76                 5                bottom

            Should be a separate paragraph: She laughed briefly

77                 4                top

             Should be a separate paragraph: “Suppose you tell me about it.”

78                 8                top

              whether you make lay charges

80                 10              top

               Carter found himself saying, speaking:  The dialogue that follows should be a separate paragraph

80                 12              top

               Cassidy shook his head briskly bruskly [yes, that’s how it’s spelled in the original]

80                 15              bottom

               Dialogue should be a separate paragraph: “I’m makin’ a sap o’ myself

80                 14              bottom

                give me the th’ dough

80                 6                bottom

                 girl’s hunger;:

81                 13              bottom

                 a lawyer

81                 7                bottom

                Before: it’s just that it’s a rotten way, should be: but it amounted to the same thing, and I didn’t want any of it.  It’s not the morals of it—

81                 5                bottom

                 a job somewherein a store

82                 7                top

                wrong place by mistake; original has: wrong place my mistake; the original appears to be a typo

82                 3                bottom

                and that brings my the tale up-to-date [there should be no hyphens in “up to date”]

83                 3                top               

                 After: potentialities, should be: —already trying to frame the opening paragraph that would come from his typewriter.

83                 9                top

                Should be a separate paragraph: Carter laughed.

83                 18              top

                All of the stories noted here should be in single quotes; all of the magazine titles should be in italics.

83                 5                bottom

                The dialogue should be a separate paragraph: “But I suppose

84                 6                bottom

                 Should be a separate paragraph: They were afraid

85                 3                top

                After: express her gratitude, should be a new paragraph of the following dialogue: “You’re one white ––”

85                 13              top

                Mrs. H. J. H.

85                 16              bottom

                 the city, then, or for the newspaper.

85                 14              bottom

                  in his New York rooms,

85                 12              bottom

                  mail frantically feverishly

85                 12              bottom

                   the messenger-boy

85                 10              bottom

                    town,—futile telegrams [the comma is added and the em-dash is deleted]

86                 3                top

                    drawn from the life

86                 8                top

                    serial, dramatic and moving picture rights of this story

86                 9                top

                    she was a crook [“was” should be italicized]

86                 13              top

                   Finally the manuscript tale was completed, found satisfactory, and sent out

86                 15              bottom

                   Gerald GFulton and Harry Mack Mays [subsequently, Dannay reverted to Fulton]

86                 10              bottom

                   When the group four visitors

86                 5                bottom

                    Should be a separate paragraph: He turned to Carter.

86                 4                bottom

                    of the idea for your story, The Second Story Angel [the title of the story should be italicized rather than enclosed in single quotes]

87                 6                top

                    Mack Mays

87                 10              top

                     It was Mack’s Mays voice [there is no apostrophe after Mays—this is an error]

87                 16              top

                     and the his four professional writers guests

87                 13              bottom

                     Mack Mays

87                 7                bottom

                     bought one,; but five –”

97                 4                bottom

                     Mack Mays

So, there you have it, “The Second Story Angel” resurrected to its original text. Next up, we’ll see “Who Killed Dan Odams” and what, if anything, Dannay did to further the homicide.

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