After a hiatus during which he obviously spent some safari time in the pulp jungle hunting down rare and elusive pulps, Terry Zobeck is back to let us know the extent of the editing done to yet another Op tale by good old Frederic Dannay. Terry began this coverage with “This King Business” last summer, followed by “Death and Company,” then “One Hour” and most recently “It.” And of course he has detailed the editing on six other non-Op Hammett stories and the three shorts featuring Sam Spade. You can mount your own expedition into the wilds of the blog archives and track them all down, if curious.
Recently, I managed to snag another issue of Black Mask containing a Hammett story, the pure text of which has long been unavailable — the December 1, 1923 issue with the Op story “Bodies Piled Up.” Dannay reprinted this story under the title “House Dick” in the April 1947 issue of EQMM, and then collected it in Dead Yellow Women later that year. More recently, the story was reprinted in Nightmare Town (1999) using Dannay’s text.
“Bodies Piled Up” doesn’t deserve to be among Hammett’s forgotten stories; it is an Op story after all and, while not among the very best, it is entertaining. The Op is hired by the Montgomery Hotel in San Francisco as the temporary hotel detective or “house dick.” All is quiet until the final day when the Op follows a blood trail in one of the rooms and discovers three bodies stuffed into a closet. They come falling out one after the other when the Op opens the door, shocking even our hardboiled hero. And while the Op doesn’t do much detecting, there is a terrific three-way shoot-out at the end in a speakeasy between the Op and two gangsters.
Beyond changing a perfectly good title, Dannay took a light pencil to “Bodies Piled Up,” but at least one of the edits was especially unfortunate. One of the pleasures of the Op stories is his frequent asides about the tradecraft of manhunting, like when he tells us the particulars of shadowing in “Zigzags of Treachery.” In “Bodies Piled Up,” Dannay deleted the Op’s ruminations on the usefulness of knowing the motive to apprehending a murderer.
As usual the following list provides the page number, the line number and whether it is from the top or bottom of the page, and the affected text — Hammett’s original wording is underlined. The page numbers refer to the story as it appeared in 1947 in Dead Yellow Women.
Page Line Top/Bottom Text
81 Title House Dick Bodies
81 8 top Then
things changed. [Should be a separate paragraph.]
81 9 top the
assistant manager on duty at the time
83 1 top next
door to Develyn’s office, in fact.
83 10 top of
the their persons
83 10 bottom and
telephoned Stacy. She had seen no one
in the corridor nearby as she entered the room.
85 9 bottom to
the guilty one. It is on this account that murderers are, as a rule, more
easily apprehended than any other class of criminals.
But a knowledge of the motive isn’t indispensable—quite a few murder mysteries are
solved without its help. And in a fair proportion—say, 10 to 20 percent—of cases of where men are convicted justly of murder, the motive isn’t clearly shown even at the last, and sometimes is hardly guessed at.
87 13 top and—so
the talk went—an occasional judge
88 11 top Then
I jumped out of bed. [Should be a
89 11 top whose
clothes are always soiled; and the management hasn’t yet verified the rumor
that the country has gone dry.
91 11 top but
I didn’t try to solve it now. I kept away from the bullets that were flying
around as best I could and waited.
91 4 bottom His
dying face twisted into a triumphant grin.
91 1 bottom He
shuddered and died. [Should be a separate
With the addition of “Bodies Piled Up” to our collection of reclaimed pure texts, we now lack only the following seven stories; if anyone has any of these, please consider contributing to this project:
- The Vicious Circle (reprinted as The Man
Who Stood in the Way)
- Night Shots
- Afraid of a Gun
- Who Killed Bob Teal?
- Mike, Alice or Rufus (reprinted as Tom,
Dick or Harry)
- The Nails in Mr. Cayterer