Hammett: “Corkscrew” Part II

As Terry Zobeck noted in the first part of his pure text survey for “Corkscrew,” the editorial changes were rampant — scanning down this post and then the next post will give you the clew. A hell of a lot of blue pencil work.

This post begins the list of edits, and ends with the only additional change Lillian Hellman made when she based the text of “Corkscrew” in The Big Knockover (Random House, 1966) on the Dannay edit.

Here’s Terry:

Because Frederic Dannay made so many edits to “Corkscrew,” we are dividing the review into parts, so that each part is a somewhat reasonable length.

Also, in a departure from our usual format, I’ve provided references to two first edition sources of the Dannay version, Nightmare Town from the 1948 Lawrence Spivak digest and the 1966 Lillian Hellman selection, The Big Knockover, since the latter is probably the more accessible version for most Hammett fans.

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 first set of page numbers, line numbers, and position in relation to the top or bottom of the page refers to the story as it appears in Nightmare Town, the second to The Big Knockover — for ease of the eye, the lower page numbers are from the Spivak digest, the higher page numbers from the Random House hardcover.

Page    Line     Top/Bottom    Text


84        2          top

196      2          top                   the shimmering heat, blinding sunlight,


84        10        top

196      10        top                   sharp-edged barrancos.

All these things were hot. All of them tried to get rid of their heat by throwing it on the car. My fat melted in the heat. The heat dried my perspiration before I could feel its moisture. The dazzling light scorched my eyeballs; puckered my lids; cooked my mouth. Alkali stung my nose; was gritty between my teeth.

It was a nice ride! I understood why the natives were a hard lot. A morning like this would put any man in a mood to kill his brother, and would fry his brother into not caring whether he was killed.


84        9          bottom

196      3          bottom            trying to sneak away from them.

That was Corkscrew. One look at it and I believed all I had heard about it.


85        7          top

197      15        top                   “A room and a lot of water,” I said, dropping my bags and reaching for the glass that sat on top of a cooler in the corner.


85        16        top

197      19        bottom            with the help of his hands on the table—one of them flat in the plate of ham and eggs he had been eating.


85        4          bottom

198      3          top                   right out in the open! There was no use trying to cover up.


86        16        top

198      19        bottom              “You can grub up at the Toad’s Jew’s


86        17        bottom

198      16        bottom            I found the Toad’s Jew’s.


86        8          bottom

198      5          bottom            The proprietor wasn’t a Jew—an Armenian or something of the sort, I thought. He was a small man


86        1          bottom

199      3          top                   he said over his shoulder. “Sure, we need them!”


87        7-8       top

199      12-13   top                   [Between these lines should be the chapter number: II]


87        13        top

199      18        top                   was an oak bar, with nobody behind it.


87        15        bottom

199      16        bottom            rough on me sometimes, and I’m glad there’s going to be somebody around who can handle them.”


88        16        top

200      17        top                   Nisbet dealt the cards. [should be a separate paragraph]


88        7          bottom

200      11        bottom            they’re all I’ve seen outside of here.


88        5          bottom

200      10        bottom            “So you met the Toad Jew?


88        3          bottom

200      8          bottom              “Slim tried to beat the Toad Jew out of two bits


88        1          bottom

200      6          bottom            here comes the Toad Jew,


89        10        top

201      6          top                   His bleary eyes went back to the table, and the laughter went out of them. Tthe laugh on his lips changed to a sneer.


89        11        top

201      7          top                     “Let’s play,” he growled [should be a separate paragraph]


89        19        top

201      15-16   top                   One that can run pretty good, but that isn’t too tricky for a bum rider to sit.

The Milk River hombre was playing the seven ball in the side pocket. He made the shot, and his pale eyes looked at the pocket into which the ball had gone for a couple of seconds before he straightened up. Lanky Dunne was looking fixedly at nothing, his mouth puckered a bit. Buck Small’s pop-eyes were intent on the tip of his cue.


89        7          bottom

201      15        bottom              Milk River put his cue down, frowning. [should be a separate paragraph]


89        6          bottom

210      13        bottom            we’ll mosey out there right now. It’s Sunday, and we’ll be sure of catching him.”


90        5          top

201      3          bottom            I’m goin’ t’ open him up from his Adam’s apple for him plumb down to his ankles!”


90        9-10     top

202      4-5       top                   [Between these lines should be the chapter number: III]


90        11        top

202      6          top                   swooped down on me, as if he had been lying in wait.


90        18        top

202      14        top                   Milk River looked back over his shoulder.


90        11        bottom

202      21        top                   dozen or more people there in his living-room.


91        7          top

202      4          bottom            first day in Corkscrew! You have seen men whose garments did not conceal the deadly weapons under them! In that list is the black record of many months’ unatoned sinfulness. Strike now, brother, for the Lord and righteousness!


91        18        bottom

203      9          top                   The others nodded vigorously. Echlin’s eyes had lit up at his wife’s words, and he licked his lips as he nodded.


91        9-10     bottom

203      20        top                   Miss Janey is perfectly right. That woman is worse than the rest!


92        3          top

203      12-13   bottom            You will carry God’s war immediately into blind tiger and brothel and gambling hell?”

The others were on their feet now, closing in.

“I’ll have to look things over first,” I stalled.

“Brother, are you evading your duty? Are you procrastinating in the face of Satan? If you are the man I hope you are, you will march now, with the decent citizens of Corkscrew at your heels, to wipe from the face of our town the sin that blackens it!”

So that was it. I was to lead one of those vice-crusading mobs. I wondered how many of these crusaders would be standing behind me if one of the devil’s representatives took a shot at me. The minister maybe—his thin face was grimly pugnacious. But I couldn’t imagine what good he’d be in a row. The others would scatter at the first sign of trouble.

I stopped playing politics and said my say.


92        5          top

203      10        bottom            not for a while, anyway. Later, I’ll try to get around to the bootleggers and gamblers and similar small fry, though I’m not foolish enough to think I can put them all out of business. Just now, so long as they don’t cut up too rough, I don’t expect to bother them. I haven’t the time.


92        9          top

203      6          bottom            And I left. [should be a separate paragraph]


92        11-12   top

203      2-3       bottom            I found a place in it


92        14-15   top

204      1-2       top                   [Between these lines should be the chapter number: IV]


92        19        top

204      7          top                   to a larger and greener draw, where the mesquite grew in small trees and bees zizzed among wild flowers.


92        14        bottom

204      12-13   top                   This, I learned, was Peery. [should be a separate paragraph]


92        11        bottom

204      16-17   top                   That’s the nicest, mildest horse


92        3          bottom

204      18-19   bottom              Smith and Dunne set out together, pretending they weren’t going eagerly.

Where’s Red and Slim?” Peery asked.

“Stayin’ in a  while,” Small told him. “Slim’s a million ahead in a poker game.”


93        3          top

204      13        bottom              “Try him out and we’ll talk dinero. I warn you, I ain’t so damned anxious to get rid of him that I’ll let him go for nothing. But you try him first—trot him down the draw a little ways and back. He’s downright sweet.


93        15        top

205      2          top                   I’m a city man. but I can sit any street car or taxicab in the world, and I can even ride a horse


94        8          top

205      10        bottom            “I ain’t going to have you killed on my hands.”

I shook my head violently, trying to clear it, so I could see him better.


94        11        top

205      6          bottom            falling off carelessly like that.”


94        17-18   top

206      1-2       top                   no horse could possibly do. Looking down, I was surprised not to see his kidneys and liver—because I knew damned well he was turning himself inside out.


94        16-17   bottom

206      3-4       top                   I landed in the same clump of brush that had get me once before.

I couldn’t see much when I got up—only the yellow of Rollo.

I heard Peery’s bass voice, protesting to somebody.

“No, let the damned fool kill himself if he wants to.”

I heaved myself wearily into the saddle again.

For a while I thought Rollo had had enough. He was a well-behaved animal under me. That was fine. I had ridden him at last.

Nonsense! He was fooling.

He put his nose in the sand. He put it in the sky. And, using his head for a base, he wagged his body as a puppy would wag its tail.

I went way from him—and stayed where I landed.


94        11        bottom

206      9-10     top                     “I don’t think that horse would be much good to me,” I told them. “Maybe I’d better look at another.” [should be a separate paragraph]


94        5-6       bottom

206      15-16   top                   [Between these lines should be the chapter number: V]


94        5          bottom

206      16-17   top                   and Milk River was prodding me with a finger.


95        2          top

206      20        bottom            I hadn’t slept in. He had something to say, so I gave him time, lacing my shoes slowly.


95        7-8       top

206      13-14   bottom            a hombre that’ll let a bronc dirty him up three times hand-running handrunning


95        15        top

206      6          bottom            “Where’s that breakfast you were bragging about?”


95        16        top                   [The pulp is missing a portion of the line at the top of page 13.  In Nightmare Town this line reads: Six men were eating in the chuck-shack when we came in.  The bottom of page 12 of the pulp reads: Six men were eating in the chuck- The line resumes on the top of page 13 with:  …me in. It is reasonable to assume that the missing text is “shack when we ca”.]


95        13        bottom

207      5          top                   a friend or two. In less than a day I had accomplished what, by milder means, would have taken weeks, or months. These cowhands were kidding me just about as they would have kidded each other.


96        4          top

207      20        top                   This is my job, and if I want any help I’ll tell you.”


96        8-9       top

207      17-18   bottom            [Between these lines should be the chapter number: VI]


96        9          top

207      18        bottom            of the Border Palace, going indoors.


96        14        top

207      11        bottom            paying no attention to anything, not even looking up at our arrival, Mark Nisbet sat.


96        17        top

207      7-8       bottom            and you’re the man to stop it!”

I noticed that the Circle H. A. R. men had not followed me into the center of the room, but had stopped in a loose semi-circle just inside the street door.


96        11        bottom

208      4          top                     Gyp went gingerly through the cowboys grouped at the door and vanished.

I didn’t like this public stuff. I’d rather do my questioning on the side. But to try that here would probably call for a showdown with Peery and his men, and I wasn’t quite ready for that.


96        1          bottom

208      16        top                   and the Toad Jew next door


97        2          top

208      18        top                     I turned to Gyp.

He spit in a cuspidor and hunched his shoulders.


97        3          top

208      19        top                     “Bardell’s give it all to you,” he said.

“Didn’t see anything before or after except what Bardell has said?”



97        16        top

208      12        bottom            The Toad Jew was giving


97        19        top                   [The top of page 14 of the pulp is missing a portion that affects the text.  In Nightmare Town it reads: The walls and floor were already comparatively clean. In the pulp the test reads: The walls ________________ already comparatively clean. It’s not likely anything was edited by Dannay.]


97        15        bottom

208      4          bottom            “Know anything about the killing last night?”


97        10        bottom

209      3          top                   “how is he, Chick?”


97        5-6       bottom

209      7-8       top                   we carry him into Mr. Bardell’s place and put him on those tables.”


97        3-4       bottom

209      9          top                   That was all the Toad Jew knew. I returned to the Border Palace. Dr. Haley—a fussy little man whose nervous fingers played with his lips—was there.


98        1          top

209      12-13   top                   The bullet was a .38. Death had been instantaneous. So much for that. [The first two sentences should go with the preceding paragraph.  The third sentence should be a separate paragraph.]


98        2-3       top

209      14-15   top                   I sat on a corner of a pool table, facing Mark Nisbet. Feet shuffled on the floor behind me and I could feel tension making.


98        4          top

209      15-16   top                     “What can you tell me Nisbet?” I asked.

He didn’t look up from the floor. No muscle moved in his face except those that shaped his mouth to his words.


98        18        top

209      13        bottom            I make my living out of cards, not out of picking fights.”


98        14-15   bottom

209      7-8       bottom            gave it back to him—told him to beat it.

“No shooting in here?”

“Not a shot.”


98        11        bottom

209      4          bottom              I got down from my perch on the table and walked over to Nisbet, holding out my hand.


98        2-3       bottom

213      6-7       top                   spread out behind him, his men were as ready for action as he. Their hands hovered close to the bulges that showed where their weapons were packed.



99        6          top

210      14        top                   I haven’t got enough to convict Nisbet, and I don’t see any sense in arresting a man just because it looks as if he might have done a thing.”


100      1          top

211      3-4       top                   [Prior to the first line should be the chapter number: VII]


100      5          top

211      9          top                   I asked Milk River, who was making a cigarette while I lit one of the Fatimas he had refused.


100      8          top

211      12        top                   when the new deputy come.  He sure laid out a reputation for you! According to his way of telling it, you was the toughest, hardest, strongest, fastest, sharpest, biggest, wisest and meanest man west of the Mississippi River.


100      9          top

211      13        top                     “Who’s this Turney?”

“You mean you don’t know him? From the way he talked, I took it you and him ate off the same plate.”

“Never even heard any rumors about him. Who is he?”


100      10        top

211      14        top                   the Orilla County Company outfit up the way.”


100      15        bottom

211      13        bottom            and now they’re about ready to sell it.


100      2          bottom


212      2-3       top                   back and side doors. Compared to this graft, rum-running—even dope-running—is kid stuff.


101      5          top

212      10        top                   make this part of Arizona nice and lady-like.


101      9          top

212      15        top                   But we thought it was a secret—until I got here.” [In The Big Knockover, Hellman edited this sentence to read: But we thought it was supposed to be a secret.]

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