Hammett: “Corkscrew” Part III

When Frederic Dannay, a.k.a. Ellery Queen, collected the Continental Op yarn “Corkscrew” in the 1948 Lawrence Spivak digest Nightmare Town, he resurrected it from the crumbling wood pulp pages of Black Mask much like Dr. Frankenstein rescued the monster from the grave — lots of cutting involved. . . .

In the opening post of this mini-series Terry Zobeck gave you the background, and in the second he popped through one editorial change made by Dannay after another. If you’ve never been able to read “Corkscrew” from the Black Mask text, it may have been a shock to see so much of Hammett’s wordage cast aside — and still the story ranks as one of the white-hot reads from the Op run.

Here are the rest of the pure text restorations — providing 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 in 1948, the second to the Lillian Hellman edited The Big Knockover from 1966.

Take it away, Terry:


101      13        top

212      19-20   top                   so I’ll have to enforce no laws I don’t like. If you want to have me hanging around you sort of loose and individual-like, I’m with you.


101      14        top

212      21        top                   Now what can you tell me that I ought to know?”

He blew more smoke at the ceiling.


101      13        bottom

212      12-13   bottom            they’re just as tough as the next one—and tougher.”


101      10        bottom

212      9          bottom            “I reckon Bardell’s your big meat. Whether you’ll ever get anything on him is another thing—something for you to work up a lather over.  Next to him—Big ‘Nacio.


102      6-7       top

213      8-9       top                   [Between these lines should be the chapter number: VIII]


102      17        top

213      22-23   bottom            riding herd on law and order.”

Something that could have been worry flashed into her dark eyes, and out again.

“You might just as well start looking for another hired man right away,” she advised me. “He never kept a job longer than a few days in his life.”


102      5          bottom

212      7          bottom            “Cold murder!”

“He say anything before he died?”

“No. He was dead when we got to him.”


103      8-9       top

214      8-9       top                   I pointed at the rope.

Bardell swore savagely. [these two sentences should be a single paragraph]


103      18        bottom

214      19        top                   I stood up, pulling up the rope and. A rope such as any one of a hundred cow-hands might have owned, in no way distinguishable from any other to my eyes. I handed handing it to Milk River.


104      2-3       top

214      2-3       bottom            [Between these lines should be the chapter number: IX]


104      8          top

215      4          top                   down to the cañon. Don’t be too hard on the boys.


104      12        top

215      9          top                   dust caked my throat. That same dust rose behind me in a cloud that advertised me to half the state, notwithstanding that I was riding below the landscape.


104      17        bottom

215      18        top                   He looked at the rope, but made no move to take it.


105      13        top

216      7          top                   I’d ride back to Corkscrew and go to bed.”


105      13        bottom

216      19        top                   winding gutter across the face of Arizona. But it was nicely green and cool compared to most of the rest of the State.


106      1          top

216      12        bottom            and save you the trouble of making any strong play of your own.”


106      2          top

216      11        bottom            You could be either right or wrong.


106      4-5       top

216      8-9       bottom            [Between these lines should be the chapter number: X]


106      6-7       top

216      6          bottom            so we got down in front of the Toad’s Jew’s shack.


106      17-18   top

217      6-7       top                   I got a great mind to smack you down, you shine elbow, you!”


106      14        bottom

217      13        top                     “Hold these, Milk River. And make the spectators behave while I take this pork-and-beaner for a romp.”


106      8          bottom

217      29        top                   while bare knuckles were more in my line.

Popular belief has it that you can do more damage with bare knuckles than with gloves, but as usual, popular belief is wrong. The chief value of gloves is the protection they give your hands. Jaw-bones are tougher than finger-bones, and after you’ve pasted a tough face for a while with bare knuckles you find your hands aren’t holding up very well, that you can’t get the proper snap into your punches. If you don’t believe me, look up the records. You’ll find that knock-outs began to come quicker as soon as the boys in the profession began to pad their fists.

 So I figured I hadn’t anything to fear from this Chick Orr—or not a whole lot. I was in better shape, had stronger hands, and wasn’t handicapped with boxing-glove training. I wasn’t altogether right in my calculations.


106      3          bottom

217      18        bottom              I stopped trying to out-smart him and. His left hand played a three-note tune on my face before I could get into him.

I smacked both hands into his body,


107      1          bottom

218      16        bottom            Do you think that is satisfactory? Do you think you are performing the duties for which you were employed?


108      16        bottom

219      9          top                     Milk River and I went ten steps toward the Cañon House, and came face to face with the Reverend Dierks, Miss Janey, and old Adderly. None of them looked at me with anything you could call pleasure.

“You should be ashamed of yourself!” Miss Janey ground out between her false teeth. “Fighting in the street—you who are supposed to keep the peace!”

“As a deputy sheriff you’re terrible,” Adderly put in. “There’s been more trouble here since you came then there ever was before!”

“I must say, brother, that I am deeply disappointed in your action as a representative of the law!” was the minister’s contribution.

I didn’t like to say “Go to hell!” to a group that included a minister and a woman, and I couldn’t think of anything else, so, with Milk River making a poor job of holding in his laughter, I stepped around the better element, and we went on to the Cañon House.


108      5-6       bottom

219      20        top                   Milk River sat on the bed and grinned and watched me.

“How does a fellow go about winning a fight he gets the worst of?” he inquired.

It’s a gift,” was the only answer I could think up.

“You’re a lot gifted. That Chick give you more gifts than a Christmas tree could hold.”



108      4          bottom

219      21        top                   we went down to the Toad’s Jew’s for food.


109      9          top

219      10        bottom            low on his thighs, the holsters tied down.


109      17        top

220      1-2       top                   to look under a man’s coat for them. You can’t wear them out in the open, though.


109      18        bottom

220      7          top                     “No. You put ‘em away.”

His smile spread.


109      15-16   bottom

220      10        top                   going back to the Toad’s Jew’s shack.


109      8          bottom

220      18        top                   All wore guns. All had the look of thugs.


110      16-17   top

221      3          top                   That’s what beat me in the profesh.

I tried to look sympathetic, while he studied my face carefully.

 “I messed you up, for a fact.” His scowl curved up in a gold-toothed grin. The grin went away. The scowl came back.But Ddon’t pick no more fights with me—I might hurt you!”  [Dannay edited this last sentence to follow: That’s what beat me in the profesh.]


111      12        top

221      9-10     bottom            a mixture of bookies, con-men, and the like. When I was living in New York, back before the war, I had spent quite a few of my evenings in Dick Malloy’s Briar Patch, a cabaret on Seventh Avenue, near where the Ringside opened later. This girl had been one of the Briar Patch’s regular customers a few years after my time there.


111      9          bottom

222      9          top                   Saved me a lot of trouble, maybe.


112      8          top

222      19        bottom            and might be riding that way before morning. And don’t let the information get out to anybody else.


112 10-11        top

222      15        bottom            Get going, and don’t let the information get out to anybody else.”


112      13-14   top

222      12        bottom            bottle of liquor. I gave my oath of office the laugh to the extent of three drinks. We talked and smoked a while and then the party broke up. Milk River told me he had the room next to mine.

 I added another word to the report I had started, decided I needed sleep more than the client needed the report, and went to bed.


112      14-15   top

222      9-10     bottom            [Between these lines should be the chapter number: XII]


112      12        bottom

223      2          top                   Toad’s Jew’s ordering breakfast


112      7-8       bottom

223      8          top                   which would be as nice as a dusty stove-top later—had a fresh, pleasant odor. There was nothing to hear but the creaking of leather, the occasional clink of metal, and the plopping of the horses’ feet on hard ground, which changed to a shif-shif when we struck loose sand.

The battle seemed to be over, unless the battlers had run out of bullets and were going at it hand to hand.


113      15        bottom

223      4          bottom              The sun climbed high enough to let its rays down on us, and the comparative coolness in which we had been riding went away. At noon we stopped to rest the horses,


113      2-3       bottom

224      10        top                   a thin plume of bluish smoke rose. Water ran out of a rock-bordered hole in one sloping cañon-wall, disappearing in a thin stream that curved behind one of the buildings.


114      8          top

224      21        top                   Thirty feet from the nearest building, he ran out of places to hide. I thought he would scout the buildings from that point, and then come back. Instead and, he jumped


114      12        top

224      19        bottom            A hatless Mexican came around the corner.


114      7          bottom

225      3          top                   But the hop-head didn’t want to talk. He looked sullenly at the ground and made no reply.


114      3-4       bottom

225      8-9       top                   [Between these lines should be the chapter number: XIII]


115      8          top

225      18        top                     “Quiet!” I yelled to at them.


115      11        top

225      21        top                   and a hard-looking gang of cutthroats. A short Jap with a scar from ear to ear, three Slavs, one bearded, barrel-bodied, red-eyed, the other two bullet-headed, cunning-faced; a swarthy husky who was unmistakably Greek; a bowlegged man whose probable nationality I couldn’t guess, and a pale fat man whose china-blue eyes and puckered red mouth were probably Teutonic.


116      6          top

226      13        top                   we got our company along towards dark.


116      14        top

226      23        bottom            coming likety-split down to the lighted door.


117      12        top

227      15-16   top                   it’s a gut that you’re in for a lynching. Ahorcar, understand?


117      8-9       bottom

227      11-12   bottom            [Between these lines should be the chapter number: XIV]


118      10-11   top

228      8-9       top                   Peery growled down at me. “You ain’t done nothing since you been here, and it ain’t likely you ever will. I’m making sure that this Big ‘Nacio’s riding stops right here.


118      15-16   bottom

228      19        top                   I don’t think you want him bad enough to go that far. Right or wrong, I’m playing it that way.


118      5-6       bottom

228      15        bottom            A queer light flickered in his red-rimmed eyes. [The three sentences that make up this paragraph should each be separate paragraphs]


118      1          bottom

228      8          bottom            Dunne’s revolvers coughed [Should be a separate paragraph]


119      4          top

228      2          bottom            Dunne’s horse was down. [This and the next sentence should be a separate paragraph]


119      9          top

229      4          top                   Bullets made music on door and wall. [This should be a separate paragraph]


120      4          top

229      10        bottom            But Milk River hadn’t ought to of killed Peery!”

Milk River bounced stiff-legged out of the door.

“Any time you want any part of me you pop-eyed this-and-that, all you got to do is name it!”

Small’s hands curved toward his holstered guns.

“Cut it!” I growled at Milk River, getting in front of him, pushing him back to the door. “I’ve got work to do. I can’t waste time watching you boys cut up. This is no time to be bragging about what a desperate guy you are!”

I finally got rid of him, and faced Small again.


120      16-17   top

230      5-6       top                   I’d rather lose every damn one of them that way then let you take one of ‘em away from me! [Dannay has the sentence ending in a period]


120      6-7       bottom

230      21-22   top                   [Between these lines should be the chapter number: XV]


121      17        top

231      5          top                   without the drug any longer. I would have given him an injection, but Milk River stopped me, saying you had given orders that nothing was to be done without instructions from you.


121      15        bottom

231      11-12   top                   and he gets no more until he’ll talk. Maybe he’s ripe now.


121      13        bottom

231      14        top                   Milk River was squatting on his heels outside the door, talking to one of the guards.


121      5-6       bottom

231      22        top                   He was writhing with cramps. The other prisoners were trying to get some sleep, their blankets spread on the floor as far from Rainey as they could get.


122      1          top

231      16-17   bottom            The straight story will bring you a shot, and nothing else will.”


122      2          top

231      15        bottom            “I didn’t kill him! He screamed. “I didn’t! Before God, I didn’t!”


122      12        bottom

232      11-12   top                   and cried over them. She poured out all of her hopes and fears to me—including her liking of Milk River, who was a good kid even if he had never been within two thousand miles of Forty-second Street and Broadway.

The talk always came back to that: New York, New York, New York.


122      7          bottom

232      17        top                   he commented, jovially, and went on.

I took her slippers off, tucked her in bed, opened the window, and went out, locking the door behind me and chucking the key over the transom.

After that I slept.



123      8          top

232      10-11   bottom            Gimme th’ shot! Gimme it!


124      2-3       top

233      19-20   bottom            Inside the door I ran into sallow Vickers, who was hurrying to see what the rumpus was about.


125      2          top

234      22        bottom            sound in his mouth.

His gold teeth showed in a grin.


125      6          top

234      18        bottom            but it bled a lot—all over me, in fact.


125      11        top

234      11        bottom              She went past me without looking at me—deliberately not looking at me.


125      13        bottom

235      7          top                   He was beyond reasoning with.

“Put it away!” I ordered, though I knew the words were wasted.


125      10        bottom

235      10        top                     I stopped looking for an out. Blood thickened in my head, and things began to look queer. I could feel my neck thickening. I hoped I wasn’t going to get too mad to shoot straight.

and I went for my gun.


126      17-18   top

235      7-8       bottom            [Between these lines should be the chapter number: XVII]


126      13        bottom

235      2          bottom              “Get the Toad Jew.


126      4          bottom

236      9          top                   It got to be a damned nuisance. No sooner would I say that everything was all right than she’d begin all over again to ask me to forgive her.

“I was so afraid you’d kill him, because he’s only a kid, and somebody had told him a lot of things about you and me, and I know how crazy he was, and he’s only a kid, and I was so afraid you’d kill him.” And so on and so on.

Half an hour of this had me woozy with fever.

“And now he won’t talk to me, won’t even look at me, won’t let me come in here when he’s here. And nothing will ever make things right again, and I was so afraid you’d kill him, because he’s only a boy, and . . .”


127      5          top

236      17        top                   I growled at him.

His face got beet-color and he shuffled his feet.


127      7-8       top

236      20        top                   you was playing me for a sucker Chinaman.


127      10        top

236      23        top                     “hell, no, Chief! I’d give a leg if none of it had never happened.


127      19        bottom

236      11        bottom            is worth a million an ounce, and you’d know it if you had anything to know anything with. Now you run out and find this Clio person, and bring her back with you and no nonsense!”


127      11        bottom

236      2          bottom              “Did you get the Toad Jew?


127      5          bottom

237      5          top                     “That the Toad Jew killed poor old Slim.


127      2          bottom

237      8          top                   and the Toad Jew gets scared


128      1-2       top

237      12        top                   The Toad Jew was cleaning house


128      5-6       top

237      16        top                   Slim had bled some on the that floor.


128      11        top

237      21        top                   of the time the Toad Jew had followed him


128      12        top

237      20        bottom            his meanness into the Toad’s Jew’s shack


128      14        top

237      18        bottom            If the Toad Jew had been depending


128      7          bottom

237      9          bottom            Milk River grinned at me, pulling the girl closer with the one arm that was around her.


And now, after digging up the pure text for nineteen Hammett stories, there’s only one more! The final story for which we currently do not have the original pulp appearance to check is “The Nails in Mr. Cayterer” from the January 1926 issue of Black Mask. If anyone has a copy, please drop Don a line and consider photographing it for us.


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