Hammett: “Great Stuff”

Last Wednesday I got together for lunch with Nathan Ward, who was in Frisco doing research for his upcoming biography of Hammett — from birth up till around 1933, I think it is, with heavy concentration on the detective and pulp-writing eras.

Should be good. Nathan has dug deep and uncovered some cool stuff, and should have the most in-depth look into Hammett as a Pinkerton’s man — some of the other so-called biographies devote a paragraph or two to the topic, and most are really weak on the actual writing. Really weak.

I’ve got the sense that Nathan is going to hoist those bars a lot higher.

I asked him what he thought of Terry Zobeck’s discovery of the lost 1929 interview with Hammett — one of the hottest research moments of recent times, where Zobeck proves he’s earned his stripes. Master Sergeant in Opology, minimum.

Traveling into the burg, Nathan hadn’t seen it yet. My description rang no bells for him. But he just popped in an email titled “Great Stuff” and said, “That Eagle interview is a fabulous find. . . .” His thoughts on the bits lifted from Hammett’s 1923 article “From the Memoirs of a Private Detective” are that they are “almost like they finished the conversation by letter, however unlikely on a newspaper deadline.”

Yeah, the word-by-word, line-by-line follows so closely to the text in Smart Set — but I still bet Hammett just rattled them off as the interviewer took notes.

Nathan also offers some info on Terry’s recent post about the Hammett review “Outlaws of the Old West”:

Hammett was right that the Horan book is disappointing, considering the access he had. One archivist told me that when Horan died he still had dozens of Pinkerton files on loan in his garage. I don’t know if they were returned or donated as part of his papers somewhere else. But his various manuscripts for Desperate Men are part of the Pinkerton collection.

Who would have thought that at this point in time — over fifty years since Hammett’s death — so many intriguing documents wait to be unearthed?

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