Hammett: Only Four to Go

Terry Zobeck followed through on his plan to hit the Library of Congress in search of pure texts for Hammett stories, and cut the list of seven missing texts down to only four. Plus he copied various other items for research and reading purposes — he’ll still need to track down the original publications for his own collection (Terry was telling me that he has more of the original pulp appearances of Hammett and Chandler in his trove than UCLA does in holdings famed for the strength of the Black Mask run).

For those web surfers who’ve been following this quest, here’s Terry:

First thing in the morning I photographed the three issues of Black Mask in the rare book room. I got the covers, table of contents, and the stories. I won’t be winning any awards for my photography, but I can read everything just fine. So, over the next month or so, I’ll be writing these up.

Then I got photocopies of all five pieces Hammett did for Western Advertising — these are rather interesting. One of them is actually a book review — an omnibus review of the most important books in the advertising field for 1927. Others provide insight on his philosophy of writing. It’s interesting how he threw himself into the advertising business when he turned away from fiction writing. It wasn’t just a job; these articles show he was thinking about the nature of advertising copy.

I also got the third book review from The Forum — “Genius Made Easy.” Perhaps the most interesting item is “Vamping Samson” from the May 9, 1925 issue of Editor. It is an article on how he came to write “Ber-Berlu,” the most extensive writing he ever did on how he produced a story. Too bad he didn’t choose an Op story for this exercise.

And I was able to fill in the blanks for all but one of the New York Evening Post book reviews; you’ll remember that there were five for which the scans from that New York website were illegible in spots.

These are all items I’ve been hunting for many years. I still need to get the originals, but its nice to finally be able to read them. The Western Advertising issues are especially nice. The covers are beautiful pieces of art — it’s too bad the LOC doesn’t have color copiers for the public.

I think the only things I’m missing are the four remaining stories for which we need pure texts, the serialized versions of the first four novels from Black Mask (I have some parts of each, except for Red Harvest), the poem “Caution to Travelers,” a few letters to the editor, and one of his political pieces from 1939 (I have a couple of leads for getting a photocopy of that).

It’s all about the hunt.

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