Hammett: “The Barber and His Wife”

How about we kick off the month with The Return of Tenderloin Terry Zobeck?

It’s always swell when Terry climbs back on deck after a hiatus.

Terry’s still got one Hammett story he needs to check for editorial meddling by Fred Dannay, to complete his quest to cover all the thus far uncorrected reprints of Hammett tales. Only one more. . . .

But meanwhile, we discussed what else he could do in this vein.

How about covering the edits Dannay made on stories that have since been reprinted from texts based on the original pulp and slick magazine publications? How different were those earlier Dannay appearances, which after all were the texts that most Hammett fans read in the paperbacks for decades?

Terry apologizes for the lack of a cool cover illo, which he usually provides: “I don’t have anything to illustrate this with — that issue of Brief Stories is damn elusive.”

And here’s Terry:


Late last year, Don and I mutually hit upon a way of continuing our joint project to restore Hammett’s pure texts. So far we have documented all of the stories but one (“The Nails in Mr. Cayterer”) that Dannay published either in the pages of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine or in the collections he edited between 1943 and 1962, but that have never been reprinted in their pure form.

We decided to continue the project with the 34 stories that Dannay edited which have been reprinted in their pure text forms by either Vince Emery in Lost Stories or the Library of America in Crime Stories and Other Writings.

Sure, these stories are readily available today in their pure texts, but we thought it would be interesting to determine what edits Dannay made to them since, until the past dozen years or so, the Dannay versions were the only ones we had. And, what the hell, what else could we be doing with our time?

The first of these stories is “The Barber and His Wife.” While not his first published story, it is, according to Vince Emery’s introduction in Lost Stories, the first story Hammett ever wrote. After initially being rejected by other magazines, it was published in the December 1922 issue of Brief Stories, two months after Hammett first saw print with the “Parthian Shot” in Smart Set.

Dannay reprinted it in the April 1958 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and collected it in A Man Named Thin (1962). It is a little curious as to why Dannay selected this story to reprint. There is nothing criminous about it; rather it is a slice of domestic life, albeit with Hammett’s distinct perspective. Dannay’s edits this time are fairly inconsequential.

Brief Stories started life as Little Story Magazine in July 1919, changed its name in July 1921 to Brief Stories (and for three years as Brief Stories Magazine before returning to Brief Stories), and ran for 124 issues, ceasing publication with the issue of May 1930 (this information obtained from the Galactic Central website). Hammett placed four stories with the magazine between 1922 and 1924; all but one of them appeared under his pseudonym Peter Collinson.


As has become the usual pattern, I’ve noted below the page from Dannay’s volume — in this case A Man Named Thin — the line number, whether it is from the top or bottom of the page, and the affected text, with Hammett’s original underlined.


Page    Line     Top/Bottom    Text


54        3          top                   comedy—; [Dannay used an em-dash where Hammett used a semicolon] a comedy that varied

54        3          top                   deleted line at the end of the paragraph: This morning was about the mean.

55        1          top                   it was a tune reminiscent of the First World War war

55        4          top                   Katy, What Are You Going to Do to Help the Boys [in Brief Stories (according to Lost Stories), the song titles are set off in quotes, indicating two separate songs, which were removed by Dannay.  Without them the reader may be misled into thinking “Katy” is the subject of the question of the second song title].

56        7          top                   And so this morning honors were about even . . .  [Dannay added an ellipsis where Hammett simply has a period followed by a section break which was deleted by Dannay.]

56        11        top                   the taboos of his kind ilk.

57        5          top                   whenever the opportunity arose . . . [Again, Dannay added an ellipsis and deleted the section break.]

58        1          top                   “Another big deal shipment of bootleg?” Fielding asked

58        11        bottom            Our Mr. Rose . . . thirteenth instant . . . if consistent with your policy . . . would say . . in view of the shortage of materials.

58        9-10     bottom            he sent the stenographer out on an errand,

60        1          top                   things at Louis’ entrance.

60        17        top                   rose high and shrill, with a hysterical note.

61        17        bottom            “Oh! I say!” he ventured.

“Will you get up?” Louis was unbuttoning his coat.

62        9          top                   [There should be a section break after: Becker nodded dumbly.]


Next up in this new series: “The Sardonic Star of Tom Doody.”

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