Hammett: The Dannay Edits


Terry Zobeck returns for another Guest Blog post, an overview of Things to Come. Inspired by his research into restoring the pure text on “This King Business,” Terry has decided to dig into his collection and show us what Hammett wrote before Fred Dannay put the blue pencil to it. Here’s Terry: 

All fans of Dashiell Hammett’s stories owe Frederic Dannay — one half of the Ellery Queen team — a great debt of gratitude. Starting in 1943 and continuing over the next two decades, Dannay, with Hammett’s permission, collected the majority of his short stories in a series of 10 digest-sized paperback volumes.

It is unfortunate, however, that he chose to edit many of the stories in often inexplicable and seemingly capricious ways. Until recently, these were the only versions of the stories that most of us could readily access, because Dannay’s editions — while long out of print, if available on the collectors market — formed the basis of the texts used for The Big Knockover (1966), The Continental Op (1974), and Nightmare Town (1999) — all of which are still in print. Only the two most recent collections of Hammett’s short fiction — Crime Stories & Other Writings (2001) and Lost Stories (2005) — based their texts on the rare original pulp and slick magazine appearances.

For the record, Hammett published 65 stories in his lifetime; one of these, “The Man Who Loved Ugly Women” has not been located. A 66th, “A Man Named Thin,” was published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (EQMM) a little more than a month after Hammett’s death in 1961. Dannay ultimately collected 54 of these 66 stories in his 10 volumes.

Two additional stories have been published more recently: “Faith” in Otto Penzler’s Pulp Fiction: The Villains (2008) and “So I Shot Him” in the Strand Magazine (2011—volume XXXIII). 

In an earlier post I documented the edits Dannay made to the Op story, “This King Business,” when he reprinted it. In discussing this story via emails with Don, I noted that I’ve always thought Dannay edited Hammett’s stories for the digest volumes. Don suggested instead that if he edited them largely for reasons of space, then he probably edited them as he reprinted them first in the pages of EQMM. With the aid of the FictionMags Index, I checked the contents of all of the issues of EQMM from the 1940s through the early 1960s. It turned out we were both right. Of the 54 stories Dannay collected, 34 were used first in EQMM before Dannay collected them in one of the digest volumes.

The two most recent story collections reprint a total of 42 stories from their original texts.  Of the remaining 23 stories, 21 were reprinted by Dannay; currently, we don’t know the extent to which they were edited. I have a dozen of these stories in their original magazine appearances. (Two of Hammett’s stories — “The Diamond Wager” and “On the Way” — have never been reprinted.)

Over the next few months, Don has offered to post my assessments of the extent of the changes made to the texts by Dannay for:

  • The Second Story Angel
  • The Man Who Killed Dan Odams
  • The New Racket (reprint title: The Judge Laughed Last)
  • One Hour
  • Ruffian’s Wife
  • Death and Company
  • A Man Called Spade
  • Too Many Have Lived
  • They Can Only Hang You Once
  • Albert Pastor at Home
  • His Brother’s Keeper

 The remaining stories for which I don’t have copies of the original appearances are:

  • The Vicious Circle (reprint title: The Man Who Stood in the Way)
  • It (reprint title: The Black Hat that Wasn’t There)
  • Bodies Piled Up (reprint title: House Dick)
  • Night Shots
  • Afraid of a Gun
  • Who Killed Bob Teal?
  • Mike, Alec or Rufus (reprint title: Tom, Dick or Harry)
  • Corkscrew
  • The Nails in Mr. Cayterer

If someone has any of these stories, please consider reviewing them for those of us who want pure texts.

Next up from me: “Death and Company.”

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