Hammett: “The New Racket”

Terry Zobeck kicks off another month for us here at Up and Down These Mean Streets with an entry in his series of pure text corrections for Hammett’s short fiction — contrasting the blue pencil work editor Frederic Dannay was making on the original pulp magazine versions of the stories as he saw them reprinted in a set of ten paperbacks. For “The New Racket” Dannay barely made a dent, but you can check out more vigorous editing stacked against “The Man Who Killed Dan Odams” and “The Second Story Angel” and “Death and Company” and “This King Business.” Take it, Terry: 

There’s not much to correct this time around. “The New Racket” is quite short. Apparently Dannay didn’t feel the need to shorten it any further to fit his space requirements. The most important change he made was to the title. The story was originally published in the February 15, 1924 issue of Black Mask. When Dannay first reprinted it in the March 1944 issue of Ellery Queen, and immediately in the 1944 collection The Adventures of Sam Spade, he retitled the story “The Judge Laughed Last”.

“The New Racket” is one of Hammett’s humorous pieces. The best that can be said about it is its use of criminous slang: “beak” for judge; “sinkers” for doughnuts; “damper” for cash register; and “mouthpiece” for lawyer.

In the interest of accuracy and completeness, here are the few edits that return the story to its original text. The page numbering refers to the story as it appears in The Adventures of Sam Spade.

Page       Line        top/bottom      Text

108         6             top

                   Should be a new paragraph: That turned the trick.

108         3             bottom

            Should be a new paragraph: “We make a drug-store.

110         17           top

                   “You’ll see before I’m through. . .

110         18           top

                  Should be a new paragraph: They put their witnesses back on the stand again, then.

110         12           bottom            sixty 60

Next up, the relatively obscure Continental Op story “One Hour”.

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