Hammett: The Original “Death”

As announced, Terry Zobeck is on board to let Hammett fans know exactly which words and sentences Frederic Dannay cut from the original magazine texts as he collected Hammett’s short stories into digest-sized paperbacks — in effect, Terry is reconstructing the closest thing we have for a “pure text” on stories many readers thought they knew well, and encouraging the next publisher who releases a Hammett collection to do it right. Here’s Terry:

“Death and Company” was the last Continental Op story to see print and was Hammett’s final appearance in Black Mask (November 1930). Collected in The Return of the Continental Op in 1945, it has not been reprinted since — making it one of only two Op stories not readily available to readers today (the other is “It”).  Perhaps that makes it all the more unfortunate that Dannay edited the story heavily.

While not among the best of the Op stories, “Death and Company” is far from the worst — and Dannay’s edits don’t help it any. In fact he cut some nice dialogue and description, particularly at the end of the story. I’ve detailed the edits, restoring Hammett’s original text, following the same format for presenting the restored text as with my earlier piece on “This King Business” — page number, line number, whether it is from the top or bottom of the page, and the affected text. In this case, the page number refers to the page in The Return of the Continental Op


Page no.    Line #     Top/bottom     Text

79              1             top

                   Dannay inserted “meaning the head of the Continental Detective Agency,” after “The Old Man”.

79              3             top

                   Following line 3 should be: I sat down.

79              4             top

                   Chappell was a man of forty-five

79              5             top

                   I noticed hHis eyes

79              6             top

                   and their lower lids

79              13           top

                   and that is to go to the lot of George on Turk and Larkin St. [in the original the letters from Death & Company are in all capitals].

79              3             bottom

            I telephoned all of them — everybody I could think of —and none of them had seen her.

80              1             top

                   Before the first line the following text was deleted: 

                  “Any enemies? Anybody with a grudge against you, or against her? Think, even if it’s an old grudge or seems pretty slight. There’s something like that behind most kidnappings”

                  “I know of none,” he said wearily.

80              4             top

                   “I’ve an manufacturers advertising agency.”

80              6             top

                   “No, the only one I’ve ever discharged was John Hacker and he has a better

80              8             top

                   Before this line the following text was deleted: 

                  I looked at the Old Man. He was listening attentively, but in his usual aloof manner, as if he had no personal interest in the job.

80              9             top

                   but they’re necessary.  Right?

80              10           top

                  He winced and took a deep breath as if he knew what was coming, but nodded and said: Right.

                  Has Mrs. Chappell ever stayed away over night before?

                  No, not without my knowing where she was. His lips jerked a little. I think I know what you are going to ask. Id like — Id rather not hear. I mean I know its necessary, but, if I can, I think Id rather try to tell you without your asking.

                  Id like that better to, I agreed. I hope you dont think Im getting any fun out of this.

                 I know, he said. He took a deep breath and spoke rapidly, hurrying to get it over:

80              16           top

                  I replied, and then complained: Its a damned shame thats the only way to handle a kidnapping. These Death and Co. birds are pretty dumb, picking that spot for the pay-off. It would be duck soup to nab them there. I stopped complaining and

80              9             bottom

                 off till then.” I asked the Old Man: “Don’t you think so?”

80              8             bottom

                 The Old Man He nodded and reached for his telephone. I think so. Ill have Lieutenant Fielding and perhaps someone from the District Attorneys office come up here and well lay the whole thing before them.

80              7             bottom

                 Fielding and an aAssistant District crown aAttorney

80              6             bottom

                 making the George Turk-and-Larkin-Street-brick-pile

80              5             bottom

                 for half the San Francisco police force

80              4             bottom

                 We waved dug up the history of kidnapping from the days of Charlie Ross to the present Parker and waved it in their faces and showed

81              1             top

                   At 11:30 half past eleven oclock that night [This should be the start of a new paragraph]

81              2             top

                   $5,000 five thousand dollars wrapped

81              2             top

                   At 12:20 twenty minutes past twelve he returned.

81              4             top

                   he said with difficulty. I didnt see anybody.

81              6             top

                   I dozed on in a sofa.

81              after 9    top

                   She did not come home [This is a separate paragraph]

81              14           top

                   “You had the place watched?” he cried.

81              15           bottom

                 Inside was another of the crudely printed letters.

81              4             bottom

                 Before: I asked Campbell, should be: I looked at the postmark on the envelope. It was earlier that morning.

81              1             bottom

                 At 11:30 half past eleven oclock that night Chappell left his house with another $5,000 five thousand dollars.

82              2             top

                   like the previous one except that he had less hopes of seeing Mrs. Chappell in the morning.

82              3             top

                   expected another letter in the morning asking for still another $5,000 five thousand dollars.

82              8             top

                   895 Park Post St.

82              11           top

                   jumped for the telephone on a nearby table.

82              15           top

                   “Stow Hell with that,”

82              16           top

                   The Park Post Street address

82              17           top

                   It took a couple of more minutes more to find

82              18           top

                   apartment house and to take the her keys away from him herThen we went up and entered apartment 313.

82              16           bottom

                  on the living room floor in 313.

82              15           bottom

                 Before: She had been dead, should be: There was no question of her being dead

82              5             bottom

                 He She described him:

82              4             bottom

                 160 a hundred and sixty pounds

82              3             bottom

                 He She said Rockfield he

83              3             top

                   Before: The police department experts, should be: We found a plentiful supply of clothing in the apartment, some of which the manager positively identified as Rockfields.

83              10           top

                   Before: A detective came in, should be: But why? Chappell demanded dumbfoundedly.

                    Playing safe. You wouldnt know till after youd come across. She wasnt feeble. It would be hard to keep her quiet in a place like this.

83              15           top

                   After: without being seen by them, should be: Callahans answer to that was a bellowed The Hell they couldnt—they did!

83              13           bottom

                After: “wait for me.” Should be a new paragraph:

                I told Callahan and the others what Chappell had told me.

                Callahan growled. —-,he said, I guess were up against another of those — damned nuts!

83              11           bottom

                 he tried to explain. “I’m I am

83              10           bottom

                  I’m not that afraidbut-but with Louise

83              6             bottom

                  The paragraph starting on this line should be broken into two paragraphs; the first sentence is a separate paragraph in the original.

84              3             top

                   find him, because you know how tough that —- is.

84              4             top

                   “I know,” he I said.

84              8             top

                   cursing Moley, in a choked husky voice.

84              9             top

                   After: I said, should be: Stop that.  Thats no good.

84              12           top

                   After: had dropped from him, should be:  Get your hat,I said, and well go.


                   He ran upstairs for his hat and down with it.

84              13           top

                   He had asked

84              15           top

                   Before: “I can’t,” should be:

                   But in the car he went suddenly limp and slid down in his seat.

                   Whats the matter? I asked.

84              17           top

                   brought had a maid bring him water.

84              4             bottom

                   but I found the latch and worked it.

84              1             bottom

                  and fired once straight ahead at random.

85              7             top

                   Before: I picked up his gun, should be:

                   That damned fool maid got scared and locked this door, he complained, or Idve made it out back.

85              7             top

                   I went nearer and picked up his gun.

85              8             top

                   I hadn’t dropped the gun when the leg it upset me.

85              14           top

                   “That was — damned dumb of you.”

85              17           top

                   his to pinch him for killing his wife?”

85              16           bottom

                  I hope to —- they hang you for it.

85              9             bottom

                  I came pretty near giving the rat — — — —– what he deserved.”

86              1             top

                   or you wouldn’t have pulled this one. Anyhow we had enough to figure he was wrong, and if youd let him alone wed have pulled him, put it in the papers, and waited for you to come forth and give us what we needed to clear you and swing him.

86              8             top

                   I had to go downtown, but I wasn’t gone an hour.

86              8             top

                   cold when I came back.” He frowned. I dont think shedve answered the doorbell, though maybe—or maybe hed had a duplicate made of the key she had.


                  Some policemen came in: the frightened maid had had sense enough to use the telephone.

86              last line

                          Death and Company Co. business.

So, there you have it, the restored “Death and Company”.

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