When I began fielding Michael Stoler’s query about the use of the expression “the First World War” in Hammett’s “This King Business” from 1928 last month, I had the impression that I had encountered the use of “First” — not just the war, not just The Great War — in my reading somewhere along the way, long before World War Two began to lurk on the horizon.
Though it nagged at me a bit, I didn’t have time to rummage around looking for sources — PulpFest was coming up, requiring some brush-up on Cthulhu Mythos and Weird Tales info for the panels I was penciled in on. Then the sudden request for something for the symposium on Robert E. Howard for Black Gate. Once I signed on to that, I figured getting “Pigeons from Hell from Lovecraft” online before PulpFest would be the way to do it. What the hell, I’m easily distracted.
But our pal over in Scotland, Steven Meikle, just popped in confirmation that my nagging impression was right:
I read with interest on your site about Hammett using “The First World War” in “This King Business” and someone pointing it out as if it was an anachronism. While it may have been an editorial change, the term was in fact used as early as 1920.
Steven sends along a link to a book from 1920, The First World War: 1914-1918 — and a link to more info on the author, Repington.
So, if Hammett had used the term First World War in a 1928 Op yarn, it would have been okay. Thought you’d want to know. . . .