Love may be a many splendored thing, but it sure as heck ruined Dashiell Hammett. This story originally appeared in three installments in Liberty magazine in April, 1933. He had met Lillian Hellman two years earlier, with whom he was to share a rather troubled but now mythical romance (and an unrepentant and slavish enthusiasm for Joseph Stalin) for the rest of his life. The next year he published his final novel, The Thin Man, and then fell silent with a writer's block that ranks second only to that of Joseph Mitchell in legend.
Woman in the Dark is certainly not a novel; at best it's a novella and even then it feels more like the outline for a longer work. The woman of the title is Luise Fischer, the Swiss-born kept woman of a wealthy thug named Kane Robson. Having walked out on him one evening, she twists her ankle and stops for help at cottage occupied by Brazil, a phlegmatic ex-con, who once killed a man in a barroom brawl. When Robson shows up with a henchmen to demand that Luise come back to him, Brazil punches the other man who bangs his head, perhaps fatally, on the fireplace mantle. Now both Brazil and Luise have a reason to take it on the lam :
He emptied his glass and went to the front door,
where he made a pretense of looking out at the
As he turned from the door he caught her expression,
though she hastily put the frown off her face.
'I am sorry,' she said. 'Was it--very long ago?'
'Plenty long ago when I went in,' he said dryly,
'but only a few weeks ago that I got out. That's
'And?' she said softly.
'And what? Have I found out where I stand, what I
want to do? I don't know.' He was standing in
So much for the set up, in the two sections that follow, the police track them down and Brazil is shot, but the ending suggests that everything may work out for the two who have by now fallen in love.
It's tempting to read the story autobiographically. Two interesting and seemingly dynamic characters meet up and embark on an exciting though fairly implausible love affair, but then their story just kind of tails off into ambiguous and unconvincing anticlimax. Despite periodic flashes of Hammett's trademark hardboiled style, the book is generally disappointing. The conclusion of the story in particular is a far cry from the great final scene of The Maltese Falcon. Ultimately, the book is interesting chiefly as an indicator of where Hammett was headed just before he stopped writing, but if it's an accurate indication, we didn't miss much.
-ESSAY: Watching the Detective: The Falcon's cynical influence on a young reader (Peter Spiegelman, February 6, 2005, SF Gate)
-ESSAY: HOW DASHIELL HAMMETT'S CONTINTENTAL OP BECAME A DEPRESSION-ERA ICON: After an era of gentleman detectives, Hammett brought the world a detective grounded in (and ground down by) hard-edged reality (SUSANNA LEE, 8/04/20, Crime Reads)
-REVIEW ESSAY: Page to Screen: Hammett (1982) (BRIAN GREENE, September 2, 2020, Criminal Element)
Book-related and General Links:
-Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) (kirjasto)
-ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "dashiell hammett"
-GRAVE : Samuel Dashiell Hammett, Sergeant, United States Army (Arlington Cemetery)
-Dashiell Hammett (A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection Home Page)
-Authors and Creators : Dashiell Hammett Also wrote as Peter Collinson, Daghull Hammett, Samuel Dashiell, Mary Jane Hammett (1894-1961) (Thrilling Detective)
-(Samuel) Dashiell Hammett (Rara-Avis)
-Mystery Net : Mystery Greats : Dashiell Hammett
-American Masters - Dashiell Hammett. Detective. Writer (PBS)
-DASHIELL HAMMETT (Stop You're Killing Me)
-Dashiell Hammett (Noir)
-Dashiell Hammett : A Pioneer of Noir
-Dashiell Hammett (Spartacus)
-Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco
-The Continental Detective Agency : Dashiell Hammett: biography, books and more...
-Continental Op Page
-The Maltese Falcon FAQ
-Notes on Dashiell Hammett Fiction (Richard M Heli)
-ARTWORK: Dashiell Hammett in the Dell 'map-backs'
-LINKS : The Hammett-List WWW Page
-READING GROUP GUIDE : The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (Random House)
-ESSAY : Literary leftovers : Does even the most devoted fan really want to scrape the bottom of Dashiell Hammett's desk drawer? (David Bowman, Salon)
-ESSAY : Genesis: Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon Chapter Two of Feminine Transgression and the Hypermasculine Response in the American Hard-Boiled Novel (Don Haynes)
-ESSAY : Hammett Dash A walking 'Jeopardy' question conducts his essential literary walking tour (Dara Colwell, Metro Active Books)
-ESSAY : Before "The Thin Man" : However legendary their romance, Dashiell Hammett did his best work before he met Lillian Hellman (Dick Lochte, salon)
-ESSAY: CRIME IN EVERY HAMLET (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
-ARCHIVES : "dashiell hammett (NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW: of Woman in the Dark A Novel of Dangerous Romance By Dashiell Hammett (NEWGATE CALLENDAR, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of DASHIELL HAMMETT A Life. By Diane Johnson (George Stade, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of DASHIELL HAMMETT. A Life. By Diane Johnson (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
-REVIEW: of HAMMETT, A Life at the Edge. By William F. Nolan (Julian Symon, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of HELLMAN AND HAMMETT The Legendary Passion of Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett. By Joan Mellen (Terry Teachout, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of SHADOW MAN. The Life of Dashiell Hammett. By Richard Laman (John Leonard, NY Times)
-REVIEW: of Double Lives Spies and Writers in the Secret Soviet War of Ideas Against the West By Stephen Koch (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
Copyright 1998-2015 Orrin Judd