Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Long-Lost Hammett Works Uncovered

Last Friday, the UK's Guardian had a story that warmed my cockles:
A cache of unpublished works by famed writer Dashiell Hammett, often seen as the father of hardboiled detective fiction, has been found and is set to be unveiled in America.
Andrew Gulli, editor of the crime magazine The Strand, was doing research in the archives of the Harry Ransom Centre at the University of Texas in Austin. He found fifteen unpublished short stories of Hammett's.

Hammett was the author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man series. He had worked for The Pinkerton Detective Agency for seven years while in his 20's and drew on that experience when writing his crime fiction.

Gulli's magazine has been successful in publishing other unpublished works by well-known writers. In 2008, French scholar Francois Gallix found an unpublished 23,000-word novella which Graham Greene had written at age 22. "The Empty Chair" was unfinished, and The Strand serialized the existing five chapters. Ironically, Gallix found the manuscript in the Harry Ransom Center at the UTA Austin, the same place Gulli found the Hammett work.

In 2009, Gulli learned of HarperStudio's plan to publish Mark Twain's stories in time for the hundredth anniversary of Twain's death, which occurred in 1910. Gulli convinced HarperStudio to let him publish "The Undertaker's Tale," a previously unpublished story found in the Twain archives at the University of California.

Later in 2009, an Agatha Christie fan searching the archives of her holiday home in Devon found two unpublished short stories among her notebooks. The Strand announced it would publish the 5,000-word "Incident of the Dog's Ball."

All his success in publishing previously lost works must have encouraged Gulli to do some of his own research into the Dashiell Hammett archives.

I liked this quote from the Guardian about Hammett's writing:
Hammett, along with other writers of the 1920s, 30s and 40s such as Raymond Chandler, defined a new fictional world with their gritty portrayals of urban America. They eschewed straightforward heroes and villains for chancers and grifters who worked both sides of the law. These low-life characters and anti-heroes were a ground-breaking development for most mass fiction and still influence crime novels today.

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