The Thin Man
A reader from Great Falls, MT , July 6, 1999
Hammett's last - a good read
I believe it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who once said, "Hammett is one
of those good writers ruined by Hollywood." This book shows Fitzgerald's
quote in action.
Don't misunderstand me, 'The Thin Man' is an excellent story. It's
amuzing, tense, and contains possibly Hammett's most memorable characters,
but it's also a complete departure from his previous novels. In a way,
'The Thin Man' is a farewell. Here we have a once hard-boiled detective,
Nick Charles, who has settled down with his wise-cracking wife, Nora, and
doesn't want anything to do with his previous work. Instead, Nick drinks,
and drinks, and drinks, and goes to parties, and hosts parties, and the
like. Whenever anyone questions Nick over the case that he's rumored to
be working, Nick simply claims that he doesn't want anything to do with
being a detective and leaves it at that.
This being Hammett's final novel, I believe that it an all too valid
assumption that Hammett was using the character of Nick to symbolize himself
and his own mentality. To connect this with Fitzgerald's comment, following
the publication of 'The Thin Man', some movie studio handed Hammett a check
for something like $40,000 for use of the characters, cementing his literary
decrepitude, and he never worked again.
But it is a good read, very good, and while I would have liked to have
given it the full five stars, i've chosen to remain with four, as 'The
Thin Man' just doesn't compare with many of Hammett's other classics.
firstname.lastname@example.org from Seattle area , December 23, 1998
I love Hammett's fat detective from Red Harvest, etc. but I think this
is a wonderful story. The characterizations are razor sharp, the pacing
incredible, and there are no false notes, for me at least, through many
readings. In a fairly short novel with dozens of characters and settings
this is remarkable. The Maltese Falcon is at the top of the genre, but
I would put this one just behind. Great fun!