S I T E   M E N U :

 

A short biography of Dashiell Hammett, followed by Frequently Asked Questions

 

“The Complete Works of Dashiell Hammett”

 

A chronology of Hammett’s fiction

 

The Continental Op: Hammett’s first hard-boiled detective (1923)

 

The short story collections

 

Blood Money (1927)

 

Red Harvest (1929)

 

The Dain Curse (1929)

 

The Maltese Falcon (1930)

 

The Glass Key (1931)

 

The Thin Man (1934)

 

The novels in one volume

 

Woman in the Dark: Hammett’s lost novel?

 

The Maltese Falcon on film

 

Hammett’s army days

 

A photo tour of “Sam Spade’s apartment” (2003)

 

Dashiell Hammett Place: another former Hammett residence (2004)

 

The Flood Building: Hammett’s Pinkerton Detective office (2004)

 

The Maltese Falcon’s 75th anniversary (2005)

 

Interview with Hammett scholar Dr. George J. “Rhino” Thompson (2007)

 

The Dashiell Hammett Suite, Hotel Union Square (2008)

 

The Maltese Falcon prequel:

Spade & Archer (2009)

 

Books about Hammett

 

E-mail the Dashiell Hammett website

 

mikehumbert.com

homepage

 

Special thanks to:

Robert Mailer Anderson

Bill Arney

Vince Emery

Don Herron

Richard Layman

Jo Marshall

Eddie Muller

Julie Rivett

and so many others

for their many

contributions to this site.

 

Entire website ©2003-2024 by Mike Humbert

 

Thanks to Darius Katz for his valuable assistance on this page!

 

THE CONTINENTAL OP: HAMMETT’S FIRST HARD-BOILED DETECTIVE

Ever heard of a writer named Carroll John Daly, or a character named Terry Mack?  Most people haven't, but Daly's "Three Gun Terry" is generally recognized as the very first hard-boiled detective story.  Debuting in the pulp pages of Black Mask in May 1923, Terry Mack was more cartoon than believable character. Using any or all of his three pistols, Terry never hesitated to blow away anyone who crossed him.  Oddly enough, this psychotic behavior never seemed to have any legal consequences.

A few months later, in the October 1, 1923 issue, readers of Black Mask were introduced to a different kind of private detective: far from the ultramacho antics of Terry Mack, this detective was short, plump and middle aged, and was more interested in gathering clues than keeping the bullet manufacturers in business.  The story was called "Arson Plus," and was written by a fellow calling himself Peter Collinson. In reality "Collinson" was Dashiell Hammett, former operative of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.  The character was an instant hit, and soon Hammett began writing under his own name.  

The fat little detective's true name name was never revealed; sometimes referred to as "The Continental Detective," or "The Man from Continental," the moniker that finally stuck was "The Continental Op" (short for operative).

The Op had no personal stake in his cases; he investigated for one reason only:  he'd been hired to, and he wanted to give the clients their money's worth.  

Between 1923 and 1930 there were 36 Continental Op stories published, almost all in Black Mask. Four of these stories were combined and reworked to become Hammett's first hardback novel, Red Harvest. Four others were retooled to become The Dain Curse, Hammett's next novel.  Therefore, you could also make the case that there are 28 stories and two full-length novels.

 

LOCATING THE CONTINENTAL OP STORIES TODAY

As recently as 2017, collecting all the Op stories required tracking down no less than five different books, two of which have been out of print for decades. But times change, and today all of the stories can be found in a single volume: The Big Book of the Continental Op, edited by Richard Layman and Julie M Rivett. Just don’t drop it on your foot – it weighs close to two pounds!

A COMPLETE LIST OF THE OP STORIES

1.   “Arson Plus” (written as “Peter Collinson”)  Black Mask, October 1, 1923

2.   “Slippery Fingers” (written as “Peter Collinson”) Black Mask, October 15, 1923

3.   “Crooked Souls” Black Mask, October 15, 1923  (AKA “The Gatewood Caper)

4.   “It”   Black Mask, November 1, 1923 (AKA “The Black Hat That Wasn’t There”)

5.   “Bodies Piled Up”  Black Mask, December 1, 1923 (AKA “House Dick”)

6. “The Tenth Clew”  Black Mask, January 1, 1924 (AKA The Tenth Clue”)

7.   “Night Shots” Black Mask, February 1, 1924

8.   “Zigzags of Treachery”  Black Mask, March 1, 1924

9.   “One Hour” Black Mask, April 1, 1924

10.  “The House in Turk Street”  Black Mask, April 15, 1924

11.  “The Girl with Silver Eyes”  Black Mask, June 1924

12. “Women, Politics and Murder” Black Mask, September 1924 (AKA “Death on Pine Street”)

13. “The Golden Horseshoe”  Black Mask, November 1924

14. “Who Killed Bob Teal?”   True Detective Stories, November 1924

15. “Mike, Alec or Rufus?” Black Mask, January 1925 (AKA “Tom, Dick or Harry?”)

16. “The Whosis Kid” Black Mask, March 1925

17. “The Scorched Face”  Black Mask, May 1925

18. “Corkscrew” Black Mask, September 1925

19. “Dead Yellow Women”  Black Mask, November 1925

20. “The Gutting of Couffignal”  Black Mask, December 1925

21. “Creeping Siamese” Black Mask, March 1926

22. “The Big Knockover” Black Mask, February 1927

23. “$106,000 Blood Money”  Black Mask, May 1927

(Stories 22 & 23, when combined, form  Blood Money, which some consider to be Hammett's true first novel.  While two stories predate Red Harvest by two years, they did not appear as the novel Blood Money until 1943, nine years after Hammett's final novel. Since 1966 they have usually been presented as two related short stories, rather than as one novel.)  

24. “The Main Death”  Black Mask, June 1927

25.  “The Cleansing of Poisonville”  Black Mask, November 1927

26. “Crime Wanted - Male or Female”  Black Mask, December 1927

27. “This King Business” Mystery Stories, January 1928

28. “Dynamite”   Black Mask, January 1928

29. “The 19th Murder”  Black Mask, February 1928

(Stories 25, 26, 28 & 29 were reworked to become Hammett’s novel  Red Harvest.)

30. “Black Lives”   Black Mask, November 1928

31. “The Hollow Temple” Black Mask, December 1928

32. “Black Honeymoon” Black Mask, January 1929

33. “Black Riddle” Black Mask, February 1929

(Stories 30, 31, 32 & 33 were reworked to become Hammett’s novel  The Dain Curse.)

34. “Fly Paper” Black Mask, August 1929

35. “The Farewell Murder”  Black Mask, February 1930

36. “Death and Company”  Black Mask, November 1930