Review: The Lost Detective

I’ve mentioned before that we seem to be in another Dashiell Hammett renaissance: new volumes gathering the Hammett’s own work (The Return the Thin Man and The Hunter and Other Stories), a new biography last year (Sally Cline’s Dashiell Hammett: Man of Mystery), and now another new study of the author’s early years: Nathan Ward’s The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett, which seems to me a must-have for anyone interested in the iconic and influential crime writer or his creations.

Here’s an excerpt from my review in the Washington Post:

“The Lost Detective” is less a formal biography of Hammett’s early years than a loose, entertaining exploration of the many intersections of fact and fiction in the creation of a persona and a literary legacy. Ward weighs the truth of various anecdotes in the writer’s life. Hammett spoke of driving an ambulance during World War I that flipped and threw out its patients, causing him never to drive any car again. But, as Ward writes, “no record can be found of [the] traumatic accident.” Later, Hammett claimed to have solved a case of missing gold aboard the steamship S.S. Sonoma, but as Ward tells us, “the gold was not even found by a Pinkerton.” In presenting these clarifications, Ward brings to the forefront research and documentation that might elsewhere be relegated to endnotes; sometimes he pits one authority against another in dialogue on the page…

Check out the full review here for more.

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