Back Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammet, date unknown. (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Major works:
Red HarvestThe Maltese FalconThe Thin Man

“During the twenties and thirties I lived in various cities large and small, and saw a good deal of gambling and corruption. But I didn’t get a picture of the way cities were run until I found the novels of Dashiell Hammett. They did a great deal to turn me in the direction of the hard-boiled mystery novel. The term hard-boiled is not necessarily connected with violence, it has more to do with a realistic attitude toward life as reflected in the language.”
—Ross Macdonald

Excerpt from

The Maltese Falcon

Dashiell Hammett

“We begin well, sir,” the fat man purred, turning with a proffered glass in his hand. “I distrust a man that says when. If he’s got to be careful not to drink too much it’s because he’s not to be trusted when he does.”
Spade took the glass and, smiling, made the beginning of a bow over it.
The fat man raised his glass and held it against a window’s light. He nodded approvingly at the bubbles running up in it. He said: “Well, sir, here’s to plain speaking and clear understanding.”
They drank and lowered their glasses.
The fat man looked shrewdly at Spade and asked: “You’re a close-mouthed man?”
Spade shook his head. “I like to talk.”
“Better and better!” the fat man exclaimed. “I distrust a close-mouthed man. He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says the wrong things. Talking’s something you can’t do judiciously unless you keep in practice.”

Read a passage from The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Library of America

A champion of America’s great writers and timeless works, Library of America guides readers in finding and exploring the exceptional writing that reflects the nation’s history and culture.

Learn More

From poetry, novels, and memoirs to journalism, crime writing, and science fiction, the more than 300 volumes published by Library of America are widely recognized as America’s literary canon.

Browse our books Subscribe

With contributions from donors, Library of America preserves and celebrates a vital part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Support our mission