cover image DASHIELL HAMMETT: A Daughter Remembers

DASHIELL HAMMETT: A Daughter Remembers

Jo Hammett, , edited by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett. . Carroll & Graf, $30 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-0892-5

This short but compelling memoir is a must-read for anyone interested in the author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. Abetted by the most generous selection of photos ever to see print, it joins Lillian Hellman's writings on her years living with Hammett as one of the two comprehensive looks into his life from a personal viewpoint. Both portray an almost fiercely private individual—"In our family much unsaid was nonetheless understood"—but the paternal influence seems to have been passed on, with Jo Hammett commenting on her mother: "I realize that I didn't know her any more than my children know me." Insights and personal observations nonetheless build to a convincing portrait, with numerous humorous asides (comparing Hellman to good and bad cholesterol being quite the coup). The memoir encompasses several decades, with pictures bringing those eras to life, along with telling details in the text—the fact, for example, that only two families on their block during the Depression owned a car. The cover price for this book is more than justified by the photographs, drawn from family archives, with a great many of these predating the previous "earliest known photo." Of particular interest to fans of Hammett's crime writing are several shots covering his years working as a Pinkerton operative and the time in San Francisco when he was writing the stories and novels that made his name. This is a perfect book for the Hammett enthusiast. (Nov.)