Hammett’s fifth and final novel, The Thin Man, is a return to first-person narration, as Nick Charles narrates the story of a case he unwillingly takes on while vacationing. Charles retired from the Trans-American Detective Agency six years before the action of the book begins in order to manage the businesses that his young wife, Nora, inherited from her father. The couple is spending the Christmas holidays in New York City, primarily to avoid spending them with Nora’s family on the West Coast. While Charles is, in many respects, another example of the hard-boiled detective, the novel is unique in its light comic tone, which fitted it for popular adaptations in a series of “Thin Man” films. In the book, the thin man of the title is actually the missing inventor Clyde Wynant, not the detective. The description that Charles gives of Wynant (“Tall—over six feet—and one of the thinnest men I’ve ever seen. He must be about fifty now, and his hair was almost white when I knew him.”) fits Hammett himself, except for his age, and he posed for the picture on the jacket of the first edition of the book, perhaps furthering the popular misconception that the title refers to the detective.
In other respects, the author and his protagonist are quite similar, sharing the same age and the same background as detectives. Their personal lives are also similar: The centerpiece of the book is the relationship between the worldly and jaded Charles...
(The entire section is 503 words.)