Dashiell Hammett Additional Biography


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Samuel Dashiell Hammett was born in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, on May 27, 1894, into an old but modest Roman Catholic family. Leaving high school at the age of fourteen after less than a year of attendance, Hammett worked indifferently at a variety of odd jobs before signing on with the Pinkerton Detective Agency around the age of twenty. At last, it seemed he had found work that he enjoyed and could do well, with a dedication later reflected in the character and behavior of the Continental Op. With time out for service in World War I, from which he was demobilized as a sergeant, Hammett continued to serve Pinkerton with distinction until failing health caused him to consider other options.

In 1921, Hammett married Josephine Dolan, a nurse whom he had met during one of his recurring bouts with tuberculosis. The couple moved west to San Francisco, where Hammett returned to work for Pinkerton, only to resign in frustration and disgust after an ironic incident in which his detective talents proved too great for his own good: Assigned by Pinkerton to ship out on an Australian freighter in search of stolen gold believed to be hidden aboard, Hammett managed to find the missing gold in a smokestack during a cursory search just prior to departure and was thus denied the anticipated voyage to Australia.

During such spare time as he could find, Hammett had been trying to prepare himself as a writer; upon leaving Pinkerton, he devoted himself increasingly to writing, eventually leaving his family (which by then included two daughters) and moving to a cheap furnished room where he could live and write. Fearing that he had little time left to live, he wrote at a determined pace; encouraged by his first successes, he gradually developed and refined the writing style that was to make him famous. His first story featuring the Continental Op appeared in October, 1923. Increasingly successful, Hammett soon progressed to the writing of longer stories that were in fact independent...

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(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Dashiell Hammett was born Samuel Dashiell Hammett on May 27, 1894, in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, to Richard Hammett and Annie Bond Hammett. The family moved first to Philadelphia and then to Baltimore, where Hammett attended public school and, in 1908, one semester at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. He left school at the age of thirteen and held several different jobs for short periods of time until 1915, when he became an operative for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, the turning point of his life and the event that provided him with the background for his realistic detective fiction. Hammett left the agency to join the army in 1918, reaching the rank of sergeant by the time of his discharge in 1919. He then returned to detective work, but hospitalization for pulmonary tuberculosis in 1920 interrupted his work and eventually ended it in 1921, shortly after his marriage to Josephine Dolan, a nurse he had met at the hospital. They were to have two daughters, Mary, born in 1921, and Josephine, born in 1926.

Hammett began publishing short stories in The Smart Set in 1922 and published the first Continental Op story, “Arson Plus,” in 1923 in Black Mask, the pulp magazine that would publish his first four novels in serial form. The appearance of the first two novels in book form in 1929 made him a successful writer, and the next two, following quickly on that success, made him internationally famous. During this time Hammett had moved away from his...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Samuel Dashiell Hammett has been credited with inventing the hard-boiled detective story. He has also been noted for his refusal to “name names” before a federal judge in 1951, during the height of McCarthyism. Born in Maryland, Hammett in 1900 moved with his family to Philadelphia and then one year later to Baltimore. It was there that Hammett was reared and received what formal education he was able to obtain. In 1908, he withdrew from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute to help his father in a small business venture. Hammett soon left his father’s full-time employ, however, and from 1909 to 1915 he worked at a variety of jobs for firms such as the B & O Railroad and the Davies Brokerage House.

In 1915,...

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(Novels for Students)

Born in 1894 in Saint Mary’s County, Maryland, Samuel Dashiell Hammett grew up in Philadelphia and then Baltimore. He attended the...

(The entire section is 380 words.)