Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


City. Unlike Hammett’s story The Maltese Falcon (1930), which carefully delineates the streets and buildings of San Francisco, The Glass Key’s primary locale is an unspecified eastern city of apparently modest size. The generic city locale allows Hammett to generalize about American society and the effect of political corruption and crime on the social structure of U.S. urban environments. Hammett was critical of the form of capitalism that he saw operating in the United States and used his criticism in his fiction to fashion a world of injustice and exploitation. The use of a mythical, unnamed city also provided him with a location lacking in familiar touchstones which might prove distracting to his readers and deflected the social and ethical impact of the narrative.

Log Cabin Club

Log Cabin Club. Gambling club on China Street that is the scene for several key episodes. The image of gambling is important in the novel’s narrative and reinforces Hammett’s generally existential view of a world ruled by chance and of the loss of a uniform set of values.

*New York City

*New York City. An interlude set in New York City provides a concrete locale that neatly replicates the nasty world left unspecified by the anonymous one. The presence of New York suggests that in both the fictional world of the novel and the real world corruption and violence are in control.

Beaumont apartment

Beaumont apartment. Residence of the amateur detective Ned Beaumont in the unnamed city. Hammett does not give this place an address or offer much in the way of description. The apartment functions as a...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Bruccoli, Matthew J., and Richard Layman. Hardboiled Mystery Writers: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross MacDonald. New York: Carroll and Graf, 2002. A handy supplemental reference that includes interviews, letters, and previously published studies. Illustrated.

Dooley, Dennis. Dashiell Hammett. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1984. A basic survey of Hammett’s work and life specifically aimed at the general reader, as well as discussions of the five novels. Dooley considers The Glass Key less intense and suspenseful than the earlier novels.

Gregory, Sinda. Private Investigations: The Novels of Dashiell Hammett. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985. A full-length study of the five major novels. Chapter 5, “The Glass Key: A Psychological Detective Novel,” argues that the work is an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to move beyond the genre of the detective novel into the realm of the serious psychological novel.

Layman, Richard. Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981. An objective, readable, and carefully researched and documented biography. Provides valuable historical and biographical context for The Glass Key.

Marling, William. Dashiell Hammett. Boston: Twayne, 1983. A concise introductory survey specifically aimed at the general reader. The brief discussion of The Glass Key focuses on the relationship of the three main characters.

Metress, Christopher, ed. The Critical Response to Dashiell Hammett. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1994. Includes an introduction, which surveys the history of Hammett criticism, as well as excerpts from reviews, commentaries, and critical discussions of his novels. The section on The Glass Key includes a revised version of a complete essay on the novel by Jon Thompson.