Dashiell Hammett: Man of Mystery is the first new biography in thirty years on the man who changed the face of crime fiction. In five novels published over five years as well as a string of stories, he transformed the mystery genre into literature and invented the modern crime novel. He created the figure of the hard-boiled detective, from the Continental Op to Sam Spade immortalized on film by Humphrey Bogart inThe Maltese Falcon and the more glamorous Thin Man, also made iconic with the aid of Hollywood.
A brilliant writer, Hammett was a complex and enigmatic man. He identified with his tough protagonists, but tuberculosis compromised his masculine identity and alcoholism may have been his answer. A former Pinkerton detective who valued honesty, he was attracted to women who lied outrageously, most notably Lillian Hellman, with whom he conducted a thirty-year affair. A controversial political activist who stood up for civil liberty, he was also a very private man. In this compact biography, Sally Cline uses fresh research, including interviews with Hammett’s family and Hellman’s heir, to reexamine the life and works of the writer whom Raymond Chandler called the ace performer.”