I’ve long been a big fan of Dashiell Hammett‘s stories and novels (my favorite is his first book, Red Harvest), and like most folks, I also greatly admire the films adapted from his work: from tight adaptations like John Huston’s version of The Malteste Falcon to looser ones, including the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing. And then there’s that delightful series of Thin Man films that rose from Hammett’s final and most successful novel.
Fellow fans of those films will appreciate Return of the Thin Man, a new collection of screen stories Hammett wrote after the first Thin Man achieved such overwhelming success. But in some cases, those same fans might find themselves wanting to just turn back to the films themselves—necessarily so in some cases, as in Another Thin Man, when Hammett has Nick Charles explain “the electric-cord-gun-paper-water trick as it was used by the murderer” but doesn’t actually explain it himself! (Cue the DVD to see how it works….)
The central problem then, with these stories, is that they’re not finished products in their own right but just steps along the way to the final creation of the films themselves. But there’s still much to admire here, too. For a rundown of strengths and weaknesses of the new collection, check out my review in the Washington Post here. And for some additional perspectives, here’s NPR’s coverage of the new collection as well, including an interview with one of the book’s co-editors and a noted Hammett biographer, Richard Layman. — Art Taylor