Hamett is the only begetter of the first-person, hard-boiled private eye novel. He was the first serious crime writer to allow the narrative into the mouth of his detective; he was the first to admit the vernacular language of the street to tell its own story. With his stories of The Continental Op and his five classic novels, Hammett redefined fine fiction then bowed out of the field after just 11 years. His detectives are tough not because they beat people up, but because they use their brains and their mouths to save themselves and others. They are driven not by material gain but by their sense of what is right. Unusually for writings of his period, Hammett writes with insight about women. His novels are masterpieces of spare, laconic writing that manage to be master classes in characterisation, particularly The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key.
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