Friday, December 21, 2012

Forgotten Books: Nightmare Town by Dashiell Hammett (1948, 1950)


The four-story collection Nightmare Town first appeared in digest in 1948, with stories edited by Frederic Dannay, and was repackaged in this nice Dell Mapback in 1950. As a bonus, the Mapback included seven original illustrations, shown below. Bill Lyles, in a Paperback Quarterly article, attributed the art to Lester Elliott, and Bill should know.

If the novelette “Nightmare Town,” originally from Argosy All-Story Weekly in 1924, had been written by Lester Dent, Walter Gibson or Norvell Page, I’d probably think it was a crackerjack story. But at Hammett’s hands, the tale seems unworthy of its author.

Without giving too much away, I can say that the plot involves crime on a grand scale - a scale so grand that it requires heaping helpings of suspension of disbelief, and cries out for purple prose. And that’s the problem, because Hammett’s prose is anything but purple, and when he tells me something’s happening, I tend to believe him.

Not this time.

The good news, though, is that “Nightmare Town” was his first crack at tackling a large scale crime, and can be viewed as a test run for the more successful stories to follow. I’m talking here about “The Gutting of Couffignal,” in which an entire town is looted, “This King Business,” in which a corrupt European nation is up for grabs, “The Big Knockover,” where a hundred of the nation’s elite crooks converge on San Francisco to rob two banks at once, and Red Harvest, where the Continental Op blows the lid off a crime-infested city.

Our hero here is Steve Threefall, who blunders into the strange town of Izzard on a drunken bet, takes interest in a nubile young woman, and is soon up to his neck in strange characters and sudden violence. Luckily, he carries a weighted ebony walking stick and knows how to use it. The stick is described as having a roughness that polishing cannot disguise - which must have confused the Dell artist, because he seems to have turned it into a club.

Steve Threefall kicks butt with his "walking stick."

Unlike the Op, Steve allows himself to fall for the dame.

Hammett’s prose is a pleasure to read, as always, and there’s plenty of action in the finale, but something is just . . . off. I have no evidence that he tried and failed to sell this to Black Mask before submitting it to Argosy All-Story, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Next up is “The Scorched Face,” from Black Mask May 1925, in which the Continental Op is on the trail of two runaway rich girls. This one is a nice mix of realistic detective work with gratuitous sex and violence. Hammett was quickly learning his trade.

The artist didn't get the memo that the Op is supposed to be short and broad.

Still not broad, but maybe shorter.

“Albert Pastor at Home” is a short-short (little more than flash fiction) that first appeared in Esquire in 1933. It’s a great little tale, though, full of humor and tough talk. And it’s unusual for Hammett, because it’s told in first-person present tense.

Meet Albert Pastor (alias Lefty), a genial disbarred heavyweight
who beats people up for money (or for free).

This collection saved the best for last, as the Continental Op rides into the Wild West in “Corkscrew,” from Black Mask September 1925. Hammett had fun with this one and didn’t care who knew it. Corkscrew, like Izzard the Nightmare Town, and like the yet-to-come Poisonville of Red Harvest, is a corrupt town, and the Op decides to clean it up whether his clients like it or not. Hammett was following the example of many western films of the time (and later), in which six-gun toting, bronc-busting cowpokes co-exist with city-slickers driving automobiles. It's a hoot.

Never thought I'd see the Op in a cowboy hat.

This tussle began thusly:
The ex-pug looked me up and down and spit on the ground at my feet. 
"Ain't you a swell mornin' glory?" he snarled. I got a great mind to smack you down!"
"Go ahead," I invited him. "I don't mind skinning a knuckle on you."

These days, “Nightmare Town” is the lead story in the 1999 collection Nightmare Town. It also appears in Crime Stories and Other Writings (2001), along with “The Scorched Face.” For “Corkscrew,” you’ll have to look in The Big Knockover, which also includes the Dannay-edited version of “The Scorched Face.”


More Forgotten Books at pattinase!

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi! I've been following your site for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the good work!
Here is my blog satilik müstakil evler altinoluk

shonokin said...

Yep this always seemed to me like a basic prototype for Red Harvest and I can see what you mean about the others mentioned.

Lexman said...

Thanks, very interesting !!

Richard R. said...

Got the CRIME STORIES AND OTHER WRITINGS, so I can read the Op and other stories I was missing. That is as soon as I finish the book I'm on now, and the library book that just came in, and one other that's been waiting a while...

Anonymous said...

[p]The amount the actual sneaker extends after toting for a time depends on if you are purchasing gown ugg boots or perhaps fitness ugg boots . Released of which life's for a popular box [url=http://www.classicniceuggs.co.uk]classic uggs[/url] of delicious dark chocolate, you will never how are you affected will occur later in life . Bailey Button Triplet, the innovated boot style out of bolder ugg designers will be the best choice for this Christmas gift by its brandnew image and top [url=http://www.uggbootstort4u.co.uk]ugg boots sale[/url] craftmanship . I would wear UGGs, sweat pants including a North Face jacket . 12vaspe6gan . Confident you have the Burberry outlet to find the bag you prefer, around anything offer apparently . Need to really you hoped to deduce accepting saw and [url=http://www.uggbootsaledic.co.uk]ugg boot sale clearance[/url] scream very extraordinary best right here I am then red-colored could perhaps be supposed like a very extraordinary color sheltering for you, but want to really you want grownup males and females to consider you are pleasant and girly, then could perhaps be you really want to really pay for pink . The third is the particular height, while I just like the shorter boot for below jeans, it isn't something that may look [url=http://www.uggclassicsshort.co.uk]ugg classic short boots black
[/url] OK with whatever else, and certainly looks goofy of it's own . They accentuate femininity and make wearers step into high-end fashion kingdom.[/p][p]Shop online . Do you know how to wear your classic cardy knit boots rigthly?
Don't [url=http://www.uggoutletforuk.co.uk]ugg outlet online[/url] wear your own Ugg shoes while it is raining, or in marshy conditions . launch new with buttons:5991 Kids Classic UGG Boot Black change 5229,5281 [url=http://www.uggoutletforuk.co.uk]cheap uggs for sale[/url] old faces, the market reflects good . Shop UGG Boots Activities Additional Materials Needed For Everything UGG Boots is the most recommended and adorable sports brand which is globally established with their royal class quality products . The company offers great discounts on the prices, so that people can enjoy wearing cheap ugg boots at economical rates . An improved location fashion an improved equipment in regards to the suitable skills in regards to the in a major way desirable, being a superstar [url=http://www.uggaustranlia4u.co.uk]ugg australia[/url] nobility Cardy boot styles There after routine choice will need to have working day components . Even fashion conscious individuals [url=http://www.uggjimmychoo4u.co.uk]ugg jimmy choo[/url] are going that additional mile to get a pair of the Ugg bailey button boots . Minor dye exchange may occur with deep colored sheepskin.[/p]

Anonymous said...

IohAfq [url=http://onnrainnmcm.com/#17664]MCM リュック[/url] PbmErh http://onnrainnmcm.com/ ZjzHjb [url=http://mcmsenmon.com/#16809]MCM iphoneケース[/url] SvwVlc http://mcmsenmon.com/ RrdAgh [url=http://ninnkimcm.com/#10780]MCM 長財布[/url] PemOvq http://ninnkimcm.com/ FvxDyc [url=http://kaidokumcm.com/#51008]MCM 財布[/url] TtyZio http://kaidokumcm.com/ XshKuf [url=http://manzokumcm.com/#48628]MCM リュック[/url] CeoAoq http://manzokumcm.com/ FhpTrr http://chloenihon.com/ ZqgCed [url=http://chloenihon.com/]シーバイクロエ[/url] ItfY http://toumikousin.com/ TsxYD [url=http://toumikousin.com/]TUMI 26108[/url] NesOsL http://toumikakaku.com/ RtbNkMP [url=http://toumikakaku.com/]TUMI 26141 DH alpha[/url] KxoLhh [url=http://mcmhannbai.com/]MCM 財布[/url] DyiUcv [url=http://mcmhannbai.com/]MCM 韓国[/url]

Anonymous said...

QmlCvk [url=http://onnrainnmcm.com/#68031]MCM 通販[/url] MnuRmk http://onnrainnmcm.com/ QyaNgp [url=http://mcmsenmon.com/#99326]MCM 店舗[/url] KihVoi http://mcmsenmon.com/ EijNkr [url=http://ninnkimcm.com/#50901]MCM キーケース[/url] SewJyl http://ninnkimcm.com/ NtdLka [url=http://kaidokumcm.com/#11350]MCM リュック[/url] XqoMrd http://kaidokumcm.com/ VeqHbe [url=http://manzokumcm.com/#87580]MCM 韓国[/url] AedSbt http://manzokumcm.com/ LmxNoi http://chloenihon.com/ LipSjf [url=http://chloenihon.com/]クロエ アウトレット[/url] DrvD http://toumikousin.com/ OojEY [url=http://toumikousin.com/]TUMI ショルダー[/url] YliUeL http://toumikakaku.com/ GswAvQA [url=http://toumikakaku.com/]ビジネスバッグ TUMI[/url] KizTsy [url=http://mcmhannbai.com/]MCM 長財布[/url] EgxAat [url=http://mcmhannbai.com/]MCM 店舗[/url]

Anonymous said...

VrgZdd [url=http://onnrainnmcm.com/#12863]MCM 韓国[/url] MzlHen http://onnrainnmcm.com/ SstFlu [url=http://mcmsenmon.com/#07674]MCM 通販[/url] OntPtt http://mcmsenmon.com/ QgyMsf [url=http://ninnkimcm.com/#20944]MCM 店舗[/url] OgbMzo http://ninnkimcm.com/ AfyJzc [url=http://kaidokumcm.com/#33889]MCM 韓国[/url] DfrIvu http://kaidokumcm.com/ DdkUgf [url=http://manzokumcm.com/#86797]MCM 財布[/url] IeqAcb http://manzokumcm.com/ RdfKsd http://chloenihon.com/ XfdYgt [url=http://chloenihon.com/]クロエ バッグ[/url] ZutU http://toumikousin.com/ LdwUL [url=http://toumikousin.com/]TUMI 財布[/url] SxaFpN http://toumikakaku.com/ GjuCuTS [url=http://toumikakaku.com/]TUMI スーツケース[/url] QikCrm [url=http://mcmhannbai.com/]MCM 韓国[/url] GxcFrx [url=http://mcmhannbai.com/]mcm3806[/url]

Anonymous said...

Hi! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers?
My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up
losing a few months of hard work due to no data backup.
Do you have any solutions to stop hackers?

Review my blog Get More Info

Anonymous said...

Incredible! I'm truly enjoying the design of your web site. Are you using a customized template or is this freely available to all users? If you really don't want to say
the name of it out in the general public, please make sure to e-mail me at: sallystrunk@zoho.
com. I'd really enjoy to get my hands on this theme! Thank you.

Feel free to visit my webpage - http://parkmodelowners.ning.com/

Anonymous said...

Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your
blog? My blog site is in the very same area of interest as yours and my users
would definitely benefit from some of the information you present here.
Please let me know if this okay with you. Thanks!


Here is my web page; visit the website

Anonymous said...

Hey. I was thinking of adding a website link back to your
website since both of our sites are centered around the same
subject. Would you prefer I link to you using your website address: http://www.
blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=4705940625481143611&postID=4745820772401096440 or web site title: Blogger:
Davy Crockett's Almanack of Mystery, Adventure and The Wild West. Be sure to let me know at your earliest convenience. Thank you

Here is my web blog This Site

Anonymous said...

Hello there. I'm wondering if you might be interested in doing a website link exchange? I notice your blog: http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=4705940625481143611&postID=4745820772401096440 and my blog are based around the same subject matter. I'd love to switch
links or perhaps guest author a write-up for you. Here is my personal contact: adrian.
whitehurst@gmail.com. You should contact me if you're even remotely interested. Thank you.

my blog post outsource link building - -

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure exactly why but this web site is loading incredibly slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a problem on my end? I'll check back
later and see if the problem still exists.

My web site Read More On this page

Anonymous said...

Hello! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace
group? There's a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Thank you

My web blog: just click the up coming page

Anonymous said...

Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche.

Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on.
You have done a extraordinary job!

Also visit my web-site Extra resources

Anonymous said...

Hey there, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility
issues. When I look at your blog site in Chrome, it looks fine but
when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other
then that, awesome blog!

my website ... More hints

Anonymous said...

I do not know if it's just me or if perhaps everyone else encountering issues with your website. It seems like some of the written text within your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please comment and let me know if this is happening to them too? This might be a issue with my web browser because I've had this happen previously.
Thank you

my blog; auto insurance companies in florida ()

Anonymous said...

I'm new to developing internet sites and I was wondering if having your blog title related to your content really that important? I see your title, "Blogger: Davy Crockett's Almanack of
Mystery, Adventure and The Wild West " does seem to be spot on with what your blog is about however, I prefer to keep my title less content descriptive and based more around site branding. Would you think this is a good idea or bad idea? Any kind of assistance would be greatly valued.

Also visit my web page - similar internet page ()

Anonymous said...

Hey there your website url: http://www.blogger.

com/comment.g?blogID=4705940625481143611&postID=4745820772401096440
appears to be redirecting to a completely different web-site when I click the homepage button.

You might want to have this looked at., see cheap link building
services :: :
:!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure exactly why but this site is loading very slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a issue on my end? I'll check back later and
see if the problem still exists.

my web site - seo service company

Anonymous said...

Hi! I could have sworn I've been to this site before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it's new to me.
Anyhow, I'm definitely delighted I found it and I'll be bookmarking
and checking back frequently!

Review my web-site linked web-site - -

Anonymous said...

Good day! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against hackers?
I'm kinda paranoid about losing everything I've
worked hard on. Any recommendations?

my page: effective link building service (teachingbetter.com)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Neat post. There's an issue along with your website in internet explorer, would test this?
IE still is the market chief and a good portion of other folks will leave out your magnificent writing due to this
problem.

Feel free to visit my website; grow taller 4 idiots