Yep, I'm still on a Hammett binge, and still have several more books to yap about.
This one appeared in both digest and paperback in 1950.
The title story, which appeared in the March 1926 Black Mask without the "The" in front of it, is one of three tales featuring our short stocky hero, the Continental Op. In context of the story, the title makes more sense without the "The." As is, you might think someone is about to fall victim to a sneaky kitty-cat. Actually, the Siamese of the title are believed to be merciless knife-artists from Siam.
"The Man Who Killed Dan Odams," from Black Mask of January 15, 1924, is a shortie, and just about the closest Hammett ever came to writing a western. There's a jail and a marshal and a ranch of sorts, and our protagonist rides a horse. The only thing that prevents it being a western is a couple of mentions of automobiles.
"The Nails in Mr. Cayterer" (from Black Mask January 1926) is another "lost" story that's been out of print since this appearance in 1950. Too bad, because it's a good story. This one introduces Robin Thin, the poet son (and sort-of partner) of a private investigator. Why is it out of print? Beats me. A second Robin Thin story, unpublished during Hammett's lifetime, debuted in EQMM in 1961, and now resides in the 1999 collection Nightmare Town.
"The Joke on Eloise Morey," from Brief Stories of June 1923, is the briefest story in the book, and relies on a single twist. It's a nice twist, though, and a nice little joke on Eloise.
The longest story in the book, and arguably the best, is "The King Business," an Op adventure that did not appear in Black Mask. Instead, it first appeared in Mystery Stories in January 1928, at the same time the Red Harvest novelettes were running in Mask. I have no inside dope on this, but wouldn't be surprised if Joe Shaw rejected it, feeling it delved too deep into European politics and strayed too far from the mean streets his readers were used to. Still, it's a fine story, with the Op up to his neck in revolutionaries, counterrevolutionaries and opportunists, with an idealist or two thrown in for flavor. The fictional kingdom of Muravia is a brutal place, and the Op gets a front row seat at a long and brutal whipping. EQMM commemorated the scene on their cover when they reprinted the story in 1949.
More amazing Forgotten Books at Sweet Freedom. More Hammett, most likely, coming next week.