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Dashiell Hammett: A Gumshoe with Polish

Evening Program with Reception

Monday, May 14, 2018 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1H0334

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Myrna Loy, William Powell, and their dog Asta in “The Thin Man”, 1934

“Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse. . . He had style, but his audience didn’t know it, because it was in a language not supposed to be capable of such refinements.” -- Raymond Chandler on Dashiell Hammett

In a writing career that lasted only about a dozen years, Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) helped to pioneer a new form of American fiction, the “hard-boiled” detective story, with novels such as Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon, and The Thin Man, populated with such enduring characters as the Continental Op, Sam Spade, and Nick and Nora Charles.

Hammett’s life was every bit as colorful as his fiction. He chased crooks as a Pinkerton detective, hobnobbed with movie stars, and served in both world wars. He made a fortune and managed to fritter away every last nickel. To playwright Lillian Hellman, his companion for 30 years, he was “a man of simple honor and great bravery.”  To the Communist witch hunters of the early 1950s led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, he was a prime target and was jailed for refusing to name names. 

Grab your trench coat, dust off your fedora, and join us as we pay tribute to the original Thin Man. Author Daniel Stashower explores Hammett’s life and legacy while actor Scott Sedar offers dramatic readings of some of his most celebrated works. The presentation is followed by a reception including a toast to “the stuff that dreams are made of.” Somewhere, Bogie is smiling.

This program is part of American Authors: 50 States of MindAmerican literature is filled with unique voices. Discover them in occasional lectures exploring authors from coast to coast.

Location
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)