Monday, January 8, 2018

Did You Know Dashiell Hammett was Once a Copywriter?

Tuberculosis compelled Dashiell Hammett to quit his job as a Pinkerton detective in 1921.

Seeking less strenuous work, he enrolled in a journalism course at a business school in San Francisco, and began to write mystery stories for pulp magazines.

But by 1926 Hammett found mystery-writing couldn't earn him enough to live on, so he applied for a job as a copywriter with Samuels Jewelers. It paid a whopping $350 a month—nearly 10 times Hammett's earnings for pulp fiction.

He liked the new work; but he liked booze better. Before six months on the job Hammett was fired, after passing out in the office.

At the encouragement of a pulp magazine editor, Hammett began writing a "hard-boiled" mystery novel, Red Harvest. He mailed it—unsolicited—to the publisher Alfred A. Knopf in 1929.

Knopf realized it had received something unprecedented: a thriller that was "real art."

With weeks of the novel's appearance, reviewers were comparing Hammett to Hemingway. 

Hammett followed Red Harvest the same year with a second novel, The Dain Curse; and in 1930 published his most famous detective novel, The Maltese Falcon.

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