February 13, 2004

Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett
Edited by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett

Father Knows Best -- "I could never have gotten away with publishing Papa's letters while he was alive. He would have hated it," Josephine Hammett Marshall writes here in the foreword. A mind-numbing 623 pages later there is only one thing to say: Indeed. This one-sided collection of correspondence captures the uninteresting detail of a long-ago day-to-day, but, in the end, commits the artistic foul of showcasing an American master's pedestrian prose. If there is one thing Hammett's best writing teaches, it's that all good writing is editing.


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