"You speak only of money," she said. "I said you may have whatever you ask."I just finished THE BIG KNOCKOVER and now I can say I’ve read every published Hammett story, which leaves me rather sullen. I've stretched out finishing up his body of work as long as possible because it's disappointing to know that there'll be nothing new to read from this master.
That was out. I don't know where these women get their ideas.
"You're still all twisted up," I said brusquely, standing now and adjusting my borrowed crutch. "You think I'm a man and you're a woman. That's wrong. I'm a manhunter and you're something that has been running in front of me. There's nothing human about it. You might just as well expect a hound to play tiddly-winks with the fox he's caught."
--From "The Gutting of Couffignal" by Dashiell Hammett.
I’ve included KNOCKOVER here as a FFB only because it's a little off the beaten path from the more familiar THE THIN MAN and THE MALTESE FALCON. Most of the short stories in this collection feature The Continental Op, who, of course, is the prototype for countless tough-guy detectives that followed. The Op isn't as renowned as Hammett's other stellar creation, Sam Spade, and I'm not sure why. Maybe because the name doesn't roll off the tongue as easily as Spade or Chandler's Marlowe or MacDonald's McGee. Regardless, this private investigator for the San Francisco office of the Continental Detective Agency is a complex character. From Wikipedia:
The Continental Op is an amoral master of deceit in the exercise of his profession. In "$106,000 Blood Money", for instance, the Op is confronted with two dilemmas: shall he expose a corrupt fellow detective, thereby hurting the reputation of his agency; and shall he also allow an informant to collect the $106,000 reward in a big case even though he is morally certain — but cannot prove — that the informant has murdered one of his agency's clients? The Op resolves his two problems neatly by manipulating events so that the corrupt detective and the informant get into an armed confrontation in which both are killed.A big bonus of this anthology is Lillian Hellman’s introduction that offers a glimpse into her relation with Hammett and his work ethic:
I had known Dash when he was writing short stories, but I had never been around for a long piece of work. Life changed: the drinking stopped, the parties were over. The locking-in time had come and nothing was allowed to disturb it until the book was finished. I had never seen anybody work that way : the care for every word, the pride in the neatness of the typed page itself, the refusal for ten days or two weeks to go out for even a walk for fear something would be lost.Hammett. Hellman. The Continental Op. One outstanding collection. How can you go wrong.
For more FFBs click over to Patti Abbott's site.