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The Continental Op (Vintage crime/Black Lizard) Paperback – 6 Jan 1994


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Paperback, 6 Jan 1994
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Product details

  • Paperback: 319 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Reprint edition (6 Jan 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679722580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679722588
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 870,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

...the Continental Op features in seven superb stories in this collection. Please, dear reader, I beg you, buy this book and treat yourself to the work of a true master of the crime genre. (Vincent Banville IRISH TIMES)

Orion's magnificent Crime Masterworks series ...has collected seven of the finest Continental Op short stories in a single volume... It is a magnificent collection, marking year zero in the hard-boiled school of crime fiction... Hugely recommended. (BURTON EVENING MAIL)

'Some of the best examples of Hammett's work, painting a bleak picture of an American society warped by brutality, greed and treachery.' (WESTERN DAILY PRESS) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

'An acknowledged literary landmark' Robert Graves --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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'Mr Leopold Gantvoort is not at home,' the servant who opened the door said, 'but his son, Mr Charles, is - if you wish to see him.' Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Wicker-king on 21 Dec 2001
Format: Paperback
I won't beat about the bush with this one, I will simply say that if you like detective novels you MUST own this and if you're simply someone looking for a good read then I cannot recommend this enough.
Although this is ostensibly a collection of short stories there is a real flow from one to another and an overal narrative that bares fruit in "The Main Death". Each tale hurtles along at break neck speed and half the time you can't believe how quickly you've reached the end and it leaves you hungry for more. I must have read the entire Dashiell Hammett collection within two months of having started reading this one book.
Read this book now and it will change your views on the printed word forever.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Louise the book worm on 9 Dec 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hammett's writing is one of the things in life I'm not sure I could do without. It's a lesson in a hard school - with the advantage that you don't have to learn it personally - he did. We all get to enjoy the results without the slightly grimy feeling of having actually lived among the kind of people he wrote about.

Am I sounding a bit fastidious? - well I'm glad it wasn't me down there in the pit of urban 1920s America with the yeggs, the grifters, the pushers, the small time crooks and big time gangsters, the compromised rich and their blackmailing staff, the dangerous beauties and the thick-necked boobies who fall for them, the handsome killers and, last but not least, the Op himself, up to his elbows in it.

Was there ever a more brutal portrait than this? The Op (an operative for a detective agency modelled on the Pinkertons) tells the story, and you rarely get the luxury of a look at him. He's short, stocky, not handsome. He plays by a code, but not by any rules anyone can find. He will gleefully watch while the bad people tear each other apart, and he will pluck the missing booty, or the missing girl, or the missing proof, from a dying man's bloody hands. He's a lonely man, but he's no knight errant like Chandler's wonderful Philip Marlowe. He is as spare with words as with his fists: his style is reminiscent of "The Way of the Samurai". Hammett absolutely refuses to let you get sentimental over his sneering Op: the minute there's a danger of it, he reminds you that this is a story, with a set purpose, dangit, and he sends his Op off in another, pitiless direction. You walk behind him, sometimes amused, sometimes sad, sometimes a tiny bit horrified.

If this doesn't give you even the slightest desire to read Hammett, so be it - your loss!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ramses on 19 Feb 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this because I finally decided to try the famous Dashiell Hammett. The Continal Op is a song from Rory Gallagher and that was enough of a reference for me ;-)
Anyway, about the book. It is a collection of short stories, and there is only one adjective for it. Perfect. This is old stuff, written ages ago, but it has not aged in the least, just a few strange words here and there but that's it (well, i am not native English speaker so maybe it is just "strange words for me"). The plots are tight and interesting, with the unnamed central hero making the connection.
Only one piece of advice: buy and read this ASAP if you like crime and suspense stories.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Burnett on 2 Oct 2003
Format: Paperback
I am astonished at the ignorance of most people about thewriting of Dashiell Hammett. Few people, if asked, could tell you thenumber of novels he wrote featuring Sam Spade (Answer: 1, although there are three short stories) or who the "Thin Man" was (Nope, not William Powell - it was the concrete-cased corpse). Even fewer would look at you with anything less than a blank stare if you mentioned the Continental Op, the unnamed, smart, tough and slightly tragic hero of these stories.
The Op shares many qualities with the intrepid Spade, but is different in one respect - his ability to work as part of an agency and report to the "old man". This alone makes him 180-degrees different from the ronin Spade.
The stories found in this book are stunning pieces of literature. Although they are the foundation upon which the genre "hard-boiled" would be built, they are indeed literary masterpieces, without a wasted word. They are tough-guy poetry, without the flowery sentimentality of Raymond Chandler, who was to follow in Hammett's footsteps.
What;s it all about? A coded telegram about a missing daughter...some sheets of dark grey paper hidden in a copy of "The Count of Monte Cristo"...the FOR HIRE flag on a taxi that was up when it should have been down...a newspaper story that appeared in only ONE COPY of ONE ISSUE...a spitted dog barbecuing over a fire...a voice which spoke from an orange tree... These things and more.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 34 reviews
68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
The best that Hammett ever wrote 20 Sep 1999
By Robert Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While in graduate school at Yale, I actually went to the Beinecke Rare Book Library and read several special issues of BLACK MASK MAGAZINE published in the late 1940s that collected all of the Continental Op stories not included in THE CONTINENTAL OP or THE BIG KNOCKOVER. Most readers of Hammett are unaware that over the course of his career he wrote a vast number of stories featuring the overweight, verging on middle age detective who stars in this collection. One of the great tragedies in American literary history has been the failure to publish all of these stories. Having read all of them, I can attest that while on the whole not all of the out-of-print stories are as good as the ones in THE CONTINENTAL OP and THE BIG KNOCKOVER, several of them are quite excellent. My understanding is that after Hammett's death, Lilian Hellman, who had a low opinion of Hammett's detective fiction (jealousy? spite?) and held the copyright to his works, would not allow any of the works not already well-established in publishing to be published. I am not certain who holds the copyright now, but fairly soon it should be all in the public domain, and hopefully then these important stories will all be reprinted.
The Continental Op is Hammett's main detective, not the more famous Sam Spade (who appears in only one novel and a couple of short stories, as opposed to the two novels and seventy some odd short stories of the Continental OP). The stories in THE CONTINENTAL OP are the best featuring his main characters. It is impossible to stress precisely how good these stories are. The finest stories in this collection are the best things that Hammett ever wrote. Better than the two novels that Hammett wrote featuring to Op--RED HARVEST (which inspired Akira Kurosawa's YOJIMBO, which in turn inspired A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS; the wretched LAST MAN STANDING was a more straightforward remake) and THE DAIN CURSE, better than THE GLASS KEY and THE THIN MAN, and perhaps even better than THE MALTESE FALCON.
I would urge anyone interested in 20th century American Literature to read this book. Anyone who is genuinely interested in hardboiled detective fiction already has.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Nameless, Faceless, and Definitely Hard Boiled 18 Sep 2001
By James Paris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op detective stories see the beginnings of the hard-boiled detective in American fiction. The nameless operative of the Continental Detective Agency that stars in all these stories is also faceless: All we know is that he's overweight. He's every bit as nasty as the later Sam Spade of THE MALTESE FALCON, and even approaches Jim Thompson's psychotically callous narrators. At one point, in "The Farewell Murder," his reaction to his client's grisly murder by slashed throat is an apparent nonchalance -- though he does nab the murderer in the end.
Between 1930 and today, however, there was a change in colloquial American that makes Hammett's language seem slightly fusty and unidiomatic today. The following are taken from my favorite story of the bunch, "The Girl with the Silver Eyes." The larcenous Elvira, for example, "sizes up as a worker." Another woman thinks her brother is "a choice morsel." An odd prolixity appears in the sentence "This Porky was an effective tool if handled right, which meant keeping your hand on his throat all the time and checking up every piece of information he brought in." A writer today would be more elliptical, but then. of course, the genre was still in its infancy.
Where Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe is a knight of the mean streets, the Op is an anonymous survivor. His name won't appear in the newspaper, but he'll collar the perpetrators and see them executed or otherwise put out of action. When the evidence is lacking, as in "The Golden Horseshoe," he is content to have the criminal swing for a crime he did NOT commit. Better yet, in "The House on Turk Street," he will arrange for the hoods to kill each other and walk away unharmed.
Even more than 75 years after they were written, these stories have something to tell us about ourselves today. Chandler was an Englishman; but Hammett was clearly a home-grown product of the streets. A former detective himself, he knew well the dark recesses of the American criminal mind, sometimes frighteningly so.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
The Original "Man with No Name" 25 Sep 2001
By George R Dekle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Overweight, cynical, and rawhide tough, this nondescript, nameless operative for the Continental Detective Agency slugs and schemes his way through a series of entertaining mysteries. He's the prototype for Clint Eastwood's "man with no name," Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, and dozens of other "hard boiled" detectives. The difference between the Op and his imitators comes in Hammett's hands-on familiarity with his subject matter. Hammett worked for a time as an operative for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and he puts his knowledge of the seamier side of human nature to good use in crafting the stories about the Continental Op.
The Op has no existence, no identity whatsoever, outside his job. He's not above a little "necessary brutality," and he doesn't mind "fudging the facts" to see to it that justice as he understands it is done. He has a slightly lopsided code of ethics and a totally jaundiced view of human nature, but he is dedicated to doing his job and doing it well. I only recently became a fan of the "detective story," but I have been a fan of the Continental Op for decades.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Better than Spade 27 July 2000
By Patrick Burnett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I am astonished at the ignorance of most people about thewriting of Dashiell Hammett. Few people, if asked, could tell you thenumber of novels he wrote featuring Sam Spade (Answer: 1, although there are three short stories) or who the "Thin Man" was (Nope, not William Powell - it was the concrete-cased corpse). Even fewer would look at you with anything less than a blank stare if you mentioned the Continental Op, the unnamed, smart, tough and slightly tragic hero of these stories.

The Op shares many qualities with the intrepid Spade, but is different in one respect - his ability to work as part of an agency and report to the "old man". This alone makes him 180-degrees different from the ronin Spade.
The stories found in this book are stunning pieces of literature. Although they are the foundation upon which the genre "hard-boiled" would be built, they are indeed literary masterpieces, without a wasted word. They are tough-guy poetry, without the flowery sentimentality of Raymond Chandler, who was to follow in Hammett's footsteps.
What;s it all about? A coded telegram about a missing daughter...some sheets of dark grey paper hidden in a copy of "The Count of Monte Cristo"...the FOR HIRE flag on a taxi that was up when it should have been down...a newspaper story that appeared in only ONE COPY of ONE ISSUE...a spitted dog barbecuing over a fire...a voice which spoke from an orange tree... These things and more.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Terrific Introduction to Hard-boiled Fiction & Hammett. 14 April 2004
By mirasreviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"The Continental Op" contains seven short stories featuring Dashiell Hammett's terse, sharp-witted, and always unnamed operative from The Continental Detective Agency. "Black Mask" magazine published 36 Continental Op stories by Dashiell Hammett between 1923 and 1930 (eight which were later transformed into novels), so this is just a smattering. These stories are not as thematically complex as many of Hammett's novels, but the Op's first person narration renders the characters especially vividly. And his sardonic internal monologues sting like a branding iron, and leave about as strong an impression. Though Hammett's scathing cynicism is better articulated in his novels, "The Continental Op" is an excellent showcase of the elements which have made Hammett's work so popular for over eighty years: blunt talk, economic and very readable prose, femmes fatales, contemptible but colorful criminals, violence, mystery, and a decidedly unglamorous "everyman" protagonist who lives by his own strict code of conduct.
Unlike Hammett's novels, this collection of short stories includes an introduction by the book's editor, Steven Marcus. It won't be news to readers who are familiar with Dashiell Hammett's life and works, but readers who are new to Hammett may find the progression of Hammett's career, personal life and politics, discussed in Marcus' essay, interesting and helpful in placing his work in context. "The Continental Op" is an excellent introduction to the writing of Dashiell Hammett, similar to the manner in which the American public discovered his works in "Black Mask" during the 1920s. And if you're already a Hammett fan, these wonderfully entertaining stories are not to be missed.
Note: An entirely different anthology of Dashiell Hammett short stories, edited by Ellery Queen, was published under the same name, "The Continental Op", in 1945. It contained 4 stories, 3 of which are not in the current Vintage Books edition. I mention it so there will be no confusion. This Vintage Books edition, edited by Steven Marcus, was originally published in 1979 and contains these 7 stories: "The Tenth Clew", "The Golden Horseshoe", "The House in Turk Street", "The Girl with the Silver Eyes", "The Whosis Kid", "The Main Death", and "The Farewell Murder".
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