- 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 20.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,815,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Continental Op (Vintage crime/Black Lizard) Paperback – 6 Jan 1994
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...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.
'An acknowledged literary landmark' Robert Graves --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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!
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.
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.