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4.2 out of 5 stars38
4.2 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 26 February 2011
When I see a film based on a novel, I like to read the novel to compare plots and execution. Most of the time the novel or story is fuller than the movie due to the short media time and the target audience. In this case, the novel does have a better-developed plot and is more cohesive. The characters are more true to form and there is a real Rosewood/Rosebrien. However, the book characters are more sinister and Dorothy is sleazy. I planed to make this the last story I would read by Dashiel Hammett. However, others tell me I just picked the wrong one to start with.

The film on the other hand, was modified to give a lighter approach. It is the film that I will think of as the real "Thin Man" and Maureen O'Sullivan as the real Dorothy that was concerned about her father. Speaking about that, what is the Sullivan act?

The Thin Man Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy
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on 10 September 2003
Today, of course, Dashiell Hammett's reputation rests largely on the legendary novel THE MALTESE FALCON, but this does not mean that his other work isn't worth a look, and THE DAIN CURSE is a case in point: tightly written in a merciless tone, Hammett's second novel clearly sets the stage for much that was to follow.
Hammett first made his reputation as a pulp magazine author, churning out a series of short stories in a lean, mean prose that drew numerous fans and built critical attention. One of the most popular characters of his short story work was known as "the Continental Op"--an insurance detective ("Op" being short for "operative") whose various adventures would ultimately form the basis for this, Hammett's second novel-length effort.
Although some will disagree, I personally consider THE DAIN CURSE an noticeable improvement over Hammett's first novel, RED HARVEST. Like most of Hammett's work, both works are noteable for their hard-hitting prose, both offer convoluted plots, and both provide us with archetypical characterizations--but where I find RED HARVEST a strangely flat and slightly up-hill read, THE DAIN CURSE hooks you with the first few pages and holds your attention with ease throughout the entire course of the novel.
The story is, as previously stated, convoluted. The Op is called in to investigate stolen diamonds--but strangely enough, these diamonds are not really precious: they are imperfect stones loaned by a jeweler to scientist/artist Leggett, who experiments with them in an effort to improve their quality. Leggett seems as surprised as everyone that any one would actually go to the trouble of stealing them--but suddenly the tone of the characters shift, and those who first welcomed the investigation seem to resist it while those who originally opposed it seem to encourage it. Clearly, there is something more going on than a simple burglary, and it short order it becomes clear that the "something" is murder.
While THE DAIN CURSE is an entertaining read, it does have its flaws--and they are flaws that Hammett would take some pains to correct in his future work. Given that the novel is largely based on various short stories Hammett had previously written, it is hardly surprising that the movement of the plot has an episodic feel; there are actually points in the book where you feel the story has ended long before you've run out of pages, only to have Hammett spin off the plot into an unexpected direction with a somewhat awkward joining of the elements involved. The characters also tend to be inconsistent, and while this actually forms part of the plotline, Hammett does not entirely succeed in carrying off the effect.
Perhaps the single most oft-leveled accusation against the novel is that its heroine proves a largely unsympathetic character who lacks either the power of THE MALTESE FALCON'S perfidious Bridgett or the snap and spark of THE THIN MAN'S Nora. For myself, I did not find this the major flaw that so many others do; what is an issue, however, is the very limited attention Hammett offers the character in the first third of the novel, where she reads as a minor supporting character--and rather than build the role in a way that places her front and center, Hammett simply shifts gears and suddenly puts her at the forefront. The result is an extremely awkward transition that undercuts one's suspension of disbelief.
But whatever its flaws, THE DAIN CURSE is a truly entertaining read, written in the developing Hammett style that would peak with THE MALTESE FALCON. It may in some respects be a "developmental" work, but it is no less the worse for that, easily outclassing the vast majority of Hammett imitators that sprang up as the author rose to fame. Recommended to fans of the classic hard-boiled fiction school.
--GFT (Amazon.com Reviewer)--
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Dashiell Hammett's creative period was very short, effectively terminated in the 1940s by chronic ill health (TB), alcoholism, and political persecution because of his extreme outspoken left-wing views. But prior to this he produced some memorable work, and was a master of the `hard-boiled' detective story. He is best known for `The Maltese Falcon', following the successful film staring Humphrey Bogart, but `The Glass Key' is generally regarded as his finest work. The `hero', if he can be called that, is the cool Ned Beaumont, a hard-drinking fixer for a gangster, Paul Madvig, who controls a city via his political and police stooges. But Ned has a moral code of sorts, and when Paul looks like being betrayed at election time, and may even be indicted for a murder, he steps up, and at considerable personal danger (he is severely beaten several times) eventually forces the real killer to confess. To cap it all he even `wins' the daughter of a Senator, who Paul vainly hoped to marry. The story is more complex than these few sentences convey. There are many twists and turns and it has a real surprise ending. The writing is in a terse, laconic style that has often been imitated but never excelled. An excellent read.
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If you are like me, you met The Thin Man first in the movie series. Those movies have Nick Charles straddling the gap between the "haves" and the tough guy world with insouciance as he waltzes with the wealthy socialites and unravels fatal plots. The book itself is much darker, directly suggesting alcoholism, incest, adultery, and all the minor crimes . . . and deadly sins. The view is that humans are thoroughly flawed, but some can rise above that to serve others anyway. That is the nobility of the Nick Charles character . . . as he staggers out of bed in the afternoon with yet another hangover. Helping out old clients is his source of redemption against the temptations he cannot resist.
The world view is probably somewhat autobiographical as Hammett spent more of his time in Hollywood late in his career, rather than working as a fiction writer. The echoes of F. Scott Fitzgerald are very strong, especially to Tender Is The Night.
For those who love the classic "tough guy" stories by Hammett, this one can never have the same appeal. Nick is still tough, but he mostly shows it by taking abuse with style. That's a feminine kind of toughness that comes from maturity. He passes off the chances to trade punches when they arise.
The characterizations of Nick and Nora Charles are the strength of the novel. But the book transcends that by also creating a picture of a flawed marriage between two people with hearts of gold who love each other, but are also killing each other. The development of the relationship is brilliant.
The mystery itself isn't very mysterious. It just has lots of red herrings. If you judge mysteries by the quality of the plot unfolding of that mystery, you will probably rate this book at 3 or 4 stars.
I suggest that you think about what temptations are difficult for you to resist. How will those temptations undermine your life and your relationships? How can you occupy yourself in ways so that there will either be less temptation or you will be more able to resist it?
To your good health and that of all your relationships!
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VINE VOICEon 8 July 2013
When I see a film based on a novel, I like to read the novel to compare plots and execution. Most of the time the novel or story is fuller than the movie due to the short media time and the target audience. In this case, the novel does have a better-developed plot and is more cohesive. The characters are more true to form and there is a real Rosewood/Rosebrien. However, the book characters are more sinister and Dorothy is sleazy. I planed to make this the last story I would read by Dashiel Hammett. However, others tell me I just picked the wrong one to start with.

The film on the other hand, was modified to give a lighter approach. It is the film that I will think of as the real "Thin Man" and Maureen O'Sullivan as the real Dorothy that was concerned about her father. Speaking about that, what is the Sullivan act?

The Thin Man Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy
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on 29 May 2012
The Thin Man is a crime farce, written in an all-tell, dialogue and action style, with no excess fat in the prose. There's a lot of melodrama, with people storming in and out, kissing and making up; and lots of lying, deceit, manipulation and double crosses. Nick Charles is the rock at the centre of all this carry-on; the tough, no-nonsense PI, who's able to calmly and authoratively take charge and sort the wheat from the chaff, and is attractive to dames and admired by men. He's the guy that everybody naturally turns to for help, including the police. The characterisation is well developed and Hammett keeps the dozen or so central characters swirling round each other, with the pace relentless without being excessive, and the plot twisting continuously. The story had a little too much melodrama for my taste, but it's an enjoyable hardboiled yarn nonetheless.
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on 10 February 2014
I used to really love the films with William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles and their dog Asta, only fairly recently found out that Dashiel Hammett wrote the stories, again another link via Rory Gallagher who was a great fan of his works, Just read a book from the library which turned up in Hammetts papers and was published in 2012, Its kind of quirky and full of punchy dialogue, very very 1930's which I love, Nick was mostly a bit squiffy all the time, solved crimes and no bad language which is really refreshing, going to enjoy reading it as I have enjoyed the library book.
I also didn't realise Dashiel Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon which is another favourite film of mine, so I bought the book to read
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on 21 March 1998
When you've finished reading this novel (and if you care anything about the American detective story, you will read this novel), think back. Can you recall even the slightest hint of emotion, or the smallest display of caring by one individual for another? I don't think so, and this is the essence of hard-boiled detective stories. Don't get me wrong. You know Ned Beaumont cares about those he is trying to help, and gets beat up for. He's much too tough to show it, though, and that's the key. That's why they call it tough-guy fiction. This story is straight-on, airtight, wonderfully written. In one eighteen-month period Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key. Amazing. We shall never see his like again. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 13 December 2006
Dashiell Hammett was Christopher Marlowe to Raymond Chandler's Shakespeare, Hamnett in many ways invented the medium that the slightly later writer perfected.

This is not to say Hammett's work has no intrinsic merit of its own, of course, far from it. However, this almost humorous detective tale is not his best. Nick and Nora Charles seem a rather heartless couple, and their investigation inevitably lacks the intensity present in "The Dain Curse" or "Red Harvest". Their hotel-room-bound life (comparisons to Alan Partridge living in a Norwich Travel Tavern would be a bit unfair..)presumably meant to seem glittering and bright, featuring telephone conversations with the State Governor, chicken livers for breakfast and endless alcohol quickly palls.

As a classic detective yarn, the book is hard to fault, with a well constucted plot and enough clues and red herrings scattered about to maintain the reader's interest throughout. It is unlikely, however, that it could be re-read with as much pleasure as Chandler's "The Big Sleep" or even some of Hammett's own, earlier, more substantial, works.
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on 26 April 1997
Dashiell Hammetts creative light burned bright but for a brief 5-10 year period. In "The Glass Key," his penultimate novel, Hammett melded the world of the "hard-boiled detective"--shady underground figures, powerful men and, of course, a beautiful woman--with a theme that recurs throughout his ouvre--of basic trust between kindred souls.

Often over-shadowed in the eyes of readers by the novels that preceeded and followed, "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Thin Man," "The Glass Key" is Hammett at the very top of his form. Writing as no one had before, or has since.
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