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Woman in the Dark (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Paperback – 1 Sep 1989

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 78 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition (1 Sept. 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679722653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679722656
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 0.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,360,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Inside Flap

A young, frightened, foreign woman appears at the door of an isolated house. The man and woman inside take her in. Other strangers appear in pursuit of the girl. Menace is in the air.
Originally published in 1933, Hammett's Woman in the Dark shows the author at the peak of his narrative powers. With an introduction by Robert B. Parker, the author of the celebrated Spenser novels.

About the Author

Dashiell Samuel Hammett was born in St. Mary s County. He grew up in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Hammett left school at the age of fourteen and held several kinds of jobs thereafter messenger boy, newsboy, clerk, operator, and stevedore, finally becoming an operative for Pinkerton s Detective Agency. Sleuthing suited young Hammett, but World War I intervened, interrupting his work and injuring his health. When Sergeant Hammett was discharged from the last of several hospitals, he resumed detective work. He soon turned to writing, and in the late 1920s Hammett became the unquestioned master of detective-story fiction in America. In The Maltese Falcon (1930) he first introduced his famous private eye, Sam Spade. The Thin Man (1932) offered another immortal sleuth, Nick Charles. Red Harvest (1929), The Dain Curse (1929), and The Glass Key (1931) are among his most successful novels. During World War II, Hammett again served as sergeant in the Army, this time for more than two years, most of which he spent in the Aleutians. Hammett s later life was marked in part by ill health, alcoholism, a period of imprisonment related to his alleged membership in the Communist Party, and by his long-time companion, the author Lillian Hellman, with whom he had a very volatile relationship. His attempt at autobiographical fiction survives in the story Tulip, which is contained in the posthumous collection The Big Knockover (1966, edited by Lillian Hellman). Another volume of his stories, The Continental Op (1974, edited by Stephen Marcus), introduced the final Hammett character: the Op, a nameless detective (or operative ) who displays little of his personality, making him a classic tough guy in the hard-boiled mold a bit like Hammett himself."

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This novella is a great introduction to the work of Dashiell Hammett, and it’s a little like Oscar Wilde’s proverbial cigarette – it’s exquisite, and it leaves you feeling thoroughly unfulfilled. I just wish it was a little longer, because I was just starting to sympathise with the characters when the story came to an abrupt and confusing end.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8b04d9e4) out of 5 stars 25 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ba28cf0) out of 5 stars Leaving us in the dark 30 April 2004
By EA Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Dashiell Hammett hit gold with his rough-edged anti-heroes and shadowy plots. But he struck out in "Woman in the Dark," a tepid novella that originally appeared in "Liberty" magazine before vanishing for twenty years. Since this will be interesting only to Hammett completists, maybe it should have stayed lost.
A lovely young woman stumbles to a smalll house with an injured foot. It turns out the inhabitant of the house is Brazil, an ex-criminal who did time for killing a man in a brawl. A thug arrives to bring the girl, Luise, back to the man she is living with -- except Brazil punches him out. Now they're both in trouble... and in danger... and on the lam.
"Woman in the Dark" isn't a particularly thrilling thriller. Hammett's heart didn't seem to be in this tale; it's slow and wandering, and the grand showdown is somehow anticlimactic. What's more, it's very rushed -- it almost feels like Hammett scribbled it out with the intent of expanding it into a full-length novel.
Hammett's gritty, somewhat minimalist writing is a little awkward this time around. "One of the men pulled off his cap -- it was a gray tweed, matching his topcoat -- and..." is only one example of the unusually choppy style. But his sense of atmosphere is still unparalleled, with all the grime, grease and smoke of his urban backdrop.
The characterizations are sketchy at best. Brazil is much like Hammett's other anti-heroes, with a tough-guy attitude over some very intense feelings. Love interest Luisa is a walking paper doll, a typical exotic kept woman who falls for our anti-hero -- although it's never quite clear why they do fall in love.
"Woman in the Dark" is an unusually flat, sketchy novel by a classic mystery author. One of Hammett's few misfires, this is a curiosity but nothing worth getting excuted about.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ac2375c) out of 5 stars Lacks the zip 25 July 2002
By Neal Reynolds - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Hammett's style is good enough that you do care about the two main characters. But something's missing. It is almost as if he was lacking interest in his own story. Maybe not.
Whatever the case, it's worth reading just because it's Hammett. It tells the story of a guy who got a bad rap the first time around, and just a few weeks after getting out of jail, he finds himself in danger of going back. There's a feeling of hopelessness here and the ending seems a bit ambiguous.
It's a good crime adventure short, but far from the best Hammett. It's still worth having in your collection.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a9206d8) out of 5 stars really only of interest to fans 26 Oct. 2000
By Orrin C. Judd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Love may be a many splendored thing, but it sure as heck ruined Dashiell Hammett. This story originally appeared in three installments in Liberty magazine in April, 1933. He had met Lillian Hellman two years earlier, with whom he was to share a rather troubled but now mythical romance (and an unrepentant and slavish enthusiasm for Joseph Stalin) for the rest of his life. The next year he published his final novel, The Thin Man, and then fell silent with a writer's block that ranks second only to that of Joseph Mitchell in legend.
Woman in the Dark is certainly not a novel; at best it's a novella and even then it feels more like the outline for a longer work. The woman of the title is Luise Fischer, the Swiss-born kept woman of a wealthy thug named Kane Robson. Having walked out on him one evening, she twists her ankle and stops for help at cottage occupied by Brazil, a phlegmatic ex-con, who once killed a man in a barroom brawl. When Robson shows up with a henchmen to demand that Luise come back to him, Brazil punches the other man who bangs his head, perhaps fatally, on the fireplace mantle. Now both Brazil and Luise have a reason to take it on the lam :
He emptied his glass and went to the front door, where he made a pretense of looking out at the night.
As he turned from the door he caught her expression, though she hastily put the frown off her face. His smile, voice were mockingly apologetic : 'I can't help it. They had me away for a while--in prison, I mean--and it did that to me. I've got to keep making sure I'm not locked in.' His smile became more twisted. 'There's a name for it--claustrophobia--and that doesn't make it any better.'
'I am sorry,' she said. 'Was it--very long ago?'
'Plenty long ago when I went in,' he said dryly, 'but only a few weeks ago that I got out. That's what I came up here for--to try to get myself straightened out, see how I stood, what I wanted to do.'
'And?' she said softly.
'And what? Have I found out where I stand, what I want to do? I don't know.' He was standing in front of her, hands in pockets, glowering down at her. 'I suppose I've just been waiting for something to turn up, something I could take as a sign which way I was to go. Well, what turned up was you. That's good enough. I'll go along with you.'
So much for the set up, in the two sections that follow, the police track them down and Brazil is shot, but the ending suggests that everything may work out for the two who have by now fallen in love.
It's tempting to read the story autobiographically. Two interesting and seemingly dynamic characters meet up and embark on an exciting though fairly implausible love affair, but then their story just kind of tails off into ambiguous and unconvincing anticlimax. Despite periodic flashes of Hammett's trademark hardboiled style, the book is generally disappointing. The conclusion of the story in particular is a far cry from the great final scene of The Maltese Falcon. Ultimately, the book is interesting chiefly as an indicator of where Hammett was headed just before he stopped writing, but if it's an accurate indication, we didn't miss much.
GRADE : C
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a929eac) out of 5 stars Forgettable 13 April 2009
By Dash Manchette - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Even Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth struck out at times. And Hammett? He may have been the father of modern literary noir, delivering punches and jabs to the stomach to make us wince, but even he swung and missed once and a while. To say that WOMAN IN THE DARK does not pack the punch of THE MALTESE FALCON or the CONTINENTAL OP collection of stories would be to give this book more credit than it is due even through the negative comparison.

It is not so much that anything is wrong with this novella. It is just completely forgettable. Nothing sticks to the ribs. Sure the story is good - a dame runs away from her guy, thugs are in pursuit, with the `hero' bringing his own rough justice to day. But it is not the story that makes a book good, but rather the nuance that an author brings to it.

Hammett here is just going through the motions. I found myself discussing Hammett recently with a friend and, when he mentioned that he had never heard of WOMAN IN THE DARK, I could only think that there was a reason for that. In the catalogue of an author's work, this one should have remained lost behind the bookshelf.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b393c84) out of 5 stars A tough romantic thriller 1 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This short novel was published originally in Liberty Magazine in three parts, and it is now in three chapters--each one reaching a climax that makes the reader quickly turn the page to finish the book at one reading. We have Hammett's hard-boiled protagonist--not a detective--but an attractive, very masculine ex-con named Brazil, and a world-weary, beautiful Swiss woman fleeing from the decadent world she now despises. The tension in the story derives both from the relationship between the two main characters and from their efforts to flee the police and the woman's pursuers. As always, Hammett's prose is marvellous, sharp, pointed, and even lyrical. This is the last piece of fiction he wrote before The Thin Man, and if you love Hammett, you must read this well-plotted and thrilling tale.
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