Dashiell Hammett: Getting Witty With It

The Nov 1924 edition of Black Mask magazine, containing The Golden Horseshoe by Dashiell HammettWe generally prefer Raymond Chandler to Dashiell Hammett, as much for Chandler’s wit as anything else, but we’ve been reading some of Hammett’s early Continental Op short stories of late and very much enjoying them, especially a passage from a novelette called The Golden Horseshoe that ran in Black Mask magazine in November 1924.

In this scene, Hammett’s short but rotund detective is in Tijuana tracking down a dissolute poet who is on the lam. The Op has just entered the bar that gives the story its name when the reader is treated to the following first-person passage:

I walked down the room and sat at a table in one of the stalls. A lanky girl who had done something to her hair that made it purple was camped beside me before I had settled in my seat.

“Buy me a little drink?” she asked.

The face she made at me was probably meant for a smile. Whatever it was, it beat me. I was afraid she’d do it again, so I surrendered.

We don’t mind admitting that made us laugh out loud, something we’ve not often done when reading Hammett. Nicely played, sir. Nicely played, indeed.

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