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.

Fun facts to know and tell

Did you know? In order to remain afloat during Prohibition, the Blatz Brewing Co. — then one of the Big Four Milwaukee breweries, along with Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz — marketed juice, near beer and even chewing gum. The gum, sold under the brand name “Val,” was grape-flavored.

Blatz was also the first Milwaukee brewery to distribute its beer nationwide.

Also, it was on this day in 1959 that Raymond Chandler, the greatest of of all hardboiled mystery writers and creator of the immortal shamus Philip Marlowe, died at age 71.