Hammett: The Big 88

My spies out there in the world, always keeping an eye on the news, have alerted me to the latest honor for the author who makes The Dashiell Hammett Tour the rollicking fun ride that it is: Hammett’s Red Harvest has cracked a list of only 88 titles that the Library of Congress has called “Books That Shaped America.”

See, I told you it was good.

Edgar Rice Burroughs, mentioned on this blog lately because of John Carter of Mars, gets a nod for Tarzan of the Apes. And Zane Grey, despite a brutal attack on his most famous novel by Brian Leno, sees Riders of the Purple Sage make the list.

Check the whole thing out, see how many you’ve read. If you haven’t done Red Harvest as yet, my honest advice is that you should read as many of the Continental Op tales that precede it as you can, since the buildup to the Op going “blood simple” starts earlier, certainly by “Zigzags of Treachery.”

Looks like I have read eighteen, for certain, sampled five or six more, and some of the plays I’ve seen but haven’t read the actual play.

On the personal front, I have met only one of the authors — Randy Shilts, who once covered a detective game I did during the heyday of The Suicide Club, though we weren’t telling the reporters from outside that The Suicide Club loomed mysteriously behind the action.

I could have met several more, of course. I once saw Allen Ginsberg through the window in City Lights, the shop was so crowded it looked like the floor might collapse. Ditto Ray Bradbury, coming out of a signing in LA — in both cases, I could have nudged my way in or over for a few words, but I was content just to look at them for a couple of minutes.

On the early lit scene, I’ve been to Ben Franklin’s grave in Philly, which is as close as I’ll get. I never met Hammett, but know his daughter. Never met Jack London, but met his daughter. Never met Kerouac, but met his daughter Jan Kerouac.

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