Hammett: The Lineup for Including Murder

If you don’t have the issue of Clues with the Robert S. Powell article on Including Murder, you may wonder which stories would have made up what would have been Hammett’s first book, if it had been published — all Continental Op tales straight from the wood pulp pages of Black Mask.

With the address 620 Eddy Street on the mockup for the book, Powell deducts that Hammett would have compiled the stories before the end of 1926, by which time he had left Eddy Street, and more likely by early 1925 — “Holograph material is in pencil in a consistent hand and suggests the paste-ups and emendations were carried out in a brief period following publication of the final piece.”

And the final piece, per Powell, was “The Golden Horseshoe” from the November 1924 issue of The Mask, which takes up pages 120-141 of the manuscript — a “manuscript” consisting of pages torn from the magazine, pasted down onto typewriter sheets. (One imagines Hammett got contributors copies of issues he appeared in, and sacrificed a couple for tearsheets he glued into place, front or back as needed — I can feel the agony of pulp collectors at the very idea, but I believe most pulp writers pulled tearsheets without thinking twice about it.)

Powell has the idea that Hammett and his editor at Black Mask, Phil Cody, may have been planning the book as a side product of the magazine, though against better evidence it is possible that Hammett mocked it up to shop around to other publishers. Powell refers to the info in Richard Layman’s Hammett bio Shadow Man that “in the summer of 1925” Cody urged Hammett to write a longer work — a novel. Layman guessed that this “first novel” would have been “The Secret Emperor,” never finished, the fragment held in the Humanities Research Center along with other fragments and miscellania such as Including Murder.

We do know that sometime in 1925 Hammett fell out with Cody and Black Mask and gave up crime writing in favor of advertising work. I’ve heard it was because Cody capped his word rate at 3¢ — but some fallout over the short story collection, I suppose, now can’t be ignored as a factor. And why finish a novel for a magazine you’ve decided to leave?

According to Powell, the mockup contains sheets with five Op tales:

“Crooked Souls,” pages 1-9 of the manuscript, with the title changed first to “The Gatewood Thing” and finally to “The Gatewood Caper” — from Black Mask for October 15, 1923

“Bodies Piled Up,” pages 10-19 — from BM for December 1, 1923

“Night Shots,” pages 20-30 — from BM February 1, 1924

“Women, Politics and Murder,” pages 103-119 — from BM September 1924

“The Golden Horseshoe,” pages 120-141 — from BM November 1924

For the lost pages 31-102 Powell figures the missing stories are “hypothetically. . . discernable.” He decides that Hammett put aside “Arson Plus” from October 1, 1923 and “Slippery Fingers” from October 15, 1923 because otherwise the stories included are in order of publication and these fall before “Crooked Souls.” “It” and “The Tenth Clew” do not appear and they fall between Crooked/Bodies and Bodies/Night Shots respectively.

Powell speculates that the first two Op tales may have been passed over because “they are early experimental stories,” and the later two “on critical grounds.”

He concludes, then, based on Op stories that had appeared, that a “correlation of pagination” from the original layout in Black Mask “generally supports” his assumption that the “seventy-two missing sheets contained the following Op stories:”

“Zigzags of Treachery” — from BM March 1, 1924

“One Hour” — from BM April 1, 1924

“The House in Turk Street” — from BM April 15, 1924

“The Girl with the Silver Eyes” — from BM June 1924

Assembled from stories published barely two years into Hammett’s writing career, that would have made for one fine collection.

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