I just hosted my first Guest Blogger, Brian Leno — how about another one?
Up this time is Terry Zobeck, whose name may ring a bell because he turned up the source for the quote where Hammett had called the British writer M. P. Shiel “A Magician.” Terry is a serious collector of Hammett in the original magazine appearances (you can thank Terry for the cover image of Mystery Stories above), and provides the best text to date as he covers restoring the Continental Op tale “This King Business.” Take it, Terry:
I like my Dashiell Hammett straight up, neat, with no editing. For years we have had to deal with the digest volumes edited by Frederic Dannay if we wanted to read many of the more obscure stories. Sure, it was great to be able to read them, but Dannay, without any input from Hammett, often changed titles and edited the stories. I have never checked, but I suspect that Lillian Hellman with The Big Knockover and Steven Marcus with The Continental Op used the Dannay versions for their texts. In recent years, however, Marcus with the Library of America’s Crime Stories & Other Writings and Vince Emery with Lost Stories sought out the original magazine appearances — with one exception.
In the “Note on the Texts” in Crime Stories, Marcus states that “No copy is known to be extant of the issue of the pulp magazine Mystery Stories in which ‘This King Business’ initially appeared, in January 1928.” For this one story, the text of the Dannay edited volume — The Creeping Siamese — was used. It is especially unfortunate that the Dannay text had to be used since this is a terrific story featuring the Op.
A few years after Crime Stories was published I purchased a copy of the January 1928 issue of Mystery Stories. Recently I decided to check to just what extent Dannay edited this story. Well, not only did he make several inexplicable edits — presumably for the sake of saving space — that detract from the story, but the damage was compounded by the copy editor at the Library of America. In transcribing the story from The Creeping Siamese page 116 was deleted!
Now this isn’t just any ordinary page of superfluous descriptive prose, this is the climatic scene between the Op and Colonel Einarson in which the Op pressures the colonel into accepting the deal to crown the Op’s client, Grantham, king of Muravia. If the Op cannot get Einarson to go along with his play, he could end up before a firing squad.
In the Crime Stories version the Op asks the colonel to step away from the others and talk with him. He asks the Colonel, “Why not give Grantham his crown now?” The next sentence is “He thought it over.” We’re left to assume the Colonel, without any persuasion from the Op, thinks it over. The deleted scene is a terrific example of tough talk and pressure from the Op to convince the Colonel to follow his play.
For those interested, I have compiled the following list to indicate what edits were made by Dannay to the story and included the content from the deleted page (taken from the text of the story as it appears in Mystery Stories). The list indicates the page number from Crime Stories where the edit occurs, the line number, whether it is from the top or the bottom of the page, and the affected text — the deleted text is underlined.
Page no. Line # Top/bottom Text
659 1 top
Chapter I “Yes”—And “No”
660 4 top
three and a half or more
662 15 bottom
Before: “I found the Minister, should be: Chapter II Romaine
663 1 bottom
to the Minister of Police for help.
664 14 top
to speak to His Excellency first. He’ll wake presently.
664 17 top
A nice boy, delightfully naïve naif
665 4 top
floor didn’t creak nor the room tremble.
665 20 top
Should be a separate paragraph: The girl turned to me, smiling.
665 10 bottom
Before: ‘Back at the hotel’, should be: Chapter III Shadowing
667 9 bottom
I hunched huddled into that cavity
669 18 bottom
Before ‘White light poured over us’, should be: Chapter IV Introductions
669 10 bottom
Should be a separate paragraph: “British?” he asked.
672 6 & 7 top
Should be a separate paragraph: “This pig!”
672 10 top
Before “Leaning his left elbow’, should be: Chapter V A Flogging
675 9 top
I let the matter stand there,
675 10 top
Before ‘We returned to the city’ should be: Chapter VI Cards on the Table
675 16 bottom
Each was weighing the other in before
675 17 bottom
Should be a separate paragraph: I decided to put mine over first.
676 11 bottom
before you leave for the United States.
676 8 bottom
got into bed, and, not having anything to think about, went to sleep.
676 7 bottom
Before ‘I slept till late’, should be: Chapter VII Lionel’s Plans
677 16 bottom
You said you’d-ah-do-ah-help me
679 18 bottom
In between “if it wants” and “Muravia has stayed” should be: Even Albania, now that it is a protégé of Italy’s.
679 16 bottom
After “seaport” should be: “But with the balance shifting—with Greece, Italy, and Albania allied against Jugoslavia for control of the Balkans—it’s only a matter of time before something will happen here, as it now stands.”
680 7 bottom
“Albania, shortly after the first World War [strike out “first World War” and replace with “war”]
681 7 top
“There’s a meeting tonight to-night
681 16 top
Before ‘At nine-thirty that night’, should be: Chapter VIII An Enlightening Interview
683 7 bottom
and everything went well enough.
684 11 top
as little about statesmanship today to-day
685 12 top
invest in this little farce?”
685 15 top
Before “How did the Minister of Police, should be: Chapter IX Conjectures
686 1 bottom
and fluffed her curls while saying almost absently:
687 20 top
Before ‘I got back to the hotel’, should be: Chapter X Einarson in Control
690 16 bottom
Should be a separate paragraph: I had a little excitement on the way.
690 3 bottom
Before ‘The servant Marya’, should be Chapter XI A Romantic Interlude
691 18 bottom
Should be a separate paragraph: “Tell me about the meeting,” she commanded.
691 11 bottom
she said, pushing my face away with a hand flat against my nose.
691 2 bottom
by your beauty and charm and one thing or another that I can’t refuse you anything
693 12 bottom
Before ‘I saw Einarson and Grantham’, should be: Chapter XII The Night Before
694 2 top
695 2 top
“a dozen languages. She made puns and jokes and goofy rhymes.”
695 14 bottom
Should be a new paragraph: He got into an overcoat, and we went downstairs.
695 12 bottom
Before ‘Rain drove into our faces’, should be: Chapter XIII Progress Goes “Betune”
696 6 top
into English for us:
697 8 top
occupying the Administration Building and the Executive Residence.
697 19 top
Before “The city is ours.” Should be: Chapter XIV Coronation
697 6 bottom
“I didn’t understand any of it. I attended to my eating.”
698 10 top
hurriedly. They looked at us with uneasy eyes.
699 2 top
following line 2: walked to one of the rear corners of the platform should be this text:
Einarson followed me, frowning suspiciously.
“Why not give Grantham his crown now?” I asked when we were standing in the corner, my right shoulder touching his left, half facing each other, half facing the corner, our backs to the officers who sat on the platform, the nearest less than ten feet away. “Push it through. You can do it. There’ll be a howl, of course. Tomorrow, as a concession to that howl, you’ll make him abdicate. You’ll get credit for that. You’ll be fifty percent stronger with the people. Then you will be in a position to make it look as if the revolution was his party and that you were the patriot who kept this newcomer from grabbing the throne. Meanwhile you’ll be dictator, and whatever else you want to be when the time comes. See what I mean? Let him bear the brunt. You catch yours on the rebound.”
He liked the idea, but he didn’t like it to come from me. His little dark eyes pried into mine.
“Why should you suggest this?” he asked.
“What do you care? I promise you he’ll abdicate within twenty-four hours.”
He smiled under his mustache and raised his head. I knew a major in the A.E.F. who always raised his head like that when he was going to issue an unpleasant order. I spoke quickly:
“My raincoat — do you see it’s folded over my left arm?”
He said nothing, but his eyelids crept together.
“You can’t see my left hand,” I went on.
His eyes were slits, but he said nothing.
“There’s an automatic in it,” I wound up.
“Well?” he asked contemptuously.
“Nothing — only — get funny, and I’ll let your guts out.”
“Ach!” — he didn’t take me seriously —“and after that?”
“I don’t know. Think it over carefully, Einarson. I’ve deliberately put myself in a position where I’ve got to go ahead if you don’t give in. I can kill you before you do anything. I’m going to do it if you don’t give Grantham his crown now. Understand? I’ve got to. Maybe — most likely — your boys would get me afterward, but you’d be dead. If I back down now, you’ll certainly have me shot. So I can’t back down. If neither of us backs down, we’ll both take the leap. I’ve gone too far to weaken now. You’ll have to give in. Think it over. I can’t possibly be bluffing.”
699 8 top
hour of victory. A little earlier, a little later, I might have had to gun him. Now I had him.
699 20 bottom
Should be a separate paragraph: Einarson put a question and got a unanimous answer.
699 2 bottom
without meeting anyone any one who knew us [Dannay was correct]
699 16 bottom
I commanded. “Any kind of ceremony, so it’s short.”
700 2 top
herded him down the corridor to my room
700 7 top
Before ‘I prodded Einarson into the room’, should be: Chapter XV Bargain Hunters
700 15 top
Should be a separate paragraph: “Get over in the corner and sit down.”
700 20 bottom
to a chair in one corner of the room.
700 19 bottom
Should be a separate paragraph: “You’re a rowdy”
700 6 bottom
“or I’ll come over there and knock you double-jointed.”
701 5 top
finishing his morning nap, I suppose.”
701 19 bottom
“You and your king are a couple of brigands.
702 6 top
rid of him. I scowled at him and wondered what I should do next.
702 14 bottom
“Leave it to him. We’ll go upstairs.”
702 9 bottom
shoulders and turned her around.
702 1 bottom
my hands on her shoulders.
703 14 top
Before ‘I found my king in a wine’, should be: Chapter XVI Lionel Rex
704 4 top
I shall — ” He broke off and looked away from me.
704 13 top
Djudakovich will make a good dictator, and a good king later, if he wants to it.
704 20 top
Grantham looked at me and said: “No. You go.”
704 8 bottom
“dinky lousy, country’s throne — that’s — —
705 4 top
He put his back to me and walked out of the room.
705 12 top
Before ‘Colonel Einarson sat very erect’, should be: Chapter XVII Mob Law
705 21 top
where he could be handled? Djudakovich looked sleepily at my scowl.
705 17 bottom
and came to where I stood, just inside the door.
705 1 bottom
grinning confidently under his flowing dark mustache.
706 2 top
come along and you’ll see,” she said. Her breath came and went quickly, and the gray of her eyes was almost as dark as the black.
706 15 top
Should be a separate paragraph: “Wait and see.”
706 17 top
except worry while I waited.
706 10 bottom
and stepped back, giving the blond giant the center of the stage.
707 5 top
heels. Angry voices raised cries.
707 13 bottom
stepped to one side, clicked his heels together,
708 6 top
on his monstrous arms than the other!
708 4 bottom
darkening streets. She sat as far from me as the width of the rear seat would let her.
708 3 bottom
Should be a separate paragraph: “And now you despise me?”
709 14 top
Before “Vasilije was right” should be: She shook her head and said:
Print it off, clip it and stick it in your copy of Crime Stories & Other Writings and you’ll have a restored copy of “This King Business.” It’ll be the next best thing until someone finally gets it right and publishes Dashiell Hammett: The Complete Stories based upon the original magazine appearances.