Thursday, July 20, 2017

Heard: "The Glass Key" by Dashiell Hammett

Heard: The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett, 1931, audio version is listed as 2011 in Overdrive. That date might be electronic version and not production date.

I cannot recall if I read this before or not. I've always enjoyed Hammett's books but did most of that reading in middle or high school. My interest was always the Continental Op so I think I might have skipped this novel.

As I was listening to the first part of the book I thought, "Hey, this is the plot of Miller's Crossing." Well, yeah. Sort of. The first part of the film is much like the first part of the novel and then the stories diverge. I'm not bothering to research and see if the Coen's credited Hammett.

Ned Beaumont works for Paul Madvig. Madvig is a political fixer in a medium sized town not far from New York. Madvig has most politicians under his thumb and an upcoming election has him working to get his senator reelected. Madvig makes money of the government contract scams and the usual illegal enterprises. Ned Beaumont came to town about 18 months ago, started working for Paul and the two of them became tight.

Ned has been the strategic might behind Madvig's dealings. Ned has the brains and the foresight. But, when the senator's son is beaten to death on the street things start to happen. Ned is the first to find the body and walks up the block to Paul's night club. The first concern is for how this will hurt the election. Paul is concerned how the death will effect his pining and mooning love for the Senator's young daughter. Paul is about 20 years the woman's senior but madly in love with her.

Things happen in a Hammett fashion. People lie. Hoodlums enjoy hurting people. Drinking and smoking are vital to daily life. Hats are worn. So on. So forth. Ned splits from Madvig but still helps him out.

I was struck how Hammett would let us know what characters were thinking. His common tactic was to describe their faces - a droop to a lip, eyes looking elsewhere - but I have not firm examples to type in. Hammett also used the word "mien" several times. That's a word that is fallen out of fashion.

I really enjoyed this novel but do wonder if the author's name was part of that. Are my memories of the first readings of his work stronger than the work? If this were printed under another name would I like it as much? If pigs had wings would they fly? If you give a mouse a cookie will he ask for a glass of milk?

EDIT: OK. Fine. I looked. The Coen's did mix The Glass Key and Red Harvest. That's what I was guessing.

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