Crime and the Cultural Landscape: A Series on Detective Fiction

Samuel Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon (1894-1961 )


  • Born in 1894 in St. Mary, Maryland; died of lung cancer in 1961
  • Married Josephine Dolan in 1921; separated in 1927 and divorced in 1937; had two daughters.
  • Attended Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.
  • Served in the U.S. Army Ambulance Corps in World War I (1918-1919) and in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in World War II (1942-1945), became sergeant; buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


  • In his early years, worked as a freight clerk, stevedore, timekeeper, yardman, and railroad worker.
  • Spent two stints as a detective with Pinkerton National Detective Agency (1914-1918, 1919-1921).
  • Worked as a San Francisco  advertising copywriter in the 1920s.
  • Worked sporadically as a screenwriters from 1930 until the end of World War II.
  • A Marxist who became active in various left-wing organizations after 1937, including the Civil Rights Congress, in which he was a local and national officer.
  • Convicted and imprisoned for contempt of Congress.
  • Faculty member (1946-47, 1949-56) and  member of the board of trustees (1948) of the Jefferson School of Social Sciences.

Major Writings

Red Harvest
The Dain Curse (1929)
The Maltese Falcon (1930)
The Glass Key (1931)
The Thin Man (1972)

Short Story Collections
$106,000 Blood Money (1943), published as The Big Knockover (1948)
The Adventures of Sam Spade (1944)
The Continental Op (1945)
A Man Called Spade
The Return of the Continental Op (1945)
Dead Yellow Women (1947)
Nightmare Town (1948)
Creeping Siamese (1950)
Woman in the Dark (1951)
A Man Named Thin (1962)

Biographical Sources, Critical Sources and Reviews

  • For critical and biographical information, see the following Gale publications:  Contemporary Authors, Volumes 81-84; Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volume 42; Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volumes 5, 10, 19, and 47; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Documentary series, Volume 6.   Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors Online) can be accessed online through a subscribing library at

Retired Discussion Series

Debbie Sturman, Director
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