Politics and the 1920s Writings of Dashiell Hammett

J.A. Zumoff


This essay examines the relationship between politics and the early writings of hard-boiled detective author Dashiell Hammett. Although Hammett in the mid-1930s joined the American Communist Party, most of his writing (published in the 1920s) is not typically left-wing. In fact, as with other modernist writers of the 1920s, there are portions of his writings that lend themselves to distinctly conservative, even reactionary, readings. The essay examines Hammett’s experience as a Pinkerton detective and its influence on his writing; his relationship to modernism; and his later Communism. Although Hammett is not a central figure in American literature in the broad sense, examining his writings in the 1920s allows not only to better understand the political origins of hard-boiled detective writing, but also to understand the greater social changes the U.S. was undergoing at the time.

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American Studies. ISSN 0026-3079.

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