What makes someone a fit subject for biography? Towering achievement, for one, and Hammett has that in spades. But he also appears to have been entertaining and elusive quarry. Here's the beginning of Layman's short preface:
"Dashiell Hammett seemed, for most of his life to crave privacy."Standard celebrity stuff so far. But the paragraph goes on:
"Unlike many literary celebrities, he never took his fame seriously. He never relied on it, never expected it, and he was always contemptuous of those who treated him with deference because of his literary reputation. When he was in certain moods, he delighted in fooling interviewers, interested listeners, and sycophants with fabricated tales about his past and his future plans."And here's the 1924 extract from Black Mask, in Hammett's own words, with which Layman heads the first chapter:
"I was born in Maryland, between the Potomac and Patuxent rivers, on May 27, 1894, and was raised in Baltimore.One can tell Hammett had fun writing that — no surprise to readers who delight in the wit of his fiction.
"After a fraction of a year in high school ... I became the unsatisfactory and unsatisfied employee of various railroads, stock brokers, machine manufacturers, canners, and the like. Usually I was fired."
What other crime writers have been subjects of a biography? What crime writers should be? Whom would you like to read about — and why?
© Peter Rozovsky 2011