- Chapter 13 ends with Hammett's assessment of The Thin Man. That novel is the last of the work for which most readers know Hammett today, yet the chapter comes barely halfway through Layman's book. Conclusion: Hammett led an an interesting life beyond his writing.
- Layman's judgment is sound on his rankings of Hammett's novels and short stories, and he's unafraid to call a story "very bad." But he sometimes fails to acknowledge the strengths of the weaker stories. Hammett may indeed be "too subtle in his characterization of Inez, the most dangerous criminal" in "The Whosis Kid," but the characterization of the kid in the stories opening segment is is superb. Layman calls the story one of Hammett's best attempts, but I'd have liked him to discuss, however briefly, what makes the story's opening so compulsively readable. I think I'll go back and reread some of the stories in light of Layman's assessment.
- One could compile an illustrious Who's Who of Hammett's drinking companions and visitors, William Faulkner and S.J. Perelman among them.
- Layman is efficient. The book checks in under 300 pages, including introductory material, index and appendices.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011