Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dashiell Hammett Man of Mystery by Sally Cline

Do all writers have a tortured soul?  This one sure did.

Skyhorse Publishing sent me a copy of this book for review (thank you).  It has been published and you can get a copy at your local bookstore now.

I've read Hammett's work and admired it, so this biography sounded interesting to me.  I wasn't expecting the man I read about, though.  His life was rougher than I expected.

His home life as a child was unsettling.  His father was a big man who was unfaithful to his wife and continually lost jobs.  They were constantly on the move from one city to another while his father looked for employment.  His mother spoiled him but she was in ill health herself and couldn't do much.  His father just wanted him to stay out of his way.

His way out was to go in the service.  His mother cried; he was joyous.  A change would do him good, he thought.  Unfortunately, his own health wasn't great and he was a small man.  He developed tuberculosis and ended up leaving the service.  While he was in the hospital trying to recuperate, he fell in love with a nurse that reminded him of his mother.  He married her and had two children with her.  By that point, he was writing.  Soon, he fell into his father's bad habits.  He drank, slept around, had bouts with tuberculosis and gonorrhea, and moved about the countryside.  He developed a long time relationship with Lillian Hellman but he never divorced his wife.

He was a man who could not control his lust for life.  He was never really happy.  He had his own writing style, which was not popular in the day.  It did sell books, though.  When he had money, he shared it with everyone.  When he did not, he struggled.

All in all, his life story is almost like something fictional from a book.  He pursued his own version of "living large" and he had it good for a while.  He wrote stories that are still around today and new readers are enjoying them.  His health made him a writer and he'd be amazed to see how long his stories have lived. Life was hard for him, but he survived.

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