A Year in Books/Day 116: The Thin Man

  • Title: The Thin Man
  • Author: Dashiell Hammett
  • Year Published: 1933/This Edition: 1989 (Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage Books Edition)
  • Year Purchased: 1990
  • Source: Doubleday Book Shops
  • About: Oh, Hammett. Hammett. Dashiell Hammett. I had such a teenage crush on you. This book, right here, this exact volume, started it all. This is where phrases like ‘hard-boiled’ and ‘tough as nails’ usually come into play. His characters are certainly that, but Nick and Nora Charles are so much more besides: sly, witty, elegant, sophisticated, sexy, bewitching. His prose is streamlined, sleek, purposeful, entertaining; as you would expect from a good crime story, there is not one unnecessary word or action to be found. He was a master of dialogue, real-world, genuine, fresh dialogue. Hammett was a very fine writer-and not just for a detective novelist. The Thin Man is a quick read in the best sense: it’s intelligent and fast-paced, with a smart plot and interesting characters. He knew how to hook you and, just as importantly, he knew when to let you go.
  • Motivation: The 1934 film version. I like to read books before seeing film adaptations but I was introduced to The Thin Man in reverse order; I caught it on television when I was 14 or 15. Instant love, of course. Who can resist William Powell and Myrna Loy? No one I’ve ever met.
  • Times Read: 4 or 5
  • Random Excerpt/Page 12: “That afternoon I took Asta for a walk, explained to two people that she was a Schnauzer and not a cross between a Scottie and an Irish terrier, stopped at Jim’s for a couple of drinks, ran into Larry Crowley, and brought him back to the Normandie with me. Nora was pouring cocktails for the Quinns, Margot Innes, a man whose name I did not catch, and Dorothy Wynant. Dorothy said she wanted to talk to me, so we carried our cocktails into the bedroom.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10
    Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961)

    Dashiell Hammett, teen idol (1894-1961). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


4 thoughts on “A Year in Books/Day 116: The Thin Man

  1. Bring that up with you next week. I’ve never read the book – just seen the movies, and you’re right – Nick and Nora were the ultimate couple – sophisticated grownups drinking cocktails and leading a charmed life with mostly play and little work. Loved them – thanks for reminding me.


    • If you like the movie (and I refuse to believe there is anyone who doesn’t) then you’ll like the book. It’s a rare example of a book/film duo that are both wonderful.


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