Collecting Rare Books and First Editions: Dashiell Hammett
By Tom Congalton
Hammett wrote just five novels that were published in hardcover: Red Harvest (1929), The Dain Curse (1930), The Maltese Falcon (1930), The Glass Key (1931), and The Thin Man (1934) over a period of only five years, and then spent the 26 remaining years of his life drinking, and generally being annoying. He did however, write a lot of stories that were collected in paperback, or after his death. All of the first four are especially uncommon in fine condition and in jackets. The Glass Key was first published in England, which not too many people know, in a very small edition, and with different jacket art. Both that book and a fine jacketed copy of The Maltese Falcon demand and deserve a premium when you go to buy one. The Thin Man is less rare, but still pricey, and comes in four variants of the jacket – either green or red, and with or without reviews on the jacket flaps. The front panel jacket photograph on all variants is of Hammett himself, doing a fair job looking dapper yet macilent. No one knows for sure what the priority is, but dealers invariably claim primacy for the copy they happen to have in stock at the moment. We lean towards the red jacket without blurbs, but condition is the important thing and we'd probably still take any nice copy that came along.
The tip is published by permission of Between the Covers Rare Books, Inc. Thank you very much.