Best known for his detective novels, American author
Hammett was born in 1894 in Maryland. Hammett grew up in
Philadelphia and Baltimore, and left school at 13. He eventually began
working for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1915. The seven
years he spent working for the company would inform many of his novels.
Hammett enlisted in the Army in 1918 and served in World War I. He
contracted the Spanish flu and tuberculosis, so spent most of his
service in a hospital. After this, he moved to San Francisco. Through
the 1920s, he wrote a number of short stories. His first novel, Red
Harvest, was published in 1929. The Dain Curse followed later in the
same year, with The Maltese Falcon published in 1930 and The Glass Key
published in 1931.
As a writer, Hammett’s career was short-lived. His final novel, The Thin
Man, was published in 1934. His work continued to be published, but he
was no longer writing additional pieces.
During World War II, Hammett again enlisted in the Army. Though he was
kept out of combat for health reasons, he was able to work as an editor
of an Army newspaper.
Hammett’s life had been devoted to left-wing activism after he finished
The Thin Man. Having joined the Communist Party in the 1930s, he would
be investigated, blacklisted, and imprisoned in the 1950s anti-Communist
fervour. Hammett’s already frail health continued to decline through the
1950s. In 1961, Hammett died from lung cancer.