Dashiell Hammett

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Dashiell Hammett in 1934

Samuel Dashiell Hammett (May 27, 1894January 10, 1961) was an American author of hardboiled detective novels and short stories. Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), and the Continental Op (Red Harvest, The Dain Curse).



Short Stories

  • If a man says a thing often enough, he is very likely to acquire some sort of faith in it sooner or later.
    • "The Second-Story Angel" (published in Black Mask, 15 November 1923)
  • I don't like eloquence. If it isn't effective enough to pierce your hide, it's tiresome, and if it is effective enough, it muddles your thoughts.
    • "Zigzags of Treachery" (published in Black Mask, 1 March 1924)
  • Emotions are useless during business hours.
    • "Zigzags of Treachery" (published in Black Mask, 1 March 1924)
  • All successful bunko men come in time to believe the world, except for themselves, is populated with a race of human sheep who may be trusted to conduct themselves with true sheeplike docility.
    • "Zigzags of Treachery" (published in Black Mask, 1 March 1924)
  • I didn't know then, and I don't know now, whether she was the owner of the world's best poker face or was just naturally stupid, but whichever she was, she was thoroughly and completely it.
    • "Women, Politics and Murder" (published in Black Mask, September 1924; retitled "Death on Pine Street" when reprinted in the first anthology of Continental Op stories, The Continental Op, published in 1945; subsequent reprintings have used the latter title for this story)
  • "Stop, you idiot!" I bawled at her. Her face laughed over her shoulder at me. She walked without haste to the door, her short skirt of gray flannel shaping itself to the calf of each gray wool-stockinged leg as its mate stepped forward. Sweat greased the gun in my hand. When her right foot was on the doorsill, a little chuckling sound came from her throat. "Adieu!" she said softly.
    And I put a bullet in the calf of her leg. She sat down--plump! Utter surprise stretched her white face. It was too soon for pain. I had never shot a woman before. I felt queer about it.
    "You ought to have known I'd do it!" My voice sounded harsh and savage and like a stranger's in my ears. "Didn't I steal a crutch from a cripple?"
  • "Remember, I've got no idea what this is all about," said the girl when they were in the living room, a narrow room, where blue fought with red without ever compromising on purple.
    • "The Assistant Murderer" (published in Black Mask, February 1926)
  • "Did it ever occur to you that everybody is more or less afraid of nearly everything, and that courage isn't a damn thing but a habit of not dodging things because you're afraid of them?"
    • "The Cure" (unpublished story, first printed in The Hunter and Other Stories in 2013)
  • "Tall-over six feet-and one of the thinnest men I’ve ever seen. He must be about fifty now and his hair was almost white when I knew him.Usually needs a haircut, ragged brindle mustache, bites his fingernails." I pushed the dog away to reach for my drink.
    • Nick Charles
  • "You got types?"
    "Only you, darling-lanky brunettes with wicked jaws."
    • Nora & Nick
  • "A lot of fancier yarns come from people trying to tell the truth. It’s not easy once you’re out of the habit."
    • Nick Charles
  • "How do you feel?"
    "Terrible. I must have gone to bed sober."
    • Nora & Nick
  • "That’s why I don’t very often drink, or even smoke. I want to try cocaine, though because that’s suppose to sharpen the brain, isn’t it?"
    • Gilbert Wynant
  • "She keeps trying and you’ve got to be careful or you’ll find yourself believing her, not because she seems to be telling the truth, but simply because you’re tired of disbelieving her."
    • Nick Charles
  • "The problem with putting two and two together is that sometimes you get four, and sometimes you get twenty-two." [citation needed]
  • Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down-from high flat temples-in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan.
  • She was tall and pliantly slender, without angularity anywhere. Her body was erect and high-breasted, her legs long, her hands and feet narrow. She wore two shades of blue that had been selected because of her eyes. The hair curling from under her blue hat was darkly red, her full lips more brightly red. White teeth glistened in the crescent her timid smile made.
    • Description of Brigid O'Shaughnessy
  • His features were small, in keeping with his stature, and regular. His skin was very fair. The whiteness of his cheeks was as little blurred by any considerable growth of beard as by the glow of blood. His clothing was neither new nor of more than ordinary quality, but it, and his manner of wearing it was marked by a hard masculine neatness.
    • Description of Wilmer, the gunsel
  • Spade’s thick fingers made a cigarette with deliberate care, sifting a measured quantity of tan flakes down into curved paper, spreading the flakes so that they lay equal at the ends with a slight depression in the middle, thumbs rolling the paper’s inner edge down and up under the outer edge as forefingers pressed it over, thumbs and fingers sliding to the paper cylinder’s ends to hold it even while tongue licked the flap, left forefinger and thumb pinching their ends while right forefinger and thumb smoothed the damp seam, right forefinger and thumb twisting their end and lifting the other to Spade’s mouth.
  • "I’ve thrown myself on your mercy, told you that without your help I’m utterly lost.

    What else is there?" She suddenly moved close to him on the settee and cried angrily: "Can I buy you with my body?"

    • Brigid
  • "Our conversations have not been such that I am anxious to continue them in private."
    • Cairo
  • "The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter."
    • Spade
  • "You’re a damn good man, sister," he said and went out.
    • Spade
  • "We begin well, sir," the fat man purred … "I distrust a man that says when. If he's got to be careful not to drink too much it's because he's not to be trusted when he does. … Well, sir, here's to plain speaking and clear understanding. … You're a close-mouthed man?"
    Spade shook his head. "I like to talk."
    "Better and better!" the fat man exclaimed. "I distrust a close-mouthed man. He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says the wrong things. Talking's something you can't do judiciously unless you keep in practice."
    • Chap. 11, "The Fat Man"
    • Dialogue between the characters Kasper Gutman (the "fat man") and Sam Spade.
  • "If you kill me, how are you going to get the bird? If I know you can't afford to kill me till you have it, how are you going to scare me into giving it to you?"
    Gutman cocked his head to the left and considered these questions. His eyes twinkled between puckered lids. Presently he gave his genial answer: "Well, sir, there are other means of persuasion besides killing and threatening to kill."
    "Sure," Spade agreed, "but they're not much good unless the threat of death is behind them to hold the victim down. See what I mean? If you try anything I don't like I won't stand for it. I'll make it a matter of your having to call it off or kill me, knowing you can't afford to kill me."
    "I see what you mean." Gutman chuckled. "That is an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides, because, as you know, sir, men are likely to forget in the heat of action where their best interest lies, and let their emotions carry them away."
    Spade too was all smiling blandness. "That's the trick, from my side," he said, "to make my play strong enough that it ties you up, but yet not make you mad enough to bump me off against your better judgment."
    Gutman said fondly: "By Gad, sir, you are a character!"
    • Chap. 18, "The Fall-Guy"
    • dialogue between the characters "Sam Spade" and "Kasper Gutman"
  • Spade pulled his hand out of hers. He no longer either smiled or grimaced. His wet yellow face was set hard and deeply lined. His eyes burned madly. He said: "Listen. This isn't a damned bit of good. You'll never understand me, but I'll try once more and then we'll give it up. Listen. When a man's partner is killed he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it. Then it happens we were in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed it's bad business to let the killer get away with it. It's bad all around – bad for that one organization, bad for every detective everywhere. Third, I'm a detective and expecting me to run criminals down and then let them go free is like asking a dog to catch a rabbit and let it go. It can be done, all right, and sometimes it is done, but it's not the natural thing. The only way I could have let you go was by letting Gutman and Cairo and the kid go. … Fourth, no matter what I wanted to do now it would be absolutely impossible for me to let you go without having myself dragged to the gallows with the others. Next, I've no reason in God's world to think I can trust you and if I did this and got away with it you'd have something on me that you could use whenever you happened to want to. That's five of them. The sixth would be that, since I've got something on you, I couldn't be sure you wouldn't decide to shoot a hole in *me* some day. Seventh, I don't even like the idea of thinking that there might be one chance in a hundred that you'd played me for a sucker. And eighth – but that's enough. All those on one side. Maybe some of them are unimportant. I won't argue about that. But look at the number of them. Now on the other side we've got what? All we've got is the fact that maybe you love me and maybe I love you." … "But suppose I do? What of it? Maybe next month I won't. I've been through it before – when it lasted that long. Then what? Then I'll think I played the sap. And if I did it and got sent over then I'd be sure I was the sap. Well, if I send you over I'll be sorry as hell – I'll have some rotten nights – but that'll pass. Listen." He took her by the shoulders and bent her back, leaning over her. "If that doesn't mean anything to you forget it and we'll make it this: I won't because all of me wants to – wants to say to hell with the consequences and do it -- and because – God damn you – you've counted on that with me the same as you counted on that with the others. … Don't be too sure I'm as crooked as I'm supposed to be. That kind of reputation might be good business – bringing in high-priced jobs and making it easier to deal with the enemy. … Well, a lot of money would have been at least one more item on the other side of the scales." … Spade set the edges of his teeth together and said through them: "I won't play the sap for you."
    • Chap. 20, "If They Hang You"
    • spoken by the character "Sam Spade" to "Brigid O'Shaughnessy."

Quotes about Dashiell Hammett

  • He believed in the salvation of knowledge and intelligence, and he tried to live it out...He was a gay man, funny, witty. Most of his life was wide open and adventurous, and most of it he enjoyed. He learned and acted on what he learned. He believed in man's right to dignity and never in all the years did he play anybody's game but his own. "Anything for a buck" was his sneer at those who did. In the thirty years I knew him I never heard him tell a lie of any kind and that sometimes made me angry when I wasn't envying the courage it takes. He saw through other people's lies but he dismissed them with a kind of tolerant contempt. He was a man of simple honor and bravery. Blessed are they, I hope, who leave good work behind. And who leave behind a life that is so worthy of respect. Whoever runs the blessing department, may they have sense enough to bless a good man this last day he is on earth.
    • Lillian Hellman anthologized in Remembrances and Celebrations edited by Jill Werman Harris (2000)