mett’s works, Layman says, “More of ten,nsexuality in Hammett’s work is distortedornperverted and represents the extentnto which a character has departed from anromantic ideal of man’s capacity for uncorruptedlove.”Hammett’snpersonal lifenwas an anthem to corrupted love, whichnLayman explains by noting the long linenof cads in Hammett’s family. Where donwe find a restorative concern for romanticnideals in Hammett’s life?nThe rampant insensitivity toward humannlife played out in these stories wasndictated by the readership of Black Masknand the other pulps by which Hammettngained his reputation. He could havenexcelled in the art of “pure detection,”nas Jacques Barzun refers to the classicalnschool of mystery writing: Poe, ConannDoyle, Sayers, Knox, Chesterton, E. C.nBentley, S. S. Van Dine, A. A. Milne,netc. He knew criminology and was anwizard at constructing fast-paced plotsnfull of unexpected, believable twists.nHad he been a romantic this would havenseemed the natural direction for Hammett’sntalents. But, as Raymond Chandlernwrote, “Even Einstein couldn’t getnvery far if three hundred treatises of thenhigher physics were published every year,nand several thousand others in some formnor other were hanging around in excellentncondition, and being read too.”nWhen Hammett got involved in writingndetective fiction it was because henwanted to set the facts straight—thatnshell casings are not left around afternfiring a revolver; that you don’t feelnthe blow that strikes you unconscious;nthat identifiable fingerprints are seldomnleft on anybody’s skin. His experiencenas a Pinkerton detective lent plausibilitynto the genre, and his ear for dialect wasnamazing. Even Hemingway’s curt dialoguesnare dated compared to Hammett’s.nHe taught a generation ofnwriters to see things point-blank.nAnother factor in his involvementnwith pulp fiction was the fact that Hammett,nwhile recuperating from tuberculosisnafter World War I, married thennurseabout whom Hemingway romanticized,nand he needed a way to support hernZtnChronicles of Culturenand the daughter who was born threenmonths after the wedding. While LilliannHellman refers to Hammett’s sense ofnhonor (“Have you always kept yournword.-‘” “Most of the time,” he said,n” maybe because I’ve so seldom given it”),nnothing is said by either her or Laymannto justify Hammett’s abandonment ofnJose and her two daughters after his fannmail started pouring in. Their marriagenwas never legitimately dissolved, althoughna mail-order Mexican divorcenseemed to satisfy what little sense ofnpropriety he had about marital contracts.nTheconfusion of Hammett’s personalnlife, the exigencies of the marketplacenof American publishing and the thirstnof the public in the 20’s and 30’s fornmayhem, sex and realism—these thingsnmade Hammett a successful writer. Andnthis success, combined with alcoholismnand a penchant for giving his money tonanyone who might enjoy it more than henwould, led to an eaHy retirement. Afternwriting the last third of The Glass Keynin a locked room, sans bottle, in thirtynhours, Hammett declared himself finishednas a writer. His career as a Hollywoodnscreen writer, with its missed deadlinesnand Hammett’s general irresponsibility,nwas a tribute to the patience ofnhis producers.nX. he Hammett legacy has been makingna comeback lately. More than anyonenelse, Hammett inspired the sort ofncynicism and alienation that generatednthe film noir after World War- IL Atnthat time Hamm^tt %as out of Hollywood,ninvolving himself in communistnaffiliations about which he would laternremain loyally silent before Congressionalnhearings. The cinema after the war hadnturned away from the levity of a decadenearlier, when Nick and Nora and theirnpet dog Asta tippled their way throughnlife’s upper stratum. Such movies asnthose made from James M. Cain’s novels,nDouble Indemnity And The Postman AlwaysnRings Twice, and Hemingway’snThe Killers brought Americans home tonthe realism Hammett had intimated.nCheck John Huston’s 1943 classic,nnnThe Maltese Falcon, against any ofnthese bleak manifestations of postwarnangst. It is not hard to envision a handnof demoralizing conspiracy at work,nreal or merely exuded from the collectivenconsciousness of Screen WritersnGuild types.nThe public was not as eager to havenmovies portray a depraved, animalisticnmankind as the movie-makers thought.nFor several years now the McCarthy eranhas been trotted out to refresh ournmemories and instruct the young aboutnwhat a dismal race of imbeciles the ColdnWarriors were. But HoUjrwood learnedna valuable lesson from it all: peoplenlike happy endings, and when you keepndriving at them with gloom and guiltnthey retaliate, most often by watchingntelevision. Hollywood learned that itnis part of a larger structure known asnsouthern California, which, in turn, isnsituated in the southwestern corner ofna country called the United States.nNow we see a renaissance in motionnpictures. Traditional action thrillers likenRaiders of the Lost Ark and Superman,nand slurpy romances like ContinentalnDivide, are competing with remakes ofnlate40’s bruisers like The PostmannAlways Rings Twice and Body Heat.nIt is difficult now to think of Hollywoodnlocked up in the gruesome, onethemenhalf nelson applied after the warnby a group of writers with Soviet sympathies.nThe movement back to the filmnnoir seems to suggest an urge to delveninto the violence of human psychologynonce again. The box office will tell usnif there is a similarly inclined publicnfor this trend. People are not in thenhabit of going to the movies frequently,nas they were before television, and wencan little appreciate the danger felt bynsome after the war when the druggednmasses were being brutalized by black,nhopeless pictures that made Hobbesnlook like Norman Vincent Peale.nThe McCarthy era had a beneficialneffect on Dashiell Hammett also. Fornthe last fifteen years of his life he wasnon the skids. Flaccid attempts at startingna literary masterpiece degenerated inton