Before he made his name as perhaps the greatest American hard-boiled crime writer, before his attachment to writer and activist Lillian Hellman, his blacklisting during the McCarthy era and subsequent downward spiral, Dashiell Hammett led a life fit for one of his stories. Born in 1894 into a poor Maryland family, Hammett left school at fourteen and held several jobs before joining the Pinkerton National Detective Agency as an operative from 1915 through 1922, witnessing both the drama and banality of life as a detective. The tuberculosis he contracted during the war forced him to retire, but it sparked one of America's brightest writing careers. Hailed as American classics, Hammett's work-from his Continental Op stories to novels such as Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon, and The Thin Man -inspired generations of writers, from Chandler to Connelly. Nathan Ward reveals how Hammett's experience as a detective informed the stories and characters that would come to define the crime genre, casting brilliant new light on the life and times of one of America's most celebrated novelists.
" The Lost Detective is full of stimulating insight into how the novice writer shaped real-life experience into vital fiction." - The Wall Street Journal "As brisk and conversational as a magazine feature . . . And as we Hammett fans know, there are few personas, few writers in 20th-century literature period, more interesting to read about." - The Washington Post "A gritty portrait of the 20th century's great pulp poet Dashiell Hammett, who turned his days gumshoeing for the Pinkerton Detective Agency into bawdy and muscular American classics." - O, the Oprah Magazine