March 1, 2011 / 6:06 PM / in 7 years

Hidden Hammett short story to be published

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A previously unpublished short story by acclaimed U.S. crime writer Dashiell Hammett will appear in The Strand Magazine later this week, its managing editor Andrew Gulli said on Tuesday.

But 14 other stories which he discovered while researching the author at the University of Texas will remain unseen, he said, after Hammett’s estate decided not to publish them.

“So I Shot Him” revolves around the character Rainey, who challenges Linn to overcome his irrational fear of water with surprising consequences.

Gulli came across the tale at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, which held dozens of stories and fragments by an author credited with creating the “hard-boiled” detective story also championed by Raymond Chandler.

Chandler once wrote: “Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse.”

Gulli spent weeks cross-referencing what he found with what had been published, and had “that eureka moment” when he discovered that 15 of the pieces had not been published before.

He approached Hammett’s estate, and they allowed him to print So I Shot Him in The Strand Magazine, which has brought to light previously unseen works by authors including Agatha Christie, Graham Greene and Mark Twain.

“What I liked about these stories was that they had a lot of great elements of Dashiell Hammett, but a lot of them had things that were different and experimental and gripping in my view,” Gulli said in a telephone interview.

“I decided on So I Shot Him because in many respects it was typical yet untypical of Hammett; you had the vivid characters, terse dialogue, but Hammett in this story was going to the realm of the psychological and that’s what I found fascinating.”

BOGART, BLACKLIST

He said Hammett may have decided not to publish the stories, because he was so critical of his own work.

Hammett, who died in 1961, is best known for his 1930 novel “The Maltese Falcon,” which was turned into a classic movie of the same name starring Humphrey Bogart.

He was a detective as a young man, and during the latter part of his life ended up in jail and on Hollywood’s blacklist for his leftwing political activism.

He was imprisoned in 1951 after refusing to give information about suspected communists and two years later was blacklisted because he would not cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Gulli said he respected the decision of Hammett’s estate not to publish all of the recently discovered stories, but added:

“I feel very fortunate to have read these unpublished works, and only wish the wider public had the same chance that I did.”

The quarterly Strand Magazine, which specializes in mystery fiction and short stories, will appear on Friday.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato

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