April 27 2012

The Dain Curse

The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett was Hammett’s second novel featuring the Continental Op. This book is basically three short stories tied together with common characters and the unfortunate happenings to the “Dain” family. I read this back on my flight from Rome. It worked OK in that role as it was short and fast.
So far, Hammett isn’t growing on me as quickly or as well as Chandler did when I read through his novels. Out on the internets I see lots of people extolling Hammett’s prose and plotting, but I’m not really seeing it so far. The Op isn’t particularly likeable. The end story in this one was supposed to tie things together, but the result was one of those invented endings where it looks like Hammett wanted to tie things together and just fit the ending to make things work out. There wasn’t anything really leading to that ending. The dialogue speaks very much like many movies from the forties. You can hear the inflected accents as the actors try to be earnest. I’m not sure that’s a really good thing.

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Posted April 27, 2012 by user in category "Book review


  1. By EEGiorgi on

    I only read Red Harvest (which I saw you liked) because somebody told me, “If you like Chandler, you’ll love Hammett,” but, like you, I got to the end of that book and felt that he hadn’t ‘grown on me” like Chandler at all. Yes, there’s some wit, but all in all it lacks Chandler charms and lyrical prose. One that Ian recommended as a “Chandler-like” is Ross Macdonald. I’ve just started “The way some people die.”

    You were in Rome?

  2. By Steven Halter (Post author) on

    I think that I liked the background story of Red Harvest more than the actual tale. I was really hoping that Hammett would show growth but it seems like the parts of Red Harvest that I didn’t like as much are gaining over what I did in this one.
    Yes–we were in Rome. I’ll be doing a post as soon as I get the pictures sorted through. (Short form is it was a lot of fun.)

  3. By Ian on

    Huh, this is funny, because I just read Red Harvest myself. I totally agree with both of you– Hammett just doesn’t grow on me like Chandler. The Continental Op is extremely unlikeable, and while there is some clever dialog, the story and prose together aren’t enough to enthrall me. That was my opinion of The Maltese Falcon, too.

    But, I will say that Hammett’s novel The Thin Man is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. That is a great read. It’s a shame that he only wrote one book about Nick and Nora Charles (in spite of the many film spinoffs).

    1. By Steven Halter (Post author) on

      I’ll have to check out The Thin Man. In Red Harvest, there were some nice lines and I liked that it was loosely based in events from Hammett’s past. In The Dain Curse there are fewer good lines and more of unlikeability from the Op.
      There aren’t really any heroes in the movie version of the Maltese Falcon but its got Bogie and that makes a difference. Hammett gets a lot of love in a lot of places and I was starting to think maybe it was all wishful thinking from the movie performances.

  4. By EE Giorgi on

    Came back to say that while “The way some people die” didn’t thrill me too much, I’m now reading “The moving target” and I’m really loving it! Lew Archer seems to lack the sentimental appeal that Marlowe has, but other than that, the writing is tight, the plot engaging, and the metaphors Mcdonald uses are definitely of Chandler quality. In a couple of cases he managed to nail a character in a one-line description — fantastic!!

    In case you were thinking of checking out the Lew Archer books… 🙂

    1. By Steven Halter (Post author) on

      Thanks for the recommendation! MacDonald is the next logical step in a tour of hard boiled detectives. He’s on my list now.


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