Final Essay:The Dots and the Lines Between

For my part in the Wikipedia project, I researched the “legacy” portion of The Glass Key. Legacy is a really large part of the Hardboiled genre. Throughout the semester, Jim Groom talked about a lot of different things, but one thing that kept reappearing throughout each discussion was the term “which was an inspiration for…”. In my head, Chandler and Hammett and Fante and Mosley and the Cohen brothers were all good friends who frequented this little cigar lounge and just talked about things like murder and death and women. Maybe they talked a little of Hemmingway as well. The point of this image being that each author took a little bit of inspiration from all of the other authors and added a little bit of their own imagination and their take on the world and then there you go: another Hardboiled novel. Maybe it’s a little bit more formal than this, but that’s the feeling I got as Jim Groom presented these dots (known as novels) and then connected them, to movies and subgenres and other authors, and then got again as I began to research how The Glass Key affected the rest of the Hardboiled (and literature as a whole) genre.


In the research project, I started with the links that Peter (aka Best Librarian Ever) had provided on the Wikipedia research page. I sent Peter an email, explaining the difficulty I was having, and he responded with a suggestion to check out a few links, particularly the Book Review Index Plus, which allowed me to search within book reviews. This was helpful, since many reviewers would connect Hammett to other authors and their work as they reviewed his work. One particular article, “Lead Birds and Falling Beams”, I found brought in an article written by Raymond Chandler (one of the guys in the cigar lounge) and how he related his ideas to ideas that Hammett had also explored (Defino). I knew in my head that all of these authors were connected, but it was really cool to be reading an article and find the names of other authors that we had discussed, kind of like reading the credits to a movie and seeing actors that you recognize. Except it makes me feeling more intelligent than that. Having done that, I then followed Peter’s next piece of advice: check out the preexisting Wikipedia page. This was surprisingly helpful, given the fact that there were a total of approximately five sentences. It pointed me to the two movies that had been produced based on the novel (IMDb), as well as a remake for Orson Welles’ “The Campbell Playhouse” (Layman). I then began to follow up on these leads.


As I was doing the research on the movies, I ran into a few problems. There really isn’t a very official website of movies. I found the IMDb, or the Internet Movie Database, but it wasn’t as official as I would have liked. I was able to find out the basics of each of the screen adaptations, one in 1935 and directed by Frank Tuttle and the remake in 1942 directed by Heisler (IMDb). They were both done by Paramount, and from what I could find, they were neither blockbuster hits nor flops.


From there, I turned to printed sources. The library had about ten or so books on Hammett, and they were surprisingly helpful. Such books we unearthed included The Glass Key by Julian Symons, Dashiell Hammett; a Casebook by William F. Nolan, and Dashiell Hammett by William Marling. I pulled a few facts out of Richard Layman’s “Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett.” Even outside of the actual research part, I really enjoyed flipping through the books and reading what had been written about Hammett’s personal life, or what researchers were able to find out about it. As much as I despise internet research, I adore research done inside a library. In a way, the library is like a much larger version of the Hardboiled genre and the cigar lounge. As we found articles on Hammett, they pointed the way to other articles, and other books. Each new book led us to more books, and if given the time and the patience, these books could lead to other authors and other genres. While researching the movie adaptations of The Glass Key, I discovered the satirical samurai film Yojimbo which was inspired by The Glass Key. I was first surprised to discover that this was even a genre, and then surprised to see the connection. An American Hardboiled novel inspiring a Japanese satire movie was not something that I had expected. This went even further when I saw that this movie had in turn inspired Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars” and its sequel, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” These movies were a part of the genre known as “spaghetti western” movies. This was a term that originated to derogatorily describe western movies produced by Italians. Sergio Leone was one of these such producers, Ennio Morricone produced some of his most famous work in these movies, and Lee Van Cleef, a famous American actor is most known for his work in these western classics. The connection made between Hardboiled novels and Italian produced Westerns just blows my mind. The Glass Key has a few other influences, including a literary award known as The Glass Key Award, which is given to the best Nordic Crime novel each year (Vikings of Brazil). The novel was also adapted for television as part of the West Studio One series in 1949. For one book, The Glass Key had a lot of influence.


Although this research was supposed to teach me more about Dashiell Hammett and The Glass Key, what it really taught me was a point that Jim Groom has been making all semester long; that everything is connected. Not only is this true of the Hardboiled genre, it is also true of the books themselves. In almost every one of the novels that we have read this semester, the characters are almost impossibly intertwined. Just as it seems like Hardboiled authors all know each other, there are hardly any characters in these novels that aren’t connected to someone or other through a mutual friend or a story in their past. Part of the reason these novels are so intricate is this connectivity. Unlike a lot of other novels, in which we get to experience the characters meeting or are at least told from the beginning who knows who, we don’t get that luxury in Hardboiled. We are thrust into the middle of a story and have to figure out for ourselves who knows who. This is very similar to the way that research works. We are thrust in to the middle of time, and have to figure out where the ideas came from, and with the case of legacy, where the ideas ended up. I think this is my favorite part of this genre, and of this research project. The part where everything is connected and we just don’t know it yet. This is also one of the reasons Wikipedia is such a good source. Each phrase highlighted in blue is another link to something else in the world, and thanks to the accessibility of Wikipedia, we are free to follow it. However, this can only be possible if the articles we stumble upon are fleshed out. So in a way, this research project is providing a couple more missing links in the realm of knowledge.

Works Cited

“Best Nordic Crime Novel.” Vikings of Brazil Best Nordic Crime Novel Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.

DeFino, Dean. “Lead Birds and Falling Beams.” Journal of Modern Literature 27.4 (Summer 2004): 73-81. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 187. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 4 Dec. 2012.

“The Glass Key.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012.


“The Glass Key.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012.


“The Glass Key.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.


Layman, Richard. “Chapter 17.” Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981. 183. Print.

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