by Owen Fitzstephen
Review by Gayle Surrette
Seventh Street Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616147143
Date: 12 February 2013 List Price $13.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Hammett Unwritten is, on the surface, about Dashiell Hammett's most famous book, The Maltese Falcon. It starts with a short newspaper report about the murder of a sea captain that Hammett covered when he was a Pinkerton operative. The story then moves backward and forward in time to cover the significant events of Hammett's career since the Black Falcon Affair. Part biography, part metafiction, and part fantasy, the story is a discussion of writing, inspiration, and talent pulled together to explain why Hammett's last novel was written in 1934.
Everything cycles around the black bird statue that gained status in The Maltese Falcon. Was it really a fake? Was it even covered in jewels or was it an object that granted its owner abilities they would otherwise not have had. Was Hammett a great writer because of the falcon statue or did he have innate talent? Were the events of the novel real but changed for the novelization?
Each segment of the book begins with a short excerpt from articles Hammett wrote on writing. Everything is a homage to Hammett and his works and life shaken together -- the good and the bad -- to create a story that will keep the reader riveted to the pages.
It doesn't stop with the final page because then you wonder what is real? Where does the fiction end and truth begin? What makes a story? What pulls the reader in and what keeps them reading? Hammett Unwritten tells a story but raises questions about the nature of fiction and those who create it that will stay with you long after you finish the book.