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The Thin Man

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From Wikipedia:

The Thin Man (1934) is a hardboiled detective novel by Dashiell Hammett. Although he never wrote a sequel, the book became the basis for a successful film series which also began in 1934 with The Thin Man and starred William Powell and Myrna Loy. A Thin Man television series followed in the 1950s.

An early draft of the story, written several years before the published version, and now in print in several collections of Hammett’s work, does not mention the main characters of the novel, Nick and Nora Charles, and breaks off after ten chapters. It is about a quarter of the length of the finished book.

The story is set in Prohibition-era New York City. The main characters are a former private detective, Nick Charles, and his clever young wife, Nora. Nick, son of a Greek immigrant, has given up his career since marrying Nora, a wealthy socialite, and he now spends most of his time cheerfully getting drunk in hotel rooms and speakeasies. Nick and Nora have no children, but they do own a schnauzer named Asta, changed to a wire haired fox terrier for the movies.

 

Schnauzer Photograph by Piotr M at Flickr

The two decide to investigate a murder because Nora thinks it will be fun. The case brings them in contact with a rather grotesque family, the Wynants, and also with an assortment of policemen and lowlifers. As they attempt to solve the case, Nick and Nora share a great deal of banter and snappy dialogue, along with copious amounts of alcohol. The characters of Nick and Nora are often thought to reflect the personalities of Hammett and his long-time lover, Lillian Hellman.

 

Because the “Thin Man” title was used for the subsequent movies, there is a widespread misapprehension that the term refers to Nick Charles himself; in fact it refers to Clyde Wynant, the murder victim in the novel.

 

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Written by aterrier

May 24, 2008 at 4:25 am

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