Hammett Unwritten – “Dreams Coming True”

January 6, 2014


Hammett Unwritten

by Gordon McAlpine

Seventh Street Books, $13.95

I remember coming out of a George Lucas movie once, I think it was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, thinking, a few men my age have attained enough money to make movies embodying their and my childhood fantasies. For the most part this is good (a benefit of living long enough) but in another way it takes the fantasy out of fantasy (despite movies special effects).

I thought of this as I read Hammett UnwrittenIt uses the plot and characters from Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon in a way that goes beyond that of the classic. The book shows incredible research and an uncanny grasp, not only of the original’s context, but also of Hammett’s style. Reading it is a dream come true. And the ending and Afterword…are simply spectacular.

Why did Hammett give up writing after The Thin Man? How did he feel about the Houston movie of The Maltese Falcon? What was the author’s relationship to his 30-year lover, Lillian Hellman (the famous playwright)? Here are all the answers. And whether they are true or not, I guarantee you will remember them as fact.

I love The Falcon and believe this book is its equal. It speaks to the nature of writing itself. Yet…leaving the movie theater and finishing this copy of Hammett Unwritten, I had a feeling of loss. These weren’t the “Stuff that dreams are made of” but the “stuff that dreams are taken from.”

We need great art, but more importantly we need great dreams.



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