Typed Letter Signed from Dashiell Hammett About His Novel, The Dain Curse, Written to Harry C. Block, Editor at Alfred A. Knopf, His Publisher

HAMMETT, DASHIELL

Published by 891 Post Street, San Francisco 1 page (10 x 7 1/4 in.; 265 x 184 mm) March 30, 1929
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Superb original letter signed by Dashiell Hammett entirely concerning his lead female character, Gabrielle Leggett, in The Dain Curse, his second novel, which Knopf would be publishing that July. Ò.I neednÕt say how glad I am that you and Mrs. [Blanche] Knopf liked The Dain Curse. About Gabrielle [the heroine]: IÕm willing to leave the decision to you, though I donÕt really agree with you [Block had complained that Hammett had made Gabrielle Ôsingularly repulsiveÕ]. As I see it, I think that without the deformities her mental kinks would be too slightly justified: without those stigmata to brood over from childhood she could hardly have got her mind so completely addled. Then too, none of the oddities I gave her seem very serious to me. ThereÕs something personal in that, of course. My ears are practically lobeless, the upper joints of my thumbs donÕt work, and I barely missed having only four toes on my left foot. So far as I know, nobody has ever noticed any of these things unless I pointed them out, and I honestly canÕt trace my deficiencies in sex appeal to any of them. My last argument is that I tried to make her slightly repulsive at first, and then to lure the reader into sympathy with her, step by step, more or less against his will. (Repulsive isnÕt the right word: suspect, objectionable, distasteful.) And I donÕt think I gave her so bad a break as Dinah Brand [HammettÕs lead female character in his novel, Red Harvest] at that. Well, there it is. Now if you all think she should be amended Ð if youÕre sure she should Ð go ahead. I wonÕt be pig-headed about it.Ó Apparently, HammettÕs well-reasoned appeal was successful since early in the published novel, Gabrielle is described as Ò.a girl of twenty more or less in a sleeveless white silk dress. Of medium height, she looked more slender than she actually was. She had hair as curly as her fatherÕs, and no longer, but of a much lighter brown. She had a pointed chin and extremely white, smooth skin, and of her features only the green-brown eyes were large; forehead, mouth, and teeth were remarkably small.Her ears, I noticed when she turned had no lobes, and were queerly pointed at the top.Ó and there are references to GabrielleÕs unusual physical features throughout the book. In the massive Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett, there are less than two dozen letters from Hammett dealing with his writing written from 1921 to 1934 the period of his writing career. Notoriously terse as a letter writer and almost never about his writing, this is arguably the finest Hammett letter still in private hands. Single-spaced, the received date rubber stamped at top, one word (presumably by Block) in light blue pencil also at top. Not in Selected Letters, ed. Richard Layman and J. M. Rivett, and unpublished. See Diane Johnson, Dashiell Hammett: A Life (1987), pp. 74-77. Fine condition. Bookseller Inventory #

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Title: Typed Letter Signed from Dashiell Hammett ...
Publisher: 891 Post Street, San Francisco 1 page (10 x 7 1/4 in.; 265 x 184 mm) March 30, 1929

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