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Nightmare Town (The Continental Op Short Stories)

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  1,352 ratings  ·  53 reviews
A collection of some of the finest stories from Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 18th 2007 by Classic Books Library (first published 1948)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,357)
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J.
It was a necessary train ride, off the eastcoast grid to the center of the rust belt. It was a necessary six hours, even before whistle-stops and unexplained lulls were counted in. After a high-proof holiday and a few sleepless celebrations, the ride back to college was generally comfortable and quiet.

This was still the era of The National Limited, The Broadway Limited and other time-honored routes. New fabric protective mats every trip on the shoulders of the seats. Smoking cars, Pullman Capta
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John
By and large, I found the stories in this collection to be overrated, but I certainly wouldn't argue with the cultural impact they had. Hammett put hardboiled fiction on the map and created three of the most memorable detectives in American literary history.
That being said, I don't really care for Hammett when he's not writing detective stories. Several of the pieces in the first half of this collection fall completely flat. But Hammett shines whenever the Continental Op, Sam Spade, or the Thin
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Ben Winch
Clearly, Hammett is a legend. The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key are both great, but I would rate the title piece of this collection, a short novella of 40 pages, just as highly. It's got everything: it's painstakingly and impeccably written, it's fast, it's fun, it's furious. The only reason no-one's made a movie out of it yet is surely that it gets hidden away in these kinds of collections. It's a hoot! It's so ridiculous it verges on post modern, this story - the kind of thing that is both ...more
Ryan Jones
Nightmare Town contains 20 stories by Dashiell Hammett that haven't seen the light of day in decades. It is definitely a nice surprise to have more stories from a writer who left us with too few works.

The stories in Nightmare Town are mostly what you would expect from Hammett. Seven of the stories are about his character, the Continental Op, his qunitessential detective. The Continental Op is everything a hardboiled detective should be- but not quite the Hollywood version. The Op is balding and
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Julie Davis
#49 - 2010.

Yep. I couldn't just try Chandler without also sampling the other great master of hard-boiled mystery fiction, Dashiell Hammett. Again, my random library selections yielded a novel and this short story selection. It also has an interesting overview of Hammett's life in the introduction. These stories contain hard boiled detectives but also, surprisingly, twist ending stories from different points of view as well. Hammett is a more varied writer than Chandler and I am always amused whe
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Harold
This book is exactly what it purports to be. A bunch of short crime fiction stories that taken individually deliver a satisfying read in minimal time. The Continental Op and Sam Spade are in for many of the stories and there is even one story that cam be taken as a western. Good stuff.
Tom Stamper
A mix of Continental Op stories with other unrelated crime fiction. I tend to like the Op stuff best, although the title story is really inventive and worth your while if you read no other story in the collection. It's so brutal and almost 100 years old. The end of the book is an early attempt at the Thin Man with a different plot. It's a shame Hammett got lazy with all of that Hollywood money because I wish he had spent the last 30 years of his life writing more of these stories. Hammett's nove ...more
Mitch Duckworth
So much has been said and written about Hammett over the years it is unnecessary for me to comment beyond saying that I admire these stories immensely. There are no wasted words, nor do you feel the need to add any. They are thin, compact, punchy as the characters who populate the pages, and they unfold with the relentlessness of the Zephyr leaving Davis seven minutes behind, but intent on arriving in San Francisco on time.

Hammett is one reason I haven’t been too tempted to approach the genre f
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Ismael Galvan
Nightmare Town is a collection of short stories from the originator of the hard-boiled crime genre, Dashiell Hammett. As a private eye for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in San Francisco during the Prohibition Era, Hammett experienced shootouts, knifings, stakeouts, and cold-blooded murder for cash. These experiences convinced him of one thing: everyone is a suspect. He began writing short stories based on his detective work for pulp fiction magazines.

Nightmare Town is a book of high-quality sto
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M. Milner
Here's another collection of hard-boiled noir from the Dashiell Hammett vault. You might be wondering, with three great collections of his shorter works already out - The Continental Op, The Big Knockover: Selected Stories and Short Novels and Dashiell Hammett: Crime Stories and Other Writings: Crime Stories and Other Writings - what makes this one worth checking out? After all, wouldn't there be a reason why these stories remained unavailable for so long?

Those are reasonable questions. Thankful
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Brenda
Never read a book by Dashiell Hammett before, but I have heard about him being one of the great writers of our past and after reading Nightmare Town and House Dick (also in this book, along with some other short stories), I have to agree, the way he writes and style all his own, but its so clear what is happening, but he leaves the "why" to be discovered and its always fascinating. I did not finish this book, but I plan to in the next few months.
Jason Seaver
A pretty essential collection of short stories for crime fiction fans, although the essay that opens the book, giving a recap of Hammett's life and career as a real-life Pinkerton that parallels his writing, is just as interesting and adds quite a bit to the experience. The stories are fascinating as much for how they give a modern reader a window on the corruption and desperation of the times as the mysteries themselves.

Many are stand-alones, although both of Hammett's recurring characters - th
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Tom
Good summer reading collection of stories from Black Mask magazine, True Detective Stories, Collier's, etc. Sam Spade appears in a few, and early takes on The Thin Man show up. Hammett throws in some plot twists and surprises with a few miscues along the way, but overall expect interesting characters, authentic dialogue and good description, and highly literate style.
Aaron
Hammett is Hammett. It's tough to conceive of him churning out anything less than 100 percent platinum ... except towards the end when his craft fell off by a bit a notch and he was reduced to 24 karat gold. This is a short story collection, and seven of the stories feature the Continental Op, probably his best if not most well known creation. True, the stories are in the hard-boiled private eye vein, but those who really know the genre also know that the originators -- Hammett, Chandler, and th ...more
Riju Ganguly
This book contains stories written during different phases of Hammett's literary career. They mostly belong to the hardboiled genre, but their distict styles make it the most 'representative' book by Hammett. You will find Continetal Op stories here, as well as those involving amateurs. You will find grim action-packed stories, ands there are a few poignant few. There is an extremely intriguing draft of "The Thin Man", which, I am sure, has been tempting numerous mystery writers to take up for ' ...more
Sonic
So... the ending of "Nightmare Town"... please send me a message on how you think it ended. I don't want to spoil it for anyone but I'm curious of your opinion.

Contains the following short stories:
Nightmare Town, House Dick (also known as Bodies Piled Up), Ruffian's Wife, The Man Who Killed Dan Odams, Night Shots, Zigzags of Treachery, The Assistant Murderer, His Brother's Keeper, Two Sharp Knives, Death on Pine Street, The Second Story Angel, Afraid of a Gun, Tom, Dick, or Harry (also known as
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Robert J.
It is tremendously fun to be a fan of an author like Dashiell Hammett and then discover a "new" collection of stories. Not that re-reading the Continental Op collection and the novels is boring, but a whole set of stories (Continental Op included, and Sam Spade) that one hasn't read? Nice. I think the editors have done a great job, and the biographical sketch told me a lot about Hammett that I didn't know. Highly recommended. Anyone out there doing the real, complete Dashiell Hammett collection? ...more
Kirk
A fun, relaxing read. Very tightly paced stories that build up to a surprise ending. In some cases, the trick conclusions are very satisfying ("The Man Who Killed Don Adams"). Others are more subtle in their characterization ("Ruffian Wife"). Always interesting how the plots turn from action to exposition at the moment the climax gives way to denouement ("Nightmare Town")---a trait of pulp, for better or worse. Of course, what will be most interesting for the class will be the two Thin Man stori ...more
Jennifer
Another collection of short stories, some of which I've read before but some of which I hadn't, showing Hammett's wide range in writing--his slow-witted but good-hearted boxer speaks with a dictinct diction, as does his wonderfully charming highbrow aspiring poet-detective, who's in love with his terrible poetry but dismisses his brilliant detective work as nothing much. Also includes an early draft of the beginning of The Thin Man, which doesn't work very well on its own but definitely reveals ...more
Staticblaq
I found this book an improvement over the Continental Op, thw riting overall much stronger, and the stories were drawn from more diverse selection. This is a 3 and a half star book for me. Though like the Continental Op, when you read a large batch of stories in such a short period of time, the conventions really get hammered into your head. Consequently, this was a solid bathroom book for moi, but not something I would curl up with in bed and indulge with midnight hours. Overall, I think I much ...more
Morris
an excellent collection of Dashiell Hammett short stories. some real gems. there's plenty of sleuth and private detective work, plus Sam Spade stories, the Maltese Falcon was the only Spade novel. Also there are gritty, realistic tales with twists reminicent of O. Henry... Some of the stories reveal situations and plot devices that would turn up in later novels. Hammett is the grand daddy of American "hard boiled" Detective fiction and recognized all over the world as the inventor of the tough g ...more
Jeff
This collection of short stories by Dashiell Hammett is as diverse as it is exciting. There is no central character or plot, but this package does provide Hammett’s signature fast paced adventure coupled with his illustrations of who we are as human animals. Some are better than others, but all are generally good at least. Some seem to have been written to provide action-packed pulp that would produce more of a paycheck than substance, but overall this collection is solid and is always entertain ...more
Robert Freeman
Hit or miss, with a mediocre (or worse) story for every good one, but it's still a great read for fans of Dashiell Hammett or detective fiction in general.

What really makes Dashiell Hammett a great detective writer is his experience in the actual profession, but some of his earlier work is unfortunately wooden, as it took a while for him to find his voice.

All in all, it's a very good read, but if you're new to Hammett or detective fiction, I'd start with Maltese Falcon or Red Harvest first.
Jim
This collection of fast paced stories is eminently readable and thoroughly enjoyable. Hammett's dialogue is always unique, though often imitated it is never usually duplicated with success. My favorite story was "The Man Who Killed Dan Odoms." My least favorite was the one about the boxer, the title of which escapes me. Although I am certain the sweat and the blood could be tasted and smelled, I could not get into it.

Any Hammett fan, mystery fan, or lover of great tales should read this collecti
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Miss Karen Jean Martinson
Dashiell Hammett often gets pigeon-holed as the "Noir Guy," but this book shows that he really is a writer. His short stories are fantastic, vivid tales peopled with amazing characters who are so real in their brief complexity. Honestly, the stuff that you think of as pure Hammett - Sam Spade and the Continental Op - are the least interesting of the book (not to say that they aren't also great, but just that the other stories are great and evocative).

A great way to heal from a bike accident.
Carla Remy
As a writer of mysteries there's much to learn from Hammett's shorter fiction from the 1920s pulp periodicals. He's the best. Okay, granted, the simplicity of some of the mysteries wouldn't fly today. And, truly, I get a bit bored with hardboiled detectives. But one has to keep in mind that the cliche hadn't formed yet, that Hammett created the cliche. He's a great writer.
Rachel
Hammett has a brusque, decidedly masculine tone that's different from what I usually read, but it suits the dark subject matter. The author's first-hand experience as a detective means his writing feels authentic and is full of suspenseful and impressive sleuthing. Most of the stories are pretty short, so it's good for picking up when you've got a bit of time.
Craigtator
A good collection, especially the continental op and the two Sam Spades. One demerit for ending the story with an incomplete mystery. Doing this was just book filler. It's not like he's Kafka. One more demerit for 30s era racism and sexism. I know, not his fault, but it does create cognitive dissonance while reading in the 21st century.
Alex
entertaining; all the stories have the same basic form; i.e., a twist ending with little foreshadowing and very few ways to figure out the puzzle. Unlike, say, Sherlock Holmes, you never feel as if there's an impenetrable puzzle that will be solved by a brilliant wit. Rather, you just wait until the author's revelation.
Nicholle
So fun! This collection of short stories is just as crisp, polished, and vivid as any of his more notable novels. Continental Op and Sam Spade stories, along with an early draft of The Thin Man (without Nick and Nora!), fit nicely along the other, less familiar selections, showcasing Hammett's varied talents.
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Also wrote as Peter Collinson, Daghull Hammett, Samuel Dashiell, Mary Jane Hammett

Samuel Dashiell Hammett was an American author of hardboiled detective novels and short stories. Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), and the Continental Op (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse). In addition to the significant influence his nove
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More about Dashiell Hammett...

Other Books in the Series

The Continental Op (6 books)
  • Red Harvest
  • The Dain Curse
  • The Big Knockover: Selected Stories and Short Novels
  • The Continental Op
  • The Return of the Continental Op
The Maltese Falcon The Thin Man Red Harvest The Glass Key The Dain Curse

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