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Nightmare Town (The Continental Op Short Stories)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,858 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
Introduced by Colin Dexter, one of England's greatest writers of detective fiction, here are twenty long-unavailable stories by Dashiell Hammett, the author of The Maltese Falcon and one of the finest writers of the twentieth century.

In the title story, a man on a bender enters a small town and ends up unravelling the dark mystery at its heart. A woman confronts the brutal
Paperback, 396 pages
Published August 9th 2002 by Picador Books (first published 1999)
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Dec 12, 2016 is currently reading it
This is a short story collection a found courtesy somebody on GR, it really has expanded my reading world and this seems to become one of those treasures in a bookish sense I am really very glad to read.

Nightmare Town - Steve Threefull awakes after a crazy bet in a little town where about everything seems to be off. It kind of tickles his curiosity and when he finds out what is going on he can only be surprised.

House Dick - Why are there three dead people inside an hotel room?- Continental Op do
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
Guillermo 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
Kirk Smith
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Who wouldn't want to read a collection of 20 great Detective/Mystery short stories by the Old Master himself? Dashiell Hammett is credited as the writer responsible for the creation of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction. And why is it so good? Authenticity. Hammett worked for seven years as a Pinkerton Agent. His stories are close enough to some of his actual cases to keep the stories realistic. Another positive feature is that all were written in a 12 year time period 1922-1934. This ...more
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.
Joe Santoro
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This took me alot longer to get through than I expected... the Maltese Falcon was just a page turning pleasure, I thought I would buzz through these just a quickly.

While you still get an amazing feel of each case, as if you where a witness on the side of the road, it many of these shorter stories there's just a little too much detail. There are definitely times where they read more like a police report than a story.. which, given Hammett's background, they may well be.

The Continental Op also isn
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've just started reading Dashiell Hammett, some short things, and I really like his blunt style.
Ben Winch
Sep 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clearly, Hammett is a legend. The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key are both great, but I’d 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 metafiction, both a parody of a genre and a supreme example o ...more
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
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ryan Jones
Mar 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Julie Davis
May 17, 2010 rated it liked it
#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
Sep 26, 2016 rated it liked it
An engrossing introduction to Hammett and a delight to lovers of hard boiled crime fiction. There isn't a single shocker but neither is there a standout. The stories are crisply written with late twists that range from inspired to farcical. Some of the stories do appear dated but it isn't too distracting. Overall a good concoction of hard-boiled sensibilities and old school whodunits but falls well short of greatness, a word often used to describe Hammett's major works. Rating 3/5.
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir, short-stories
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.
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Nightmare Town by Dashiell Hammett
We have one surprise after another
- And men fall down, if not like flies, at least in an unusual number
- But hey, this is the Nightmare Town, remember?

Dashiell Hammett is best known for The Maltese Falcon that has been included on the TIME list of best novels.
And adapted for the big screen, with Humphrey Bogart in the title role, a super star that liked to whine- I have learned recently.

At the beginning of this story, a Ford car nearly kills a woman…and not just
Mitch Duckworth
Nov 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason Seaver
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Riju Ganguly
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Robert Muller
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
May 05, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Tom Stamper
Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, noir, detective
Sam Spade only appeared 4 times on the page: The Maltese Falcon and the three stories included here. While the stories are all essentially hard-boiled versions of Agatha Christie drawing room mysteries, they're fun and Spade has a better showing than he did in Falcon.

I didn't read all the stories here, but I did read the ones featuring Hammett's other famous detective, the Continental Op. Maybe it's me, but it feels like Hammett put more into the Op stories--more attitude, more substance. All e
Robert Freeman
Jul 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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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
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

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