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Historical Group Reads > July/August 2011 Group Read: The Thin Man

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message 1: by Almeta (last edited Jul 13, 2011 01:07AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments The category 2 group read is for The Golden Age of Detective fiction.

Defined as the Classic whodunnit fiction written beginning in the early 1900s reaching a peak in the 1920s and 1930s and declining in the late 1940s.

Do you think that The Thin Man set in 1934 NY is a typical representation of that era?


message 2: by Carol (new)

Carol | 152 comments I have gotten in about 60 pages, and do these folks drink!! I know this is the style of this age. Many of the stories from that time had glamorous people with martinis in their hands at all times. I know people did have multi-drink lunches during those days, but how did they function?
I can't imagine that everyone lived like this, but it's great escapism. I do think people drank more then.
I'm also struck by the clipped dialog....not a lot of flowery description either. I noticed some of the words that came up often, such as the word "tight" to mean drunk or high. My high school students were using that term in the last couple of years. I guess those terms come around again!
Enjoying the story and I'm off to read some more!


message 3: by Almeta (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Carol wrote: "I have gotten in about 60 pages, and do these folks drink!! I know this is the style of this age. Many of the stories from that time had glamorous people with martinis in their hands at all times..."

So many fictional dectectives are hard drinkers, or are now trying not to be. Usually it is to escape some tragedy of ther own.

Nick and Nora don't seem to be burying a past. They just like to party.


message 4: by Kelly (new)

Kelly | 48 comments I read this a long time ago, and I remember liking it. I will have to dig through my shelves and see if I still have it. It would be worth a re-read.


message 5: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ | 76 comments I have just started this book. Know I watched this series when it was on TV, it was one of my mom's favorites. Sure seems like everyone drank alot back then, The great Gatsby and others as well as the old TV movies show everyone constantly drinking,


message 6: by Jan C (last edited Jul 15, 2011 07:11PM) (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 35534 comments I haven't read it in years. Picked it back up tonight. Actually, I think I have read it several times before.

I go through spurts. Lucky I have THE NOVELS OF DASHIELL HAMMETT RED HARVEST THE DAIN CURSE, THE MALTESE FALCON, THE GLASS KEY, THE THIN MAN and have them all at my fingertips. I've read them all at least a couple of times. Not to forget the Continental Op stories too.

I have watched the movie so many times. And I was noticing tonight that a lot of the dialog is in the movie - but not always in the same place. Interesting.


message 7: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) Diane wrote: "Sure seems like everyone drank alot back then..."

It certainly does. From what I've read so far, if all the references to drinking were taken out of this novel you'd be left with a pamphlet!


message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikedecshop) | 75 comments Nick and Nora drank a LOT. In the movies I think it was After the Thin Man they really cut back on this aspect of the characters. I guess the censors jumped in. Personally, I liked both of them being heavy drinkers.


message 9: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 35534 comments Well, they were just coming out of Prohibition. Of course, they drank a lot. It was a hard habit to break. Most people carried flasks. Cam you imagine anyone carrying a flask today? Unless they are going to a football game or some such thing.


message 10: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed  Burhan Abdi Osman (mohammedaosman) Nick and Nore drink too much compared to Hammett other works. The OP, Spade doesnt drink near as much.

I have read this novel before not too long ago. Its not his best work or my fav novel of his. Seeing as his other novels,storeis are so bleak,hardboiled this novel was fun, different. The dialouge is wonderful.


message 11: by Mohammed (last edited Jul 16, 2011 02:46AM) (new)

Mohammed  Burhan Abdi Osman (mohammedaosman) Carol wrote: "I have gotten in about 60 pages, and do these folks drink!! I know this is the style of this age. Many of the stories from that time had glamorous people with martinis in their hands at all times..."

Hammett is mentioned in literary class books for his sparse,lean, Kamera style of details like Hemingway. There is no flowery discription just like there isnt in many newer american hardboiled detective stories which he was a pionner in.


message 12: by Mikela (new)

Mikela I find it difficult to put The Thin Man into the hardboiled detective story mold. The style and overall flavor reminded me more of Agatha Christie than Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe. While it is amusing to note all the drinking that took place, I think it was at the expense of plot development. While it was an entertaining easy read I can't count it as one of my favourites.


message 13: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 35534 comments Mikela wrote: "I find it difficult to put The Thin Man into the hardboiled detective story mold. The style and overall flavor reminded me more of Agatha Christie than Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe. While it i..."

Have you read any of his other work - The Dain Curse, Red Harvest, or any of the Continental Op stories? He started out more hard boiled. By the time he was writing The Thin Man he was probably pretty much just boiled.

I think he is softened, also, because at this point the character is married. Hammett may have thought that alone would make him softer.


message 14: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed  Burhan Abdi Osman (mohammedaosman) Mikela wrote: "I find it difficult to put The Thin Man into the hardboiled detective story mold. The style and overall flavor reminded me more of Agatha Christie than Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe. While it i..."

Thats because its not a hardboiled detective novel. It has the hardboiled PI character but its much lighter,witty because Hammett was tired of the his hardboiled stories, their bleak tones,corruption that a lone though hero could fight. He didnt believe in that kind of hero anymore. Thats why Nick Charles is a has been who drinks himself to death.

According to the biography info i have read about him and how different Thin Man is. He tried to find another style, type of fiction.


message 15: by Mikela (new)

Mikela Mohammed wrote: "Mikela wrote: "I find it difficult to put The Thin Man into the hardboiled detective story mold. The style and overall flavor reminded me more of Agatha Christie than Raymond Chandler's Philip Marl..."

Thanks for the education and clarification. This was the first Hammett detective novel that I've read and was at a loss as to the classification. The banter between Nick and Nora was refreshing but couldn't get much out of the rest of the book. Much to learn.


message 16: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed  Burhan Abdi Osman (mohammedaosman) Mikela wrote: "Mohammed wrote: "Mikela wrote: "I find it difficult to put The Thin Man into the hardboiled detective story mold. The style and overall flavor reminded me more of Agatha Christie than Raymond Chand..."

Read The OP novel Red Harvest that was ranked in Time Magazine best 100 novels of last century. Mainstream hype or not that novel, OP stories is his regular bleak style that is he is legendary,pioneer in.

I admire him greatly and Thin Man was one of the last novels of his i read. I saw how different he tried to be. It was fun novel to me because he could be funny. Of course its not his best written novel or his best style.


message 17: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
I read this a zillion years ago, and must track down a copy. I'd love to re-read it (not on Gutenberg, more's the pity!). I remember seeing and loving the movie too.



Nice article here about the series of movies they made, which were quite different from the original book. (and wikipedia tells me that "On May 10, 2011 it was announced that Johnny Depp would be teaming up with Rob Marshall for a modern day remake of the classic film based on the novel." I might have to see that one!

It was a time of drinking and dancing and having fun. My grandmother was about Nick and Nora's age, and she and her pals did a lot of drinking and partying too.


message 18: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 35534 comments Hayes wrote: "I read this a zillion years ago, and must track down a copy. I'd love to re-read it (not on Gutenberg, more's the pity!). I remember seeing and loving the movie too.



Nice article here about the..."


My grandmother's flask was how I knew that many people carried them. She and her pals did a lot of drinking, too.


message 19: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ | 76 comments And driving. They all had flasks in their automobiles. Do like the interplay between Nick and Nora but this is not one of my favorites either.


message 20: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 35534 comments Actually, I've always enjoyed this book. I like the other books, too. But this is lighter.


message 21: by Terri Lynn (new)

Terri Lynn (terrilynnmerritts) | 15 comments Hammett was a heavy drinker and smoker himself. I have seen all of the Thin Man films and love the interaction between Nick and Nora. Could Dashell Hammett be channeling his own relationship with Lillian Hellman here?


message 22: by Terri Lynn (new)

Terri Lynn (terrilynnmerritts) | 15 comments Hayes wrote: "I read this a zillion years ago, and must track down a copy. I'd love to re-read it (not on Gutenberg, more's the pity!). I remember seeing and loving the movie too.
You can check WorldCat and find a library near you that has a copy or else borrow through interlibrary loan that way. Check www.betterworldbooks.com as well.


Nice article here about the..."



message 23: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (last edited Jul 18, 2011 03:43AM) (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
Hi Terri... I live overseas, so no library, no netflix, etc. I manage pretty well with the bookstore nearby, which has a good selection in English and then with BWBs or Amazon.


message 24: by Terri Lynn (new)

Terri Lynn (terrilynnmerritts) | 15 comments At www.betterworldbooks.com, they sell both new and used books and ship worldwide for free. No shipping charges! Also, they use their profits to fund literacy projects worldwide and support reading programs and libraries worldwide. I have ordered from them for years. I think the world of them. I love prowling used book stores and of course, half-live at Amazon!


message 25: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ | 76 comments Everyone drinks, cocktails in the morning and all the woman have soft, dreamy eyes. Love it!


message 26: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
Jan C wrote: "My grandmother's flask was how I knew that many people carried them. She and her pals did a lot of drinking, too. "

I've got my grandfather's here on the shelf. It's got his initials on it and everything... guess they didn't want to get their drinks mixed up.


message 27: by Kelly (new)

Kelly | 48 comments Thanks for the tip on BetterWorldBooks. I have them bookmarked now!


message 28: by Almeta (last edited Jul 19, 2011 03:43PM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Terri wrote: "Hammett was a heavy drinker and smoker himself. I have seen all of the Thin Man films and love the interaction between Nick and Nora. Could Dashell Hammett be channeling his own relationship with Lillian Hellman here?"

It has been implied that this was a bit of a self-portrait of he and Lillian, although I wonder if Lillian would have been as pliable as Nora!!!


message 29: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 35534 comments Almeta wrote: "Terri wrote: "Hammett was a heavy drinker and smoker himself. I have seen all of the Thin Man films and love the interaction between Nick and Nora. Could Dashell Hammett be channeling his own rela..."

I read somewhere, possibly in one of her books, that while she was the model for Nora, she was also the model for every other female character in the book.


message 30: by Almeta (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Mikela wrote: "I find it difficult to put The Thin Man into the hardboiled detective story mold. The style and overall flavor reminded me more of Agatha Christie than Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe. While it i..."

It may not be HARD-boiled, but still it seems to have a lot of the elements: snappy patter, only partial disclosure with the police, rogue investigation, indifference to simpering women, friends of dubious character.

Is it just the humor that makes it softer?


message 31: by Mohammed (last edited Jul 19, 2011 04:45PM) (new)

Mohammed  Burhan Abdi Osman (mohammedaosman) Almeta wrote: "Mikela wrote: "I find it difficult to put The Thin Man into the hardboiled detective story mold. The style and overall flavor reminded me more of Agatha Christie than Raymond Chandler's Philip Marl..."

No for it to be hardboiled it has to be more realistic,bleak,more violent,less censured language,morality. Atleast Hammett was more realistic in his hardboiled before the other become romantic PIs.

Its easy to see the difference of his styles when you read his hardcoire PI novels. His hardboiled PI novels,stories are based on his real life cases as Pinkerton detective. The corruption he saw in places like Butte makes his novels,stories very bleak. Hence why Chandler said the famous qoute of Hammett:

"Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse; and with the means at hand, not hand-wrought dueling pistols, curare and tropical fish."
— Raymond Chandler (The Simple Art of Murder)


message 32: by Almeta (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Jan C wrote: I read somewhere, possibly in one of her books, that while she was the model for Nora, she was also the model for every other female character in the book. ..."

Oh, I hope not!!! When it comes to Mimi and Dorry, similar to James Cagney, I wanted to push a grapefruit in their faces.


message 33: by Almeta (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Kim wrote: "Diane wrote: "Sure seems like everyone drank alot back then..."

It certainly does. From what I've read so far, if all the references to drinking were taken out of this novel you'd be left with a pamphlet..."


I noticed at one point, when Nora suggested sobriety for a day, that Nick said that they didn't come to New York to be sober. Maybe they didn't drink as much when home in San Franciso? (Yeah I know, I don't believe it either.)


message 34: by Almeta (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Did the portrayal by William Powell and Myrna Loy in the movies affect your image of Nick and Nora in the book?


message 35: by Almeta (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Hayes wrote: "wikipedia tells me that "On May 10, 2011 it was announced that Johnny Depp would be teaming up with Rob Marshall for a modern day remake of the classic film based on the novel." I might have to see that one!..."

To see Johnny Depp in anything is a treat. (He's on my dance card!) Loved the Thin Man movie series, I will look forward to the new version. Still, William Powell and Myrna Loy will be hard to beat.


message 36: by Terri Lynn (new)

Terri Lynn (terrilynnmerritts) | 15 comments I think that seeing THE THIN MAN films did affect how I expected to see Nick and Nora depicted in the book and have been somewhat surprised by the differences. In the movies, for example, they don't drink so heavily and are such a pleasure to watch as a very happily married couple. Their marriage in the movies is almost as happy as my own marriage! In the book, it is much less demonstrative. There was a lot of comedy involving Asta in the movies that is missing in the book.
I do have to say that I am finding Dash Hammett's writing to be extremely clear, clean, and uncluttered. It's like what they said on the old Dragnet tv show in the 1960's, "Just the facts, Ma'am." Dashiell Hammett just gives the facts without a lot of fancy embellishment and description about the furniture, etc. I'll be finishing the whole book within 24 hours of starting it because of this.


message 37: by Almeta (last edited Jul 20, 2011 09:40AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Jan C wrote: "I haven't read it in years. Picked it back up tonight. Actually, I think I have read it several times before.

I go through spurts. Lucky I have THE NOVELS OF DASHIELL HAMMETT ..."</i>

I inherited [book:Dashiell Hammett: Five Complete Novels: Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, The Thin Man
. I have not read it, and it is packed away somewhere. I HAVE to dig it out!

When it came to reading The Thin Man, I borrowed from the library. I have a....well...not really a phobia...but let's say an acute awareness of the mulitudes of hands that may have touched a library book. It comes to the forefront when I turn a page and find an unidentifiable chunk stuck to the margin. Should I touch it in order to flick it off, or just ignore it? Ewww.

Anyway, this paperback copy of The Thin Man was well read. Battered and cellophane taped on multiple surfaces. I am happy to know that so many people have read this book.

Dashiell Hammett still has his Street Cred.



message 38: by Terri Lynn (new)

Terri Lynn (terrilynnmerritts) | 15 comments I have finished the book and really loved it. I like how it is so straightforward without a lot of distractions yet there is enough mystery and suspense that I was reluctant to stop reading for any reason and it was easy to just keep going.
I kept trying to guess whodunit all the way through and pretty much suspected everyone but Nick and Nora (and maybe them too!) and was surprised at the guilty party. I loved how at the end, Nick sums it all up in a neat tidy package for Nora and ties up all of the loose ends. I'll be reading this again. And again. And again! I borrowed my copy from the library but will be purchasing this soon.


message 39: by Mary (new)

Mary I am about halfway thru and agree with everyone about the witty conversations between Nick and Nora. This is my first D. Hammett book and think I will try another one of his books.


message 40: by Carol (new)

Carol | 152 comments Terri wrote: "I think that seeing THE THIN MAN films did affect how I expected to see Nick and Nora depicted in the book and have been somewhat surprised by the differences. In the movies, for example, they don'..."

I also saw the films before reading the book! I laughed when I read "just the facts Ma'am!" That was EXACTLY what went through my mind as well. It almost seemed like a script for a play at times! I did enjoy the book and the way the crime was reviewed for the reader, with loose ends tied up, through Nick's report to Nora.


message 41: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) Finished last night. After a while I either stopped noticing the drinking, or else they did less of it! I enjoyed the style and the wit of the novel. I loved Nick and Nora and the way Hammett indicated the strength of their relationship without spelling it out in so many words. I also liked the fact that I didn't guess the culprit early in the piece. I'm very glad to have read a classic which until now has passed me by.


message 42: by Anne (new)

Anne Pichette | 21 comments I just finished reading the Thin Man. I really enjoyed it and was impressed with the writing. I have seen all the Thin Man movies and the books are different. I have enjoyed both the book and the movies
They are both different and very entertaining.


message 43: by Debra (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 40 comments I don't recall seeing the movie, but... geesh... I must have? Where is my memory going?

Anyway, I enjoyed the wit and humor through-out the book; it kept the reading light and fun. And yeah, "just the facts!" No frills, here. And boy-oh-boy it must have been fun to be rich and able to drink all day, go to parties, and have room-service continually at your disposal. I wouldn't think Nora and Nick would be a typical couple in that era; they were the elite.

Does anyone know if Hammett was bigoted, or was everyone in those days? I noticed the cop dropped the "N" word without flinching when he was talking about the man who was shot in Philadelphia by an African-American. As always, I flinch when I hear that word; especially when it seems out of context. It seemed like it came out of nowhere.

Anyway, I enjoyed the read. I know little about hard-boiled fiction and understand that this wasn't as hard-boiled as other works my Hammett.

I would love to see the movie with Johnny Depp!


message 44: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) Debra wrote: "Does anyone know if Hammett was bigoted, or was everyone in those days? I noticed the cop dropped the "N" word without flinching when he was talking about the man who was shot in Philadelphia by an African-American. As always, I flinch when I hear that word; especially when it seems out of context. It seemed like it came out of nowhere...."

Debra, I know nothing about Hammett's views, but casual racisim and anti-semitism is not uncommon in pre-war crime fiction (at least in the pre-war British crime fiction I'm familiar with). It's not acceptable by modern standards, but these books were written in a different place and a different time.


message 45: by Debra (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 40 comments Yes, I figured that was the explanation, Kim. Thanks for clearing that up for me.


message 46: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 35534 comments Kim wrote: "Debra wrote: "Does anyone know if Hammett was bigoted, or was everyone in those days? I noticed the cop dropped the "N" word without flinching when he was talking about the man who was shot in Phil..."

In addition, he was from Maryland. I think originally St. Mary's - part of the "Southern" part of the state - and later lived in Baltimore.

Partly it was the times and I hate to say anything bad about Baltimore, but most of my relatives there talked that way. I don't know if they still do. Haven't spent that much time with them lately.


message 47: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Rogers | 2 comments Unfortunately, I read the book so soon after watching the movie that I kept getting distracted by the actors in my head. I'll have to wait a bit before reading the book again.


message 48: by Raymond (new)

Raymond Spitzer (pima2945) | 3 comments At the time this was written, racial prejudice was prevalant throughout the country. The writer writes for his audience. I think the attitudes shown in the book were expected by his audience, no matter what the author's views. (In my own town, in the 1930's there were separate parts of town for Hispanics and Native Americans. Anglos had the choicest area. This all changed in the 1950's and today is not even remembered by most people.)

As for the drinking, it bothered me. There were some references to hangovers and diminished capacity while under the influence, but not enough.

The hardest part of solving the mystery for me was that I just didn't understand how the people thought. They were foreign to me, especially Mimi, Dorothy, and Gilbert. I'm in law enforcement, and to see the casual way the police roughed up the criminals bothered me, although I guess it was pretty common at the time.

In the end, even though I liked the interplay between Nick and Nora, I found the book "pretty unsatisfactory" as it says at the end. As a writer myself, I found the dialogue the best part of the book.


message 49: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed  Burhan Abdi Osman (mohammedaosman) Debra wrote: "Yes, I figured that was the explanation, Kim. Thanks for clearing that up for me."

I have read most of his fiction and as a person of color who is sensitive to N word i must say Hammett was clearly the average views of this times and not more. He doesnt use N word often in his works and his view on women is prolly better than most men/writers of his times. He did alot of dangerous woman character, strong women that have become hardboiled femme fatale stereotype everyone knows.

I have seen other writers of his times that are much worse with their views on issues like that.


message 50: by Debra (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 40 comments Raymond wrote: "At the time this was written, racial prejudice was prevalant throughout the country. The writer writes for his audience. I think the attitudes shown in the book were expected by his audience, no ..."

Yes, the drinking is certainly worrisome, especially with so little impairment evident in the characters. I certainly couldn't drink like that every day, through-out the day without suffering from immense hangovers and many hours praying to the porcelain god!

I agree that it was hard to get into the minds of Mimi, Dorothy, and Gilbert. In general, I wanted to strangle them all, or push a grapefruit in their faces as Almeta mentioned early on in this thread. What an insane and incomprehensible family. And WHY did everyone just accept the beatings that were apparently delivered on Dorothy by her mother? No one seemed to be concerned about that, including Dorothy!

And yeah, the police brutality was hard to understand, too. But I'm not an aficionado of hard-boiled fiction and understand you see a lot of that in that genre.

The interplay between Nick and Nora was the best part of the book.


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