For more than forty years, since the day her illustrious father died, Jo Hammett has kept her silence. Now, for the first time, with uncompromising candor and profound admiration, she tells the story of Dashiell Hammett—Hollywood screenwriter and high-flying author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man—as she knew him. In Jo Hammett’s earliest recollections, although her already famous father exists outside the sphere of the daily life she shares with her mother and sister, he writes to Jo frequently and visits when he can. Jo’s memories of him are golden: She recalls a trip to the Santa Anita racetrack in a chauffeur-driven limousine, where Hammett plays more on the horses than he can afford; she recalls a Depression-era excursion to Beverly Hills and a splurge that would have supported an entire family for a month—on a riding outfit. With more ambivalence, she remembers the 1950s, when she assumes her responsibility as the sole designated correspondent with her blacklisted, imprisoned father and her role as go-between for him and Lillian Hellman. The notorious Hammett-Hellman romance, Dash’s rude flirtations, his heavy drinking, his attraction to Communism, his quirks and betrayals and paternal love—Jo Hammett neither blinks at her father’s faults nor diminishes his humanity. In straightforward prose, with unaffected charm, she offers in this generously illustrated volume a revealing personal reminiscence that contributes immeasurably to Hammett biography.
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