Dashiell Hammett’s The Big Book of the Continental Op edited by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett collects all 28 Continental Op stories and both Continental Op novels. Rereading these wonderful stories shows how Hammett mastered his craft. The Continental Op is a canny detective with a hard-boiled edge. The stories range from crime in the streets to murder in High Places. Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett provide insightful and informative introductions to the chronological order of these works. The Big Book of the Continental Op is a must-buy for all mystery fans. AMAZON is selling The Big Book of the Continental Op for a mere $16: a bargain! It doesn’t get much better than than this! GRADE: A+
Forward: “Through Mud and Blood and Death and Deceit” by Julie M. Rivett ix
INTRODUCTION: THE SUTTON YEARS, 1923-1924 By Richard Layman 3
“Arson Plus” (Black Mask, Oct. 1, 1923) (as Peter Collinson) (CS). Suspecting insurance fraud, the Op investigates the burning of an isolated farmhouse and its reclusive inhabitant. 6
“Crooked Souls” (“The Gatewood Caper”) (Black Mask, Oct. 1, 1923) (BK) (CS). A bullying lumber baron has lost a daughter to kidnappers, but the Op isn’t convinced – of anything. 17
“Slippery Fingers” (Black Mask, 15 Oct. 1923) (as Peter Collinson) (CS). The Op and the police search for the owner of the fingerprints strewn over the scene of a gory murder. 27
“It” (“The Black Hat That Wasn’t There”) (Black Mask, Nov. 1, 1923). A reckless businessman plotted theft and elopement, then disappeared. The Op relocates him in a pitch-dark basement. 38
“Bodies Piled Up” (“The House Dick”) (Black Mask, December 1, 1923) (NT). Posing as a killer hunting a killer works too well as the Op gets caught in a crossfire. 47
“The Tenth Clew” (“The Tenth Clue”) (Black Mask, January 1, 1924) (CO) (CS) (RO). A rich man is killed with a typewriter and the Op gets dumped into San Francisco Bay. 56
“Night Shots” (Black Mask, February 1924) (NT). In a lonely country house, the Op investigates pot-shots aimed at a sick old scoundrel. 74
“Zigzags of Treachery” (Black Mask, March 1, 1924) (NT) (CS). When a prominent surgeon commits suicide and an unknown wife shows up, the Op and other agents follow suspect after suspect to untangle a decades-old conspiracy. 85
“One Hour” (Black Mask, April 1924) (NT) (RO). In a busy hour, a hit-and-run leads the Op to a print shop where he’s mobbed. 108
INTRODUCTION: THE CODY YEARS, 1924-1926 By Richard Layman 119
“The House in Turk Street” (Black Mask, April 15, 1924) (CO) (CS). Routine questions on a quiet street tumble the Op into a den of thieves. 122
“The Girl with Silver Eyes” (Black Mask, June 1924) (CO) (CS). Following on “Turk Street”, a dead poet leads the Op to a dark night’s shootout outside a rough-and-tumble roadhouse. 135
“Women, Politics and Murder” (“Death on Pine Street”) (Black Mask, September 1924) (NT) (CS). The Op shuttles between a hysterical wife and a dead-pan mistress, knowing both are liars, to learn who killed a city contractor. 161
“The Golden Horseshoe” (Black Mask, November 1924) (CO) (CS). The Op finds a hophead husband who ran away to Tijuana, but the wife he left behind turns up dead. 177
“Who Killed Bob Teal?” (True Detective Stories, November 1924) (NT). A fellow Continental detective was killed while shadowing a suspect, so the Op and a city cop retrace his steps. 202
“Mike, Alec or Rufus?” (“Tom, Dick or Harry”) (Black Mask, January 1925) (NT). The cops are stumped by a robber who ran into an apartment house and didn’t come out, but not the Op. 213
“The Whosis Kid” (Black Mask, March 1925) (CO) (CS) (RO). On a hunch, the Op trails a stick-up artist and worms his way into a “double-, triple- and septuple-cross.” 222
“The Scorched Face” (Black Mask, May 1925) (BK) (CS). Hunting two missing daughters, the Op uncovers a rash of debutante suicides and disappearances. 247
“Corkscrew” (Black Mask, September 1925) (BK). The Op is appointed Deputy Sheriff of Corkscrew, Arizona, where cowboys keep getting killed. 269
“Dead Yellow Women” (Black Mask, November 1925) (BK) (CS). The Op braves the dark alleys of Chinatown to learn why a seaside mansion was raided by Asian strangers. 301
The Gutting of Couffignal (Black Mask, December 1925) (BK) (CS) (RO). On a wealthy summer island, the Continental Op tries to thwart an invasion when the lights go off and machine guns fire up. 331
“Creeping Siamese” (Black Mask, March 1926) (CS). A man dies in the Continental office without revealing who knifed him. The Op connects the crime with the victim’s decade-old adventures in Asia. 350
INTRODUCTION: THE SHAW YEARS, 1926-1930 By Richard Layman 361
“The Big Knock-Over” (Black Mask, February 1927) (BK) (CS). An army of imported gangsters raided two banks, and the Op dodges bullets and fists to find the mastermind. 364
“$106,000 Blood Money” (Black Mask, May 1927) (BK) (CS). In the aftermath of “The Big Knockover”, the Op hunts the double-crossing mastermind, as do “half the crooks in the country”. 396
“The Main Death” (Black Mask, June 1927) (CO) (CS). The Op ignores a suicide to get back $20,000 – at gun point. 419
“This King Business” (Mystery Stories, January 1928) (BK) (CS). Seeking a wayward son in the Balkan country of Muravia, the Op learns the boy is funding a kingly coup. 432
“Fly Paper” (Black Mask, August 1929) (BK) (CS). The Op finds a “wandering daughter” who liked rough “yeggs” and ended up dead. 443
The Farewell Murder” (Black Mask, February 1930) (CO) (CS). The Op struggles to prove a vendetta-bent sadist wasn’t nine hours away at the time of a grisly killing. 483
“Death and Company” (Black Mask, November 1930) (RO). Kidnappers collect ransom money from under the noses of the police, then kill their hostage. Death catches the culprit before the Op can. 504
COMMENTARY By Julie M. Rivett 513
“Three Dimes” 514
“The Cleansing of Poisonville” (Black Mask, November 1927). Summoned to “Poisonville”, the Op finds his client was murdered. The dead man’s father rules the town, so the Op strikes a deal to clean up the town “with a free hand”. Dodging double-crossing cops and crooks, he exposes the murderer. And refuses to call off the “cleansing”. 527
“Crime Wanted – Male or Female” (Black Mask, December 1927). Stirring up trouble, the Op un-fixes a fight and investigates a year-old “suicide” of the police chief’s brother, just as someone dynamites the City Hall holding cells. “Poisonville was beginning to boil out under the lid.” 555
“Dynamite” (Black Mask, January 1928). A raid on a bootlegger’s roadhouse makes the cops miss a bank robbery. As the mob ruling “Poisonville” gathers for a “peace conference”, the Op tosses “dynamite” that exposes multiple frame-ups and shatters the partnership. 579
“The 19th Murder” (Black Mask, February 1928). Getting “blood simple as the natives”, the Op wakes to find he may have ice-picked his female informer, so runs from the law while steering the mobs into a final battle for control of “Poisonville”. 599
“Black Lives” (Black Mask, November 1928) 631
“The Hollow Temple” (Black Mask, December 1928) 657
“Black Honeymoon” (Black Mask, January 1929) 683
“Black Riddle” (Black Mask, February 1929) 707

22 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN BOOKS #452: THE BIG BOOK OF THE CONTINENTAL OP By Dashiell Hammett

  1. Maggie mason

    Sounds like it’s right up your alley. Sadly, anything with “big book” in the title is something that will take more time than I have to read. Of course if it were a PG Wodehouse item, I’d try for a story a day. Enjoy it

      1. Maggie mason

        Right now, I’m listening to the Hamilton soundtrack prep for seeing Spamilton next week and Hamilton in Jan

  2. Fred Blosser

    Stellar compilation, with the original magazine texts restored for all of the short stories and novelettes, replacing the edited texts that have been floating around for 60 years. And the original Black Mask texts for the two novels. When I went to the local Barnes & Noble the other night to get a copy, I spent twenty minutes in the mystery and fiction sections, trying to find it under “H.” Nearly gave up before I spotted it on the mystery shelves under “L,” presumably for “Layman.” B&N doesn’t seem to care much anymore about maintaining traffic to its brick and mortar stores.

    1. george Post author

      Fred, I ordered THE BIG BOOK OF THE CONTINENTAL OP from AMAZON. Like you, I’ve found myself wandering round B&N aisles trying to find mis-shelved books.

      1. Todd Mason

        Matters are not helped by some central-office plenipotentiary trying ineptly to have the cozies segregated from the rest of the crime fiction in the stores.

      2. Todd Mason

        Oddly enough, B&N did this once before and wisely gave up quickly since it caused nothing but confusion. Someone had the bright idea again, or got bored pretending they were necessary in their planogram office.

        When I worked at a Borders, we not only had more books than B&N, we also tried to make finding them easier (B&N in 1992-94 was mostly notable for having better furniture and Starbucks-branded espresso bars)…if anything, the Borders model erred a bit on the breaking down things too far model as well, at least at first, with a War Fiction section and a Labor Studies section in every store (the chain was spun out of a store in Ann Arbor, after all), but at least the divisions made some surface sense and were easy enough for a novice bookseller to stack–how a typical college student part-timer or other clerk who doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of crime fiction is supposed to know at first glance a cozy from a classic detection from a hardboiled is not too clear.

      3. Les Cochrum

        Especially in this day and age, I’m amazed by how many booksellers don’t have an adequate planogram resource and who then fail in terms of basic visual merchandising strategies. I mean, the experience of the books and visiting a book store is one of the few advantages that these stores have left and yet they leave customers wandering their aisles.

  3. Jeff Meyerson

    I am pretty sure I have read all of these already. But I will be getting this to reread for sure. Great, great stuff.

  4. Fred Blosser

    Jeff, it’s interesting to compare the restored magazine texts with the edited versions that have been the standard since the Spivak/Dannay/Lee compilations. George, I wavered between buying on Amazon (for less) as I usually do with new books, and going to the brick/mortar store and paying full price. I opted for going the cash route rather than add to my credit card. I have a feeling that B&N’s brick/mortar outlets will be gone within the next two years and certainly within the next three, and the company itself within the next three and certainly within the next five.

  5. Todd Mason

    Exactly. And Books-A-Million lost confidence in trying to fill that gap as well. But eBooks sales sagged and traditional books sales didn’t. Guess who along with Amazon did well there.

  6. Cap'n Bob

    What are the dimensions of this big book? If it’s coffee table size I don’t want it! If it’s TPB and thick I do!


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