It begins strikingly:
- Gold on the door, edged with black, said ALEXANDER RUSH, PRIVATE DETECTIVE. Inside, an ugly man sat tilted back in a chair, his feet on a yellow desk.
- The office was in no way lovely. Its furnishings were few and old with the shabby age of second-handdom. A shredding square of dun carpet covered the floor. On one buff wall hung a framed certificate that licensed Alexander Rush to pursue the calling of private detective in the city of Baltimore in accordance with certain red-numbered regulations.
- A map of the city hung on another wall. Beneath the map a frail bookcase, small as it was, gaped emptily around its contents: a yellowish railway guide, a smaller hotel directory, and street and telephone directories for Baltimore, Washington, and Philadelphia. An insecure oaken clothes-tree held up a black derby and a black overcoat beside a white sink in one corner. The four chairs in the room were unrelated to one another in everything except age. The desk's scarred top held, in addition to the proprietor's feet, a telephone, a black-clotted inkwell, a disarray of papers having generally to do with criminals who had escaped from one prison or another, and a grayed ashtray that held as much ash and as many black cigar stumps as a tray of its size could expect to hold.
- An ugly office -- the proprietor was uglier. His head was squatly pear-shaped. Excessively heavy, wide, blunt at the jaw, it narrowed as it rose to the close-cropped, erect grizzled hair that sprouted above a low, slanting forehead. His complexion was of a rich darkish red, his skin tough in texture and rounded over thick cushions of fat.
I've been doing some research to find out when THE ASSISTANT MURDERER was published. I have discovered it was published in The Black Mask in 1926.
I have found it also published as part of a Dashiell Hammett Collection.. The Collection contains Afraid of A Gun, Arson Plus, Bodies Piled Up, Death On Pine Street, Man Who Killed Dan Odams, Mike Alec Or Rufus, Nightmare Town, Night Shots, One Hour, Road Home, Ruffian's Wife, Second Story Angel, The Assistant Murderer, The Tenth Clew, Who Killed Bob Teal, Zigzags of Treachery, and is available from Amazon and from http://pulpfictionportal.com.
Certainly THE ASSISTANT MURDERER has whetted my appetite for more Hammett.
Here is biographical information of interest
- Hammett's (1894-1961) writing career was short. He produced four novels and almost all of his short stories between 1922 and 1931, a span of barely nine years. A fifth novel The Thin Man followed in 1934. Then... nothing.
My rating: 4.2