Dashiell Hammett: A Hard-boiled Tale

The flask was halfway to my mouth, one for the road. Then a hesitant rap on the glass told me I wouldn’t be leaving early. I guessed it was some high class dame with long fingers. I took a swig then popped the flask into the top drawer.

“It’s open.”

As she stepped in, I saw that I was right. A wave of raven hair hid one eye. The brim of a fancy hat hid the other. She had a mouth that might light up a ballroom with a smile. But she wasn’t smiling.

“I’m looking for a man with a name like a suit of cards.”

“Billy Heart? Joe Diamond? Jack Club? Sam Spade? Take your pick.”

“The last one.”

bogart.thumbnail

“Well, you got the address right. Anything else I can do, or is your mission complete?”

“I’m told you get things done.”

“Getting things done is easy. It’s getting them done right that’s tough. Have a seat?”

She did, flashing one long leg as it went over the other. “May I smoke?”

I nodded. Her cigarette case and lighter gleamed in the day’s dying light.

“Unless it’s diamonds, I’m guessing your name doesn’t have anything to do with cards.”

“It depends what kind of deck you’re using.” She exhaled. Smoke transfigured her like a little heaven. “I’m Amber.”

“Not any deck I know. How can I be of service, Ms. Amber?”

“Amb, please. I . . . I need a funny name.”

“Sam Spade not good enough for you?”

“It might be, if the first name weren’t so ordinary. No offense of course, Mr. Spade.”

I shrugged. “None taken. And this name is for . . .”

“Friends. They . . . collect them. I used to help. Then things got hectic . . . I dropped out. It weighs on me. Sometimes I don’t sleep. Do you know what that’s like, Mr. Spade?”

“Insomnia’s an old friend of mine. So’s falling asleep at the wheel.”

Her smile started to catch. “Then you understand my predicament. Can you help?”

I opened the bottom drawer. “I have some names that might interest you. For starters, a mystery writer. Virtually invented the hard-boiled genre. Served in both World Wars. Got the attention of HUAC in the 50s. Did time.”

Funnier than Sam Spade?

Funnier than Sam Spade?

“An idealist.”

“Depends how you look at it. Anti-Nazi until Hitler and Stalin were buddies. Then anti-Nazi again when they weren’t any more. A little fickle for an idealist, don’t you think?”

“Confusing times. Like Streisand in The Way We Were. How did he end up?”

“Not well. A sick, old shell of a man. Couldn’t write. Couldn’t even keep his house clean.”

“Sad. Poetic. Even romantic.” She was pensive. “And the name, Mr. Spade. Is it . . . funny?”

I handed her the file. “Maybe funnier than Sam Spade. You be the judge.”

“Thank you, Mr. Spade.” She stood. “If this answers my needs you’ll be compensated . . . handsomely.” She left, and the door closed softly behind her.

It felt like we would be meeting again before long.

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20 Responses to Dashiell Hammett: A Hard-boiled Tale

  1. Dave says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this! Amazing stuff!

    And just curious… is “Amb” meant to be an homage to our cherished Amber?!?

    Great stuff, wdydfae!

    • wdydfae says:

      And just curious… is “Amb” meant to be an homage to our cherished Amber?!?

      You know what they say. Any resemblance is purely coincidental.

  2. Arto says:

    Hmmm….this long fingered beauty reminds me of someone…can’t quite put my short finger on it. Shall remain a mystery.

    Hope you’re not suffering too badly from lack of sleep. This post should satisfy your “friends” who collect them.

    Dashiell is fun to say.

    I feel like I should be writing this comment from behind a thick cloud of cigarette smoke, holding a glass of whisky in one hand and talking with a guttural voice about my fatalistic views.

    Good times.

    • wdydfae says:

      Hmmm….this long fingered beauty reminds me of someone…can’t quite put my short finger on it. Shall remain a mystery.

      Some things are meant to remain a mystery. Others come to you in a flash, when you don’t expect it. Like when you’re peeling potatoes.

      I feel like I should be writing this comment from behind a thick cloud of cigarette smoke, holding a glass of whisky in one hand and talking with a guttural voice about my fatalistic views.

      Some people call it fatalistic. I like to think it’s just realistic.

      • Arto says:

        It is realistic to be fatalistic.

        I think?

        • Dave says:

          A lot of deterministic philosophers would agree!

          • wdydfae says:

            I can see belief in free is going to conflict with maintaining this Bogie persona.

          • Dave says:

            Took me a while to realize Bogie was Bogart, but I totally agree! It’d be hard to be both for free will and Bogie!

            Also, just learned something interesting – if you click a comment on the wordpress sidebar (upper right of your screen) and press T before you click in the “Reply” field, it puts the comment in the trash. Luckily, there’s a red warning and an easily-visible undo button, so you’re not likely to delete a comment inadvertently!

          • wdydfae says:

            Interesting feature, Dave. Now you know what to do when I go on a drunken screed.

            I worked my back off tuh get thoshe Tueshday poshts up evry month and whad’di everr get fur it, huh? Nothin but a pat on the back and coupla likesh welll thatsh it–I quit I aint workin fer thisshh shtingy outfit no more and another thing–

          • Dave says:

            Haha, I love it! I would never delete a drunken screed like that!!!!!! That’s a comedy goldmine!

  3. wdydfae says:

    This post also popped out briefly last week when I hit the Publish button instead of the Edit button by mistake.

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  5. Wow. That was like reading something straight from Dashiel Hammett. Well done!

    • wdydfae says:

      Hi, Fannie! I had to dig up some of his fiction to try to get the style. The only one I could find quick online was a story called “Arsonist Plus.”

      • You did a great job capturing his voice on the page.

        I’m not sure if it’s available where you currently reside, but if you ever get a chance to read Hammett’s “They Can Only Hang You Once”, it’s a quick read and Spade unravels enough twists and turns to unmake a blanket.

  6. kerbey says:

    Well, I saw Bogart and Veronica Lake in my mind. ‘Tis hard when a name is spelled as though there were three syllables and yet you only say one. I follow the muscleheaded blog, and he posts Hammett quotes nearly weekly. Never lighthearted, frolicking quotes, but I guess that’s what you get with a smoking, drinking, tuberculosis-stricken writer, eh? Did no one ever call him dashing?

  7. wdydfae says:

    ‘Tis hard when a name is spelled as though there were three syllables and yet you only say one.

    I’m still trying to figure this out, Kerb. I’ll get it someday. But you’ll be happy to know I tried saying a lot of names using only one syllable! Without success.

    I haven’t heard from MHB for a long time! Probably because I ran out of good jazz fusion clips to post.

    I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing Lililam Hellman called DH dashing.

  8. markbialczak says:

    Are you going to turn sideways and disappear like The Thin Man again, Diddy? Nice piece, dude!

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