Nathan Ward’s The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett is a great look at the early and productive life of the father of hard boiled fiction. We got a hold of Nathan to talk about the book and his subject.
MysteryPeople Scott: What drew you to Hammett’s early years?
Nathan Ward: I came to write this book because it did not yet exist and I wanted to read something about what kind of detective had Hammett been before he wrote some of the iconic detective books of the 20th century; the best reason to write something is, as Thomas Berger answered when asked why he wrote novels, “Because it isn’t there.”
Hammett has what in comic books is called an origins story: once a real-life detective, he nearly died from Tuberculosis, then while flat on his back with the disease he began sending out crime stories. The rest is supposedly history. I wanted to test this myth and find out more about his incredible transition, especially to learn what kind of real detective he had been, if possible.
“My theory was that if I focused primarily on the formative years, did a sort of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Pinkerton, I would have room enough to explore his unique transition.”