On a recent Dashiell Hammett tour of San Francisco, the Continental Op came up as a serious recommendation, and we enjoyed the added bonus of a Whosis Kid segment to the tour. The Whosis Kid segment revolved around McAllister/Van Ness, where the Op lurked in wait to see the Whosis Kid emerge from the front door and exchange gunfire with a black sedan. A lot of the storyline in Whosis Kid got recycled and improved in the Maltese Falcon. I hadn’t read these stories, so devoured them on a recent trip to Canada.
So what do I think? The stories are pure gold. Some of them are downright funny, and I finished up the series in a hammock out at The Max’s. The Continental Op is a detective employed by the Continental Detective Agency, who remains nameless throughout the series, but is self-described as short, fat, and able to skirt death by using common sense.
Stories I enjoyed immensely in the collection:
* The Golden Horseshoe (triple murder in SF, the villains hunker down in Tijuana)
* The House in Turk Street (the old couple, the Chinaman, the thug & the redhead who escapes, $100k in bonds)
* The Girl with the Silver Eyes (the redhead appears again, a poet in SF is the mark with a $20k forged check from his brother-in-law, death down at the Half Moon Bay roadhouse)
* The Whosis Kid (the girl triple crosses her gang, tries to woo the Op, shootout in her apartment with the darkened room and the watch dial waiting for someone to cross)