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The Thin Man
The Thin Man (1st ed cover).jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorDashiell Hammett
CountryUnited States
Published1934 (Alfred A. Knopf)
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Preceded byThe Glass Key 

The Thin Man (1934) is a detective novel by Dashiell Hammett, originally published in the December 1933 issue of Redbook. It appeared in book form the following month.

Hammett never wrote a sequel but the book became the basis for a successful six-part film series, which also began in 1934 with The Thin Man and starred William Powell and Myrna Loy. The Thin Man television series aired on NBC from 1957–59, and starred Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk.[1]

In 1999, Knopf published a collection of Hammett's early works, including an early draft of The Thin Man. While some story elements were used in one of the sequel movies, this early draft is very different from the final published novel.[2]

Although Hammett lived until 1961, The Thin Man was his last published novel. Lillian Hellman, in an introduction to a compilation of Hammett's five novels, contemplated several explanations for Hammett's retirement as a novelist,

I have been asked many times over the years why he did not write another novel after The Thin Man. I do not know. I think, but I only think, I know a few of the reasons: he wanted to do a new kind of work; he was sick for many of those years and getting sicker. But he kept his work, and his plans for work, in angry privacy and even I would not have been answered if I had ever asked, and maybe because I never asked is why I was with him until the last day of his life.[3]

Following the success of the movie version of The Thin Man in 1934, Hammett was commissioned to work on screenplays for sequels. During the course of this work, he wrote After the Thin Man and Another Thin Man, which, discovered amongst Hammett's papers in 2011, together with instructions by Hammett for incorporation of additional elements written by screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, were edited by Hammett's biographer Richard Layman in collaboration with Hammett's granddaughter Julie M. Rivett and published as novellas in Return of the Thin Man in 2012.[4][5][6]


The story is set in New York City in December 1932, in the last days of Prohibition. The main characters are Nick Charles, a former private detective, and Nora, his clever young wife. Nick, the son of a Greek immigrant, has given up his career since marrying Nora, a wealthy socialite, and he spends most of his time cheerfully getting drunk in hotel rooms and speakeasies. Nick and Nora have no children but they own a female Schnauzer named Asta. (In the film adaptation, Asta is a male wire-haired fox terrier.) Charles is drawn, mostly against his will, into investigating a murder. The case brings them in contact with the Wynants, a rather grotesque family, and with various policemen and lowlifes. As they attempt to solve the case, Nick and Nora share a great deal of banter and witty dialogue, along with copious amounts of alcohol.


  • Nick Charles: the narrator, a onetime detective
  • Nora Charles: Nick's wife, a wealthy socialite
  • Asta Charles: Nick and Nora’s dog; a female schnauzer
  • Clyde Wynant, the titular Thin Man: a wealthy, eccentric inventor
  • Mimi Jorgenson: Clyde's former wife
  • Julia Wolf: Wynant's secretary, who is murdered
  • Dorothy Wynant: Mimi and Clyde's daughter
  • Gilbert Wynant: Dorothy's younger brother
  • Christian Jorgenson, formerly called Sid Kelterman: Wynant's former associate
  • Herbert Macaulay: Clyde's attorney and former soldier whose life was saved by Nick in WWI
  • Shep Morelli: a gangster and childhood friend of Julia
  • Studsy Burke: a former safe-cracker who owns the Pigiron; a late night speakeasy
  • Arthur Nunheim: a former convict
  • John Guild: a homicide detective
  • Harrison Quinn: Nick's married friend and stock broker; that is attracted to Dorothy
  • Alice Quinn: Harrison’s divorce-minded wife


  1. ^ James Lileks (22 January 2016). "The Thin Man TV intro 1958". Archived from the original on 2021-12-14. Retrieved 20 May 2018 – via YouTube.
  2. ^ "Before "The Thin Man"". 17 April 2000. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  3. ^ The Novels of Dashiell Hammett. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1965.
  4. ^ Taylor, Art (2012-11-18). "Yet Another 'Thin Man'—and Thinner Than Usual". Archived from the original on 2013-09-05. Retrieved 2013-10-23.
  5. ^ Hammett, Dashiell. "Return of the Thin Man". Retrieved 2013-10-23.
  6. ^ "Book review: The Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett". The Scotsman. 2012-11-10. Retrieved 2013-10-23.


  • Holiday House, 2001 (reprint). ISBN 1-883402-70-0. Hardcover.
  • Vintage, 1989 (reprint). ISBN 0-679-72263-7. Paperback.
  • REB (Renaissance Ebooks), 2006. ISBN not available. Audio book.

External links

This page was last edited on 5 June 2022, at 03:08
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