V105 Vine Building, Middlesex University, The Burroughs, London, NW4 4BT
Crime fiction is typically regarded as cheap and disposable and certainly not conducive to serious archival scholarship. In this talk, I consider what the “official” archive held by the University of South Carolina reveals about Dashiell Hammett, a figure about which much is already known. The real “discovery” is not Hammett himself, for there is little that the archive can now tell us beyond what is already known, but the lives and dramas of those who first tried to excavate Hammett’s story in the late 1960s and 1970s.
This talk examines how biographical scholarship was conducted in the pre-digital era and what was at stake for those who sought, against the wishes of Hammett’s estate, to dig up the buried details of his life and works. Its focus is not Hammett himself but the freewheeling band of “unauthorized” Hammett hunters who toiled away in the early 1970s and whose efforts typically, and in typically Hammettian fashion, ended in failure.
Andrew Pepper is Senior Lecturer in English at Queen’s University Belfast. He is author of Unwilling Executioner: Crime Fiction and the State (OUP 2016) and The Contemporary American Crime Novel: Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality (EUP 2000). His “Pyke” series of detective novels, set in nineteenth-century Britain and Ireland, including The Last Days of Newgate (2006) and Bloody Winter (2011), were all published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
The Language and Communication Research Seminars are free and open to all staff, students and guests. For any questions or if you would like to lead a session, contact Anna Charalambidou.