Writer's Notes

Dashiell Hammet story for Redwood Writers Newsletter–March 2011

Hammett Archives Cough Up a Thriller

By Kevin Fagan Chronicle Staff Writer

Adapted by Thonie Hevron

Fans of the hard-boiled detective novel are giddy with the news that

a national mystery magazine is about to publish a long-lost story by the father of the genre-Dashiell Hammett—fifty years after his death.

The story, “So I Shot Him,” is one of about a dozen of the San Francisco writer’s pieces that were never printed anywhere. Word is that this 12-page thriller is high-quality and complete.

Andrew Gulli, managing editor of the Strand Magazine, stumbled across the piece while poking through Hammett’s papers at the University of Texas at Austin. He’s featuring it in his Feb. 28 issue. “It was incredible to find this,” Gulli said by phone from his office in Birmingham, Michigan. “I found 11 to 14 stories not published, and they’re all pretty good — but this one just struck me as vintage Hammett. There was just something fantastic about it.”

It’s a secret

Nobody’s tipping his hand about the story line. That’s a mystery that will have to be solved by buying the magazine. But Gulli and others who have read the story say it reads like a finished draft in the author’s signature clipped, punch-to-the- gut prose.

“It has elements of fear and Hammett’s cynicism in it,” Gulli said. “What Hammett was very good at was a constant ratcheting up of tension to the great Hammett ending, and that really stuck out to me about this story.”

The odd thing about the newly unearthed story is that it has no date or title, unlike most of Hammett’s other manuscripts. The title to be used in Strand is simply the first line: “So I shot him.”

The black bird

Hammett died of lung cancer Jan. 10, 1961, at the age of 66. By then he had published more than 80 short stories and five novels, mostly about fedora-wearing tough guys who cracked tough cases.

The most famous of his works was 1930’s “The Maltese Falcon,” considered the first novel in the cynical detective. Hammett also wrote “The Thin Man.” Both novels were turned into Hollywood movie hits.

The author’s longtime paramour, playwright Lillian Hellman, had his papers stored alongside hers after his death. That’s why they are in Texas instead of San Francisco, where Hammett’s writing and career were centered.

Not a first draft

San Francisco publisher Vince Emery read “So I Shot Him” in 2003 when he was compiling his book “Lost Stories,” a collection of 21 out of print Hammett pieces that Emery then printed two years later. “Almost everything Hammett wrote appeared in a magazine at some point, but this was never printed anywhere,” Emery said. “There are

other bits that he never printed, and most of it is very rough, little chunks and unfinished, but this one is polished. It doesn’t read like a first draft. “There is a crime in it, but it’s not really a mystery story. It’s about fear. I’m sure Hammett fans will love it.”

They already do, even without having read it.

Getting one’s hands on an unpublished fragment of anything by Hammett is no easy feat. Rights to the Texas collection are controlled by his heirs, and Hammett granddaughter and spokeswoman Julie Rivett said they are choosy.

‘A finite resource’

“This story was kind of an inside secret, I suppose,” said Rivett, “There is a small selection of unpublished work, and while we know they are there, we are careful about how we use them,” Rivett said. “They’re kind of a finite resource. “We’re really excited that the public is getting to see this story now, though. I haven’t even read it myself yet.”

E-mail Kevin Fagan at

Copyright © 2011 San Francisco Chronicle 01/21/2011

Writer's Notes

Thrillerz Critique Group

Susan Littlefield, Billie Settles and I are readying our welcome mats for two new members to our group. At last night’s meeting, we voted to let Andy and William (or is it George?–stay tuned) join the thrilling fun. I got spanked at group last night. That tends to happen when an author hustles through a scene and submits it to the group–without editing it first. yikes. Enough laziness. I vow to READ ALOUD all scenes for submission.

That should help, shouldn’t it?

Writer's Notes

Redwood Writers Conference-coming up!

It’s time to polish your pencils, fire up your ipads and dig out those business cards. The Redwood Writer’s Club is on it’s way-October 30th, 2010 at the Santa Rosa Flamingo Hotel. Don’t miss it if you want to improve your craft, sell an article or just network with others just like you.

See ya there!!

Writer's Notes

North Bay Times June 2010

Torch Run 2010

487 words

By Thonie Hevron

The law enforcement community in Sonoma County is mobilizing.  No, it’s not a SWAT call-out, a K-9 deployment or grid search. Cops and deputies, wives, children, dispatchers and administrators are marshalling (okay, sorry about the pun) their resources for the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR). Agencies are polling their personnel for volunteers to run, help with the logistic and/or assist with presenting medals to winning athletes.

The run takes the Special Olympic torch across California to the site of this year’s Special Olympic Games which will be held the last weekend in June at the beautiful UC Davis campus. Sonoma County’s involvement begins when the torch is handed off from Mendocino County agencies on Monday, June 21, 2010. It will take two days for the runners to carry the torch from Mendocino to pass it off at the Marin County line on Tuesday, June 22, 2010.

The local leg of the run (another pun: ooh, sorry!) begins where Santa Rosa Police Department relays the torch to Rohnert Park Public Safety Department, Cotati Police Department and in a premier appearance, the Santa Rosa office of California Highway Patrol.

In these tough times, everyone has been touched by the shaky economy. The run is a great way for law enforcement to show support for the Special Olympics. All charities report a decline in their funding. The extra effort we put out may make up some of that difference. But it also makes us feel better. Rohnert Park and Cotati both have been slammed by cut-backs, furloughs, and even lay-offs. This effort is way for us to feel better about ourselves and give back to the community we serve.

Team members will have a t-shirt or tank top paid for by earlier fund-raisers, Running with the Pack and Tip A Cop. The Rohnert Park/Cotati route begins with a hand off from Santa Rosa PD around 8:30 in the parking lot at Latitude’s Restaurant; 5000 Roberts Lake Rd. the team will proceed south to Golf Course Drive. Runners will then turn west to Commerce and go all the way to Old Redwood Highway to pass the torch to Petaluma Police Department participants at Applebee’s Restaurant. Our run is about 6.7 miles even though it may seem much longer.

If you have any questions, please call Terri Mazzanti at 707-584-2648.

Also look for department member participation in the upcoming Relay for Life of Rohnert Park on Saturday 10am through Sunday, June 26-27th, 2010 at Sonoma Mountain Village. This 24 hour event helps raise money for the fight against cancer. You don’t have to be at the event for 24 hours, but any time that you can walk with us would be welcome. RP’s team is called Heroes Helping Heroes. Feel free to sign up on the website at Many of us have experiences with family and friend who have suffered from cancer. Please consider this worthwhile cause.

Writer's Notes

Learning the techniques

Balancing life with art has never been easy. So why should I expect that retirement should leave me more time to do what I love–write? Silly me. I VOLUNTEERED! What was I thinking??? I got a dog…not just a dog but a Rottweiler puppy, volunteered to help with Redwood Writers Club posting to a website (when I really don’t know how to do it) and still working part-time and writing NorthBay Times articles. Add my hubby and horse to the mix and … well you see why I went so long without a post. Hopefully, now that my technical skills have improved, you will see more posts. I intend to post my articles from the NBTimes as I can.
Stand by to stand by!

Writer's Notes

Hello world!

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