After the Thin Man -- Nick and Nora investigate a love triangle gone wrong after a dead man is discovered at their door. Another Thin Man-- After a wealthy business partner of Nora's father's is murdered, Nick and Nora's investigation brings them into the killer's crosshairs.
The first story, "After the Thin Man", takes place immediately following the first book/film. Nick and Nora are returning to California following their vacation in New York and the mystery they solved involving the Wynants. They return home to a surprise party during which a mystery man is murdered on their doorstep. At the same time, Nick is asked to "very discretely" help find a missing husband for one of Nora's relations. Naturally as time goes on, these two mysteries intertwine. The police try to get Nick to help them while at the same time they seem to feel like he's a nusaince. There is a lot of the same wit and humorous banter between Nick and Nora. The humor is taken to another level by the introduction of Nora's family, most of whom don't like Nick because he's not a socialite and has no discretion. Like the first Thin Man story, this mystery is full of multiple layers of complexity but in the end comes to a satisfying and natural resolution.
The second story in the book, "Another Thin Man" takes place a year or two after the previous story. In this story, Nick and Nora are back in New York City. This time they have another member of the family with them, their new son Nick Jr. Early on, some of Nick's old thug/criminal associates run across them and decide they want to throw a birthday party for Nick Jr. This plot element sits in the background for a while but shows up again as the setting for the climax. In this mystery, Nick and Nora have been invited to visit Colonel MacFay, a man who had previously worked with Nora's father and still has business dealings with the businesses that Nick helps oversee. It's quickly evident that MacFay had alternate motives for inviting the Charleses at this time. It turns out that MacFay has been receiving death threats from an old business partner. Nick casually investigates but seems to decide there's no real threat until MacFay turns up murdered. The District Attorney helps head up the investigation along with his local police force who Nick doesn't know. There are many times that Nick seems to be one of the primary suspects or, if not a suspect there seems to be at least some intent to discredit him. Once again, the bodies, suspects and plot complexities continue to pile up until we have a dramatic conclusion during Nick Jr's birthday party.
There is a third story included in this book as well. Simply titled "Sequel to the Thin Man", this 8 page story is apparently a hasty work pumped out by Hammett after pressure from the movie studio. This short story has some interesting plot points and brief moments of humor but it largely felt "phoned in" and forgettable.
Overall I really enjoyed these screen stories. Almost as interesting as the stories was the commentary from the editor about the production of these stories and the interactions between Hammett, the movie studio and the screenplay writers. Hammett was at the end of his writing career and seemed to be less interested in continuing the saga of Nick and Nora Charles. Compelled by contractual obligations, he did a good job of maintaining the level of intelligent humor and mystery. There were plenty of less pleasant interactions between Hammett and the studios over the pressured censorship to "tone down" his writing by removing some of the alcohol, innuendo and violence. By the end of the third story, the other writers were also tired of the series and tried to end it with the revelation that Nora was pregnant. Instead, the success of the series just required them to write the third story with the inclusion of a baby.
While the writing wasn't as tight or vivid as Hammett's actual novels, the stories here are a lot of fun. I probably won't read these again and again but I'm definitely interested to watch the movies that came as a result of these screen stories. The mystery and plot are just as complex in the screen stories as in the novels so the general story arc is still a fun read. Even though I sometimes felt like I was reading a screenplay rather than a novel, I still had fun with this book and I'm glad these stories were published if only to give additional insight into Hammett's repertoire.
3 out of 5 stars
The book includes a lengthy description of the creation of the Thin Man series, Hammett’s life, and the relationship Hammett had with the producer of the movies and the movie company. I found the history very interesting and it served to make the stories more enjoyable.
The two stories contain the same intricate plots that Hammett is famous for, but his style of wording is lost in the loose screen play format. The audio version uses various actors complete with accents and so it sounds like a radio program with narration.
I enjoyed listening to the book very much. I loved the witty interplay between Nick and Nora so much that I borrowed the whole set of movies from the local library so that I could see Hammett’s characterizations played out by the well cast couple.
Return of the Thin Man contains two novellas, After The Thin Man and Another Thin Man, written by Hammett for the making of films. They are short, fast paced reads. Before each one is a short introduction. A lot of background information is provided about Hammett and the making of The Thin Man books and movies.
I'll admit it has been a while since I read The Thin Man, but while these novellas were enjoyable, I know I enjoyed The Thin Man much more. Since these novellas were written as the basis for future movies, they read more like plays, with stage directions and descriptions that I'm not used to in mystery novels. But the classic Hammett wit and clever dialogue between Nick and Nora is there, and I know fans will really appreciate that.
I received this book via Amazon's Vine Program.
The advantage of listening to the audio versions of these never-before-published screen stories, is their unique presentation as old-time radio programs.
The scripts are read by a range of actors. Some of them speak in a charming 1930s gangster-style tone, while others take a more cartoonish approach.
Both mysteries have more twists than a lemon peel in a martini.
Listeners may cringe at the dated racial stereotypes, or even Asta's (the dog) leg-lifting toilet humor; nonetheless, Hammett's snappy dialog, endless wit and exaggerated shenanigans come through loud and clear in these "Golden Age" broadcasts, creating a perfect balance of mystery and comedy.
It's "Thin Man" week here at CCLaP! And in fact, it was pure but lucky coincidence that the original 1934 novel came up in my "CCLaP 100" reading queue this month, which I then followed up with a screening of the equally famous 1934 movie; because it just so happens that a brand-new contemporary book on the subject came to the top of my reading queue this month as well, the fascinating Return of the Thin Man edited by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett. See, even though The Thin Man would be the last novel Dashiell Hammett ever wrote, the resulting film version turned out so popular that movie studio MGM hired Hammett to write "treatments" for the next two sequels (After the Thin Man and Another Thin Man), not exactly stories and not exactly scripts, but rather if someone was describing a script in story form, neither of which have ever been published until this book this year. And so of course that makes this a must-read for Hammett fans, because it's not going to be very often anymore that they're going to come across unpublished work by him*; but of equal interest to history buffs are the lengthy contemporary essays that appear before and after each treatment, in which films scholars Layman and Rivett detail all the steps that went into making these films, their ultimate fates with both the studio and the public, and the cantankerous relationship the runaway alcoholic Hammett had with his MGM bosses, leading them to unceremoniously dump him after Another Thin Man and to hire journeyman writers to pen the last three scripts in the series. A fast, punchy and entertaining read, just like all of Hammett's work, this comes recommended to both hardboiled detective fans and those interested in the history of early cinema.
Out of 10: 9.0
*Although of course I shouldn't speak too soon; just last year, for example, a Hammett scholar unearthed a dozen unpublished short stories of his in the Hammett Archives at the University of Texas-Austin, which I believe are in the process of being turned into a brand-new book as we speak.
First off. I am a huge fan of the Thin Man movies. The first three movies are easily the best of the 6, at least in my opinion. This makes the listening experience difficult at first because all I can think of is how the William Powell and Myrna Loy performances are far superior to the actors in this audio version. I'm sure that's mostly due to my love of the movies. These books are a joy to listen to. The dialogue written by Mr. Hammett is simply hysterical and begs for repeated listens(I kept repeating parts of the CD's). There is nothing new here because it was all in the movies. If you are a Hammett fan or a Thin Man fan or both, you will love this book.
Turns out that dialogue was true, down to the very word, to the novellas written by Hammett, who, of course, created the delightful characters of Nick and Nora Charles. Reading these two stories was like reading the movies. I could vividly picture William Powell and Myra Loy delivering the snappy lines and reacting to each other in the way that makes the movies so remarkable.
Because these were written as the basis for the screenplay, the reader is not allowed behind the scenes – we do not get to know the characters feelings or thoughts, other than the way we are told they react. On the plus side, the reader does get too look behind the curtain (a bit) in regards to the details about the making of the movies.
Dashiell Hammett created two of my favorite fictional characters and it was a great chance to get to experience their world again in a different way than what I have seen on the screen.
Return of the Thin Man packages up After the Thin Man and Another Thin Man, two screenplays written by Hammett after the successful Hollywood adaptation of The Thin Man. This title also includes a brief sketch of a potential screenplay by Hammett simply titled "Sequel to the Thin Man" as well as some short essays from the book's editors - Richard Layman, a Hammett biographer, and Julie M. Rivett, Hammett's granddaughter.
The details provided by Layman and Rivett are certainly helpful for context; they help to explain why I didn't like the offerings here as much as I did the original novel. These screenplays are not just the work of Hammett but also represent at least some influence by the writing team who took The Thin Man and re-worked it for a Hollywood movie. Even with their input here, however, these screenplays are not the final products that were turned into the later movies. These represent Hammett's finalized contributions to the project, but they were later further edited and amended to work as cinematic films.
Nevertheless, Hammett is trying his best here to write for movies and not to write a novel. The results are disastrous. Although Hammett certainly wasn't wordy in The Thin Man, he did rely on narration at least as much as he did dialogue. His sharp, snappy writing is a large part of what made the book such a compelling read. Here he is reduced to largely dialogue and some brief descriptive parts wherein he explains what a person or place should look like. Rather than reading quicker, this seemed to bog the screenplays down for me. They didn't have the rhythm and flow of the novel and rather than allowing for Nick's narrated observations to add some of the humor, these had to resort to slapstick situations. Cool and clever, witty and observant, step aside and make way for dog pee jokes. Yep.
The first of these screenplays, After the Thin Man, follows up The Thin Man quite quickly in terms of chronology. Nick and Nora return from their New York trip to a surprise party being held in their San Francisco home. The biggest surprise of all is when gunshots are heard and a man is found dead at their doorstep. And not just any man, but one who had been previously employed by Nora's family. Things get even more complicated when Nora's cousin calls in panic because her husband is missing.
There are so many things wrong with this particular story that it's hard to know where to start. Although it's important to remember context and the time in which Hammett was writing, his ridiculously stereotypical portrayal of the one Chinese character in the story is grating. Likewise, the death of a Latino former servant hardly seems to faze Nick whereas he gets right on the case of the missing husband. There is a very long section introducing many ancient members of Nora's family, which turns out to be largely unnecessary and therefore all the more painful that we had to get a lengthy description of each one's withered looks and moneyed snobbery. Suddenly Nick is on the complete opposite end of society and is friends with all kinds of crooks and lowlifes, which seems pretty strange for a fellow whose previous job was as a PI. It would appear that these folks would be his natural enemies, not his best friends. In addition to the sudden slapstick routines, any decently funny parts are often a re-hash of those told in The Thin Man. Meanwhile, the mystery itself is only somewhat interesting - just enough to hold your attention and remind you that Hammett is capable of much better - and has a rather convoluted trajectory.
Another Thin Man certainly has its share of flaws, but it is a great deal better than the previous offering. Nick and Nora return to New York City and then venture out to the home of an old family friend, Colonel MacFay. The colonel is being terrorized by a past employee that feels wronged by the old man and, during the time of the Charles's stay, is ultimately murdered. The mystery here is far more engaging than the previous one, even if it is a variation of the "locked room" mystery trope. Also, Hammett did a better job here of introducing fewer characters and making them all rather more interesting and well developed, regaining some of the glory of what made The Thin Man so superb. While Another Thin Man does present a far more intriguing mystery than After the Thin Man as well as more compelling characters, there is still something off on the humor and the storytelling.
However, a funny little Easter egg here is a cameo from Mimi and Gilbert Wynant. Meanwhile, a strange development here is that the screenwriters had added to Hammett's After the Thin Man a final scene with a pregnant Nora, so Hammett was forced into a corner of making the Charles couple into a Charles family for this follow-up screenplay. Nick, Jr. is the most uninteresting - and yet ridiculous - of babies ever introduced, who shows zero inclination to be entertained by those around him and at the age of one says "drunk" to indicate that someone bores him. Again, yep.
The final offering in this book is the "Sequel to The Thin Man" notes, which provide a rough draft of another story idea from Hammett. Despite being the latest written piece, Hammett seems to have completely ignored all that came between it and The Thin Man. It seems to rehash some of the plot details from After the Thin Man, ignores the fact of the Charles's parenthood, and re-introduces many of the characters from The Thin Man. While this is an interesting addition to see some more about Hammett's thoughts and his early writing process, the eight-page sketch is not worth writing home about and was never further developed.
All in all, I'm glad that I read this book to see what it was all about and spend just a little more time with Nick and Nora. It did have some glimmers here and there, and the mysteries were compelling enough to want to read on and see how they were resolved. Nevertheless, these screenplays lack the original panache of Hammett's novel and were pale imitations of that work. That's just too bad.
This is another book I’ve received as part of Librarything.com’s Early Reader program.
Once the first movie was a hit, the studio paid Hammett for story and script work on the next three movies. This presents those stories based on his original work before any changes were made for the final film. In addition to the story treatment for After the Thin Man, this set has readings of the story treatment to Another Thin Man and a brief bit of story work that is just called a sequel to The Thin Man.
While it’s too bad there aren’t any more Nick and Nora Charles novels, it’s great to see these final pieces of Hammett’s work.
Hammett’s style and writing chops are evident and the stories are quite fun to listen to. Hammett is constrained by the studio’s requirements and these aren’t Hammett at his best, but they do read well and the Hammett touch is evident, even if these are not actually full developed novellas.
There’s also a great deal of detailed information on the scripting process of the movies, what was going on with Hammett at the time and his battles with the studio.
One problem I have is that this presented as the first publication of this material. However, the After The Thin Man script was already published in two issues of the Black Mask revival. At least one of the co-editors here knew this as Richard Layman co-edited those issues and his introduction is copied directly from them.
Overall, the audio work here is quite good. This is a full-cast recording with a number of good performances, particularly in the supporting cast.
I did have a slight problem with Peter Ganim’s interpretation of Nick Charles.
Charles is a difficult character to bring to life. He’s witty and urbane, snide and sarcastic, yet gets along with people from all walks of life. He’s comfortable in both high society and low dives. He’s clever, yet tough.
It’s been years since I’ve seen the original Thin Man movie, but I recall William Powell being quite good at finding the balance between witty and tough. Ganim is less successful. His Nick Charles is a bit fey, his performance is not masculine or tough enough for a Hammett leading character.
Similarly, Nicola Barber as Nora Charles is a bit weak. She just doesn’t have the moxie that made Myrna Loy a perfect foil for Powell.
This is a “reading” rather than a play. Most of the time this doesn’t matter, but occasionally the stage directions become distracting. As an example, there’s a spot where one of the supporting characters laughs, then the stage directions are read telling us that the man laughs. While it’s true to Hammett’s original writing, it’s a bit distracting when trying to listen to it as a story.
I am a huge fan of The Thin Man Movies, so I was eager to dive in to this recording. Initially, I was put off somewhat when I realized that this was not a true dramatization of the scripts, but rather a straight narration, although they utilize multiple narrators. For example, the narrator reads the stage directions.
However, once I got over that minor quibble, the entire read was very enjoyable. I particularly liked the background on Hammett's interaction with the studio producing the films.
I loved the first section of the book the most. It gives the nonfiction evolution of the books and Hammett’s decision-making process with the characters. The stories read like a movie script, which is essentially what they are. That style doesn’t work as well in book format. It’s hard to read something that goes into such detail about who is standing where and what each person is doing throughout the conversation. Also, the audiobook portrayals of Chinese people were pretty awful; think Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany. That’s reflective of the time in which they were written, but it’s hard to ignore.
BOTTOM LINE: The stories are fun little murder mysteries, but with Nick and Nora it’s always been about the clever repartee, not the whodunit. This book is a must for fans of the films, but if you’re new to the series definitely start with the first novel, The Thin Man.