Yesterday, as I was preparing a New Treasures piece on Otto Penzler’s newest Vintage anthology, The Big Book of Rogues and Villains, I stumbled on a listing for one I’d never seen before: The Big Book of the Continental Op, a massive omnibus of classic fiction by Dashiell Hammett, perhaps the greatest crime writer of the 20th Century.
Edited by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett, The Big Book of the Continental Op gathers all 28 of Hammett’s Continental Op stories into one place for the first time, including the novels Red Harvest and The Dain Curse. It arrives in trade paperback on Tuesday.
Now for the first time ever in one volume, all twenty-eight stories and two serialized novels starring the Continental Op — one of the greatest characters in storied history of detective fiction.
Dashiell Hammett is the father of modern hard-boiled detective stories. His legendary works have been lauded for almost one hundred years by fans, and his novel The Maltese Falcon was adapted into a classic film starring Humphrey Bogart. One of Dashiell Hammett’s most memorable characters, the Continental Op made his debut in Black Mask magazine on October 1, 1923, narrating the first of twenty-eight stories and two novels that would change forever the face of detective fiction. The Op is a tough, wry, unglamorous gumshoe who has inspired a following that is both global and enduring. He has been published in periodicals, paperback digests, and short story collections, but until now, he has never, in all his ninety-two years, had the whole of his exploits contained in one book. The book features all twenty-eight of the original standalone Continental Op stories, the original serialized versions of Red Harvest and The Dain Curse, and previously unpublished material. This anthology of Continental Op stories is the only complete, one-volume work of its kind.
Vintage’s Big Book series is a gift to genre fiction lovers of all stripes. Many of my favorites — including The Big Book of Ghost Stories, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries and The Vampire Archives — were edited by Penzler, but they also include the monumental Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Ann Vandermeer, which may be the largest single SF anthology ever published. There are nearly a dozen Big Books at this point, and they’re well worth tracking down. And they make great Christmas gifts!
The Big Book of the Continental Op will be published by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard on November 28, 2017. It is 752 pages, priced at $25 in trade paperback.