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Dashiell Hammett was an American writer of hard-boiled crime fiction, including the novels The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man.
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While there, he met Lillian Hellman, a married, 24-year-old aspiring playwright. The two became inseparable, and, though they never married, they remained close for the rest of his life, despite his habits of heavy drinking and womanizing.
After he wrote The Thin Man, Hammett never wrote another novel and dedicated himself to left-wing political causes, including civil rights. When Pearl Harbor was bombed during World War II, Hammett once again enlisted in the Army, after which he moved to New York, where his fortunes would take a turn for the worse.
Trouble with the law involving Hammett's communist associates led him to serve a six-month jail sentence, after which the IRS came after him for $100,000 in back taxes and garnered his future earnings.
In 1953, Hammett found himself testifying before Joseph McCarthy's Senate hearings that sought to root out Communists in the American entertainment industry, bringing added, unwanted media attention to the writer. He soon moved to a cottage in Katonah, New York, where he lived an isolated life.
After suffering a heart attack in 1955, Hammett died of lung cancer in New York City on January 10, 1961, at the age of 67.
Despite only having published five novels, Hammett remains one of the most influential writers of his time. He created an entire subgenre of fiction as well as some of the most compelling leading men in literature, and his "hard-boiled" world has had a lasting effect on television, film and a wide array of writers.
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