Pairing Books with Movies: Return of the Thin Man

Monday, December 17, 2012


Return of the Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett
★★★☆

The Thin Man was a revolutionary novel which paired the detective noir style with comedic dialogue between a husband and wife duo. The books, all of which were turned into movies, were a huge hit. Nick and Nora Charles gained a big fan following and now these two previously unpublished Thin Man stories are available. Both stories were turned into films, but have never been available as a book.

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.

Pair with a viewing of the original 1934 film The Thin Man. Also check out After the Thin Man and Another Think Man, which are the films versions of the stories contained in this collection.

4 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

I don't think I've ever heard of this! But I am intrigued. I feel a "read the book, see the movie" project coming up.

annieb said...

In my weird world I usually see the movie first and then read the book. I think there is less disappointment that way and I don't have to spend so much time trying to figure out what people look like (I'm terrible at that). I have the entire Thin Man series on DVD and my favorite is The Thin Man Goes Home. There is a lot of drinking and smoking in the movies, which seems odd now days, but wasn't for the 30s. The costumes and sets are spectacular even in black and white.

Carl V. said...

Those films are such a delight. I've been a fan of them for a long time and we usually watch one or two every year. I just read The Thin Man for the first time a few years ago and enjoyed it very much. Of course it helped that I was picturing William Powell and Myrna Loy as the characters and hearing their voices in the dialogue.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - Definitely, I've got all the Thin Man movies lined up in my Netflix list now.

annieb - I can't wait to see them!

Carl V - I think I saw the original years ago, but I want to rewatch it after reading this book.