Samuel Dashiell Hammett was born in Maryland in 1894. In his early teens, he left school and worked at various jobs. Finally at age twenty-one he took a job as an operative with the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
After World War I began, Hammett signed up to serve in the Motor Ambulance Service, but during the war he contracted tuberculosis, an illness that was to give him problems for the rest of his life. While he was undergoing treatment he met Josephine Dolan, a nurse. They married and had two children. The marriage unraveled fairly quickly due to Hammett’s alcohol abuse and womanizing.
After Hammett’s release from the Army, he went back to his job at Pinkerton. The work he did clearly stirred his imagination. Popular mystery fiction in the early 1920s was reasonably genteel and the solution to a crime was reached through the intellectual endeavors of the sleuth. Hammett developed a much grittier type of story, engendering what is now commonly known as “hard-boiled” crime fiction.