• Megan E. Abott


In 1953, Senator Joseph McCarthy called Dashiell Hammett before a congressional subcommittee convened to investigate charges that so-called pro-communist books, including Hammett’s, had been found in the State Department’s overseas libraries. McCarthy asked Hammett,

[I]f you were spending, as we are, over a hundred million dollars a year on an information program allegedly for the purpose of fighting communism, and if you were in charge of that program to fight communism, would you purchase the works of some 75 communist authors and distribute their works throughout the world, placing our official stamp of approval upon these works?1

Hammett rather audaciously replied, “[I]f I were fighting communism, I don’t think I would do it by giving people any books at all.”2 Not long after his testimony, Hammett’s books were removed from State Department libraries (though only temporarily; Eisenhower would reinstate them). As Woody Haut suggests, Hammett, having already served a six-month prison term for refusing to answer questions about indicted communist leaders threatened with deportation, certainly realized that “books are, in themselves, investigations and, if one seeks mass distribution and a mass readership, one acknowledges the dominant cultural narrative or suffers the consequences.”3


Story Paper Gender Politics Pocket Book Black Mask American Frontier 
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© Megan E. Abott 2002

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  • Megan E. Abott

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