He was identfied by number; one copy of his report was filed at the branch office and another, perhaps abridged or rewritten, was supplied to the client.A Pinkerton was expected to be close-mouthed and secretive about his job.The agent's job, bluntly put, was to protect the good people from the bad, who did not live by civil or religious morality.To be bound by rules in dealing with them was to put oneself at a disadvantage.Hammett attended Public School #72, where he was known for his quick temper; but he also discovered the West Lexington Library, from which he borrowed armloads of adventures and mysteries.His hungry, eclectic reading became a life-long habit."An enigmatic want-ad took me into the employ of the Pinkerton's National Detective Agency," he wrote, "and I stuck at that until early in 1922." 5 His family was relieved, for the Pinkertons were thought an antidote for delinquency, much as the Marines are today.They were highly regimented, but on twenty-four hour call.
Later, while working as a part-time operative in San Francisco, he described himself as a "broker." 7 Wright appears to have informed Hammett that morality was personal.
Hammett's father Richard was a profligate, frontier type who never held a job long, who drank every day, played poker every night, womanized when he could and fought when provoked.
The Hammetts moved to Philadelphia, for Annie's tuberculosis, and then to Baltimore, so Richard could work as a salesman, a job he soon lost.
3 Hammett, then fifteen, worked first as a messenger boy, then as a freight clerk, later as a stevedore, a timekeeper and a yardman for a railroad, but he never held a job long.
When he was fired, Hammett created his first story: he had been late every day for a week, until the boss confronted him.