Dashiell Hammett worked for the famous Pinkerton National Detective Agency both before and after World War I. His experiences as an "operative" provided the material for most of his stories and novels. He began writing after tuberculosis made other work difficult.
His first book The Continental Op was a collection of detective stories about a private investigator for the Continental Agency. His next two books, full length novels, followed this character, referred to only as the "operative". In Red Harvest he deals with labor troubles in a mining town, and in The Dain Curse the "op" solves a series of related murders.
Hammett moved to San Francisco in 1926 and used it as the setting for a number of his subsequent stories, including The Maltese Falcon. He wrote just two more novels: The Glass Key and The Thin Man. He is acknowledged as the dean of "hard-boiled" detective fiction.
Many of Hammett's stories and novels have been made into movies, one of which, The Maltese Falcon, almost overshadows the literary orginal. He also wrote and co-wrote a number of screenplays. Ironically, the original Thin Man movie, a detective story with humor and romance on the side, led to a series of six romantic comedies starring William Powell, Myrna Loy and the dog Asta, each with less connection to Hammett's work. Two of the Thin Man movies have notable Bay Area settings: After the Thin Man takes place in their home on Nob Hill (in actuality Coit Tower!) and a Chinese nightclub, and Shadow of the Thin Man has scenes on the San Francisco Bay Bridge and at Golden Gate Fields racetrack in Albany.