The Thin Man (1934) is a hardboiled detective novel by Dashiell Hammett. Although he never wrote a sequel, the book became the basis for a successful film series which also began in 1934 with The Thin Man and starred William Powell and Myrna Loy. A Thin Man television series followed in the 1950s.
An early draft of the story, written several years before the published version, and now in print in several collections of Hammett's work, does not mention the main characters of the novel, Nick and Nora Charles, and breaks off after ten chapters. It is about a quarter of the length of the finished book.
I have been asked many times over the years why he did not write another novel after The Thin Man. I do not know. I think, but I only think, I know a few of the reasons: he wanted to do a new kind of work; he was sick for many of those years and getting sicker. But he kept his work, and his plans for work, in angry privacy and even I would not have been answered if I had ever asked, and maybe because I never asked is why I was with him until the last day of his life.
The story is set in Prohibition-era New York City. The main characters are a former private detective, Nick Charles, and his clever young wife, Nora. Nick, son of a Greek immigrant, has given up his career since marrying Nora, a wealthy socialite, and he now spends most of his time cheerfully getting drunk in hotel rooms and speakeasies. Nick and Nora have no children, but they do own a schnauzer named Asta, changed to a wire haired fox terrier for the movies.
The two decide to investigate a murder because Nora thinks it will be fun. The case brings them in contact with a rather grotesque family, the Wynants, and also with an assortment of policemen and lowlifers. As they attempt to solve the case, Nick and Nora share a great deal of banter and snappy dialogue, along with copious amounts of alcohol. The characters of Nick and Nora are often thought to reflect the personalities of Hammett and his long-time lover, Lillian Hellman.
Because the "Thin Man" title was used for the subsequent movies, there is a widespread misapprehension that the term refers to Nick Charles himself; in fact it refers to Clyde Wynant, the mysterious and eccentric patriarch around whom the plot revolves.