Dashiell Hammett was born in Maryland in 1894. He grew up in Philadelphia and Baltimore. After leaving school at the age of 14, he held a variety of jobs until he finally became an operative for the legendary Pinkerton's Detective Agency. The First World War interrupted his sleuthing, and also shattered his health. He turned to the writing of detective fiction and is regarded as one of the masters of the genre. Hammett has been a major influence on contemporary fiction. He died in 1961.