The Maryland Writers’ Association created the Writers’ Round Table Program to encourage writers, poets, playwrights and authors through monthly articles and activities.

The Notable Maryland Author articles and associated Fun With Words writers’ prompts are the centerpiece of the program. Each month, the Maryland Independent and other newspapers in the state will feature a Maryland Writers’ Association article about an author. Marylanders are encouraged to read the articles and try their hand at the writing prompts each month.

Author: Samuel Dashiell Hammett

“All my characters were based on people I’ve known personally, or known about.” — Dashiell Hammett

Genre: Hard-boiled crime — Tough, unsentimental style of American crime writing that brings an earthy realism or naturalism to the field of detective fiction. Hard-boiled fiction contains vivid, but often sordid urban backgrounds, fast-paced, slangy dialogue and graphic sex and violence.

A partial reading list includes “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Thin Man,” “Red Harvest,” and “The Dain Curse.”

Samuel Dashiell Hammett (May 27, 1894 – January 10, 1961) was born on a farm in St. Mary’s County and grew up in Philadelphia and Baltimore. He worked as an operative for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency from 1915 to February 1922, with time off to serve in World War I. Hammett was first published in 1922, starting the genre that was eventually labeled hard-boiled crime.

Authors are told to “write what you know” and Hammett lived in San Francisco and knew Pinkerton detective work. Nosy couple Nick and Nora Charles and hard-boiled private eye Sam Spade are the enduring characters Hammet created. They lived and sleuthed in the streets, sounds and locations of San Francisco using language that was authentic to the era and work.

His 1929 novel, “Red Harvest,” was selected by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005. He wrote his final novel in 1934, more than 25 years before his death, and is widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time. A veteran of both world wars, Hammett is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Fun with words

Maryland Writers’ Association invites readers to have fun writing. Using just 100 words, write hard-boiled crime that takes place in San Francisco in 1929. Name your private eye, pick and include a San Francisco street and landmark, and describe the pending crime and victim.

Readers can submit their responses at the website by the 20th of the month to receive an MWA Writers’ Round Table submission certificate. Selected prompts will be published next month. Other information can be found at

Last month’s reader selections

In August, readers were asked to write a middle grade story that takes place in the present day and includes a 10- to 13-year-old boy, a strange neighbor, a snowshoe, a physical change and a boat show.

Here are some regional selections:

A group of boys walking down a boardwalk, pass a sign that reads “The 12th Annual Boat Show.”

One boy says, “Marco, can you believe we’ve come to this every year since we’ve been born?”

Marco replies, “No I can’t. It should be called, ‘The Annual Boring Show.’ I only come here, because of my parents.” Marco trips, exclaiming, “I’ve grown out of these flip flops already.”

A boy points, saying, “There he is.” All look at an old man holding a snowshoe, attached to a pole, hanging over his head.

“I can’t believe that guy’s my neighbor,” Marco exclaims.

Tara Lambert of La Plata

Harriet the Spy he was not.

Billy Zahn shouted for help into Rob Fellway’s hand. Billy’s odd new neighbor dragged the twelve-year-old behind mildewed tents at the Crab Harbor Boat Show. Fellway set him down on a snowshoe no doubt intended for the yard sale tent.

Fellway said, “Why follow me?”

“You’re a werewolf.” He expected Fellway to laugh.

Fellway didn’t. “So?”

“So, make me one.”

Fellway’s brown eyes yellowed coldly. “That, you don’t want.”

Two bikini models interrupted them. One said, “Leave that kid alone.”

Fellway turned to the girls.

Billy grabbed the snowshoe, smacked Fellway’s butt, and ran.

Lawrence McGuire of Waldorf

Just Anthony

Anthony, age ten, has never seen snow. He was excited! He dressed in a jacket and black Nike shoes. No gloves, hat, scarf or boots. Mr. Henry watches him from his window.

“He isn’t dressed for the snow.”

Mr. Henry gathers warm clothing and a pair of snowshoes. He gives the items to Anthony. He puts on the garments and thanks him. Mr. Henry shovels his walkway, with Anthony’s help. Mr. Henry talks about a boat show.

Anthony thought, “How strange, talking about boats in the middle of winter.” He was delighted to help his neighbor the adults called strange.

R.C. Simmons of Waldorf

Eli glances around the marina warily.

How did I get here? he wonders.

Then he says it aloud. His words echo harmlessly. He reaches up and pats his face, which feels about thirty years older than it should. Then he remembers…

He had been at the Bait ’N’ Hook Marina for their 62nd Annual Yacht Show. In fact, he was still at the marina which was oddly deserted. Eli remembered seeing his spacey neighbor, a magician who went by the name of Doc Roberts. Doc had thrown a snow boot. Then it hit him: the world had aged thirty years.

Tanner George of