To Prudence Whitfield, wife of Raoul Whitfield, a fellow “Black Mask” writer and one of Hammett’s closest friends. Hammett and Prudence (Pru) shared a wealth of correspondence and many are written, signed or addressed in a manner that feed the speculation that they were lovers, even while he was in a relationship with Lillian Hellman. Our letter is addressed to “Pru darling” and signed, “Much love, sweetheart…” with initials "SDH." Hammett talks about the letters he had received from her, of which there were many. She apparently wrote daily at that time. He also talks about it being winter in Alaska, saying, “We’re a pretty white world.” He comments on life in the Army and about writing. “Of my own affairs in the Army there isn’t a single God-damned bit of news,” but notes that “sitting here at ease in my newspaper hut, putting on a little weight and practically bloated with health, I’ve no trouble being phlegmatic about it all. This is by no means the worst way of fighting a war that any enlisted man ever found, and if it’s got to go on like this I aim to endure it.” Hammett then discusses editing Jean Potter's book, "The Flying North." “Jean Potter sent me some chapters of her book on Alaska bush pilots to exercise my editorial pen on, so I’ll probably have… fun with that… swell stuff in the book….” Jean Potter was a well-respected author on aviation and Alaska who, in 1945, published “The Flying North,” a classic work about flying in Alaska’s early days through to World War II. Potter worked for Time, Inc. as well as for “Fortune” magazine which sent her, in 1940, to Alaska. She then went back again in 1943 as a free-lance writer to research her book, “The Flying North.” An obituary from January 8, 1997 (SFGate), states that the book was edited by Dashiell Hammett who was serving in the armed forces in Alaska.” In “Lillian Hellman: A Life with Foxes and Scoundrels,” by Deborah Martinson (page 96), Hellman is quoted as saying, “I’m not at all sure I would have written without Hammett” and further, that she “forever after praised his talent and assistance in her writing career.” Also noted is, “As Jean Potter, another young writer he helped, commented, ‘He seldom changed anything himself, but asked questions, forcing the writer to look, to make appropriate changes.’” The letter ends with chit chat of what he’s been doing, including sleeping “like a log,” a comment to Pru’s telling him she is not sleeping well. He further states, “I don’t want to suggest it’s because my conscience is clear….” He also tells her that his “lads are playing basketball at the island gym” and finally, about comments that the war will not be lasting much longer, “There are a lot of dreamers in the world….”.
Hammett was a veteran of World War I where he contracted Spanish flu and tuberculosis. He subsequently pulled strings in order to join up during World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Hammett spent most of the war in the Aleutian Islands, where he edited a popular Army newspaper "The Adakian," from 1944 to 1945.