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The Maltese Falcon Paperback – July 17, 1989
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Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett's archetypally tough San Francisco detective, is more noir than L.A. Confidential and more vulnerable than Raymond Chandler's Marlowe. In The Maltese Falcon, the best known of Hammett's Sam Spade novels (including The Dain Curse and The Glass Key), Spade is tough enough to bluff the toughest thugs and hold off the police, risking his reputation when a beautiful woman begs for his help, while knowing that betrayal may deal him a new hand in the next moment.
Spade's partner is murdered on a stakeout; the cops blame him for the killing; a beautiful redhead with a heartbreaking story appears and disappears; grotesque villains demand a payoff he can't provide; and everyone wants a fabulously valuable gold statuette of a falcon, created as tribute for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Who has it? And what will it take to get it back? Spade's solution is as complicated as the motives of the seekers assembled in his hotel room, but the truth can be a cold comfort indeed.
Spade is bigger (and blonder) in the book than in the movie, and his Mephistophelean countenance is by turns seductive and volcanic. Sam knows how to fight, whom to call, how to rifle drawers and secrets without leaving a trace, and just the right way to call a woman "Angel" and convince her that she is. He is the quintessence of intelligent cool, with a wise guy's perfect pitch. If you only know the movie, read the book. If you're riveted by Chinatown or wonder where Robert B. Parker's Spenser gets his comebacks, read the master. --Barbara Schlieper
“Dashiell Hammett . . . is a master of the detective novel, yes, but also one hell of a writer.” –The Boston Globe
“The Maltese Falcon is not only probably the best detective story we have ever read, it is an exceedingly well written novel.” –The Times Literary Supplement (London)
“Hammett’s prose [is] clean and entirely unique. His characters [are] as sharply and economically defined as any in American fiction.” –The New York Times
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Top Customer Reviews
Some parts of this book reminded me a lot of the Jack Nickolson movie Chinatown. The two different stories are set in the same era and feature private eyes with their own ethical codes. I suggest watching Chinatown after reading this book.
I read everything from nonfiction to westerns, but at least half of my time is spent reading sci-fi and fantasy.
Sci-fi and fantasy authors I like include Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Paolo Bacigalupi, Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Arthur C. Clarke, Earnest Cline, Suzanne Collins, Abe Evergreen, Diana Gabaldon, William R. Forstchen, Joe Haldeman, Robert A. Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Hugh Howey, George Martin, Larry Niven, Andre Norton, George Orwell, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, John Scalzi, John Steakley, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Andy Weir.
The plot to this mystery is brilliantly crafted with none of the Agatha Christie tricks of last minute missing clues. Hammett's skill at writing dialouge to define character is unparralled. His ability to side step the long winded back story and to par a paragraph down to an entertaining but gripping bit of necessity is similr to that of Shirley Jackson.
Until the last pages we're never certain who's a good guy and who's bad. Even Spade is a mystery to us until the end. This book is a classic for a good reason. As great as the film is, the book is even better. It's easy to have Bogart and Mary Astor in our mind as we read it; that doesn't matter.
This particular publication fits in the back pocket which is ideal for those who like to have a book with them all the time. It's not only the book that set the standard for this genre it is-rightly so- but as a stand alone novel, few compare.
Don't get me wrong I really enjoyed The Maltese Falcon. Hammett's descriptions and characterizations are unparalleled. The pace is brisk. The old school vernacular is charming. The story is just plain cool.
But that's the thing. I know the story all too well as I've seen Bogart portray Sam Spade a dozen times. I was in the room where it happened lol. So, I didn't give it five stars (it was amazing) because I didn't feel the amazement when I read it and don't know if others will. I did really like it and will likely read it again (after I read 'The Thin Man' which movies I haven't seen)