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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
Top customer reviews
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)
Red Harvest-My personal least favorite of this trio of novels. It is a wild shoot up em up novel dealing with the efforts of an anonymous middle aged detective named the Continental Op (the agency which employs him) to clean up a sleazy Cailfornia town of 40,000. The tough guy is bent on reforming the town. Before the action ends there are over 20 murders in the short novels. The book is a mess of characters who speak in a crime world argot and use profane slang. So-so!
The Thin Man stars the delightful Nick Charles and his wisecracking wife Nora. The pair were incarnated in a series of memorable MGM films starring William Powell and Myrna Low as the booze loving married couple with a dog named Asta. In "The Thin Man" Charles seeks to discover the whereabouts of an inventor whose girl friend turns up dead. Along the way we meet the eccentric members of the Wyngard family. The action occurs in New York City and is filled with colorful Damon Runyonesque types as well as wealthy New Yorkers. The plot is incredibly complicated! What keeps this book alive eighty years after it was published is the witty way in which the tale is told.
The Maltese Falcon-I consider this to be the best of the three novels in this collection! Everyone knows the novel was turned into a classic film noir film directed by John Huston (in his directorial debut) and starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade and Mary Astor as Miss O'Shaugnessy. The plot centers around a missiing Maltese Falcon which Mr. Gutman, Joel Cairo and others are seeking to discover. Murder quickly ensues in this tale of gritty greed and betrayal. This is one of the best private investigator novels ever written. The movie closely follows the language and plot of the book.
Hammett created two of the greatest detectives in fiction in Sam Spade and Nick Charles. His books have become classics and are well worth reading.
The plot is relatively simple, but the characters are what make the novel. Spade is mentally sharp, honest in character, and ready to back up his opinion with his fists. Seemingly having ice water in his veins, Spade is ever the cool customer no matter the odds against him. His client, Brigid, is a double-dealing female willing to switch sides at will when the wind changes directions, obviously used to using her good looks and damsel-in-distress act to get her way. Joel Cairo, the stereotypical homosexual, also seems to be in the game only for himself. The wealthy fat man Casper Gutman and his henchman Wilmer represent the evil antagonists.
The plot is developed slowly. Brigid O'shaughnessy drops by Spades office to hire him to tail her supposed boy friend Floyd Thursby. Brigid is not forthcoming with her real name or the real reason for the job. Miles Archer, Sam's partner, agrees to tail Thursby. Later that evening, Spade receives a call saying that Miles had been killed. Spade becomes a suspect because of his affair with Iva Archer, Miles's wife. Iva actually thinks Sam killed Miles so they could be married. Lt. Dundy, obviously at odds with Spade, is out to bury Sam. However, Spade does have friends in the department, most notably Tom Pohaus. The more Sam tries to get information from Brigid, the more she puts him off.
Enter Joel Cairo. He tries to hire Spade to find a statue of a bird, which we discover is the Malttese falcon. Also, Sam is asked to meet with Gutman, who is also looking to get his hands on the statue. Spade finds out that the statue is a jewel encrusted gold statue of a falcon that has been painted with black enamel to disguise it's value. While the others are trying to use Spade as a pawn to get their hands on the valuable artifact, Sam uses his wits to insert himself into the mix to become a major player. The game's afoot, and only the most cunning player will emerge victorious. Two more murders later, all the main players meet in Spade's apartment to see who will come away with the statue.
The story takes place in San Francisco, which is a fairly large city. But Sam Spade shows the professionalism of his craft by knowing people wherever he goes. This is a classic from a bygone era, and one thing I noticed was that all the men wore hats. I doubt that there will ever be a novel that tops "The Maltese Falcon" in the detective genre.