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Maltese Falcon

A book by Dashiell Hammett

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The genesis of hard-boiled detective fiction

  • Dec 31, 2010
Rating:
+4
Private eye, Sam Spade, and his erstwhile partner, Miles Archer, are having a slow day. Spade rolls a cigarette from his stock of Bull Durham. When a beautiful young dish introduces herself with an alias and tells them a story of her younger, impressionable sister having run off with a man named Floyd Thursby, the money is a powerful incentive to accept the case. Despite their new client's wholesome good looks and appearance of youthful innocence, Spade and his secretary, Effie Perrine, have a feeling that this woman is going to be nothing but trouble. When Archer is murdered tailing their mark and Thursby himself is later found murdered, Spade and his client naturally fall under suspicion. As Spade begins to investigate the murders and his client, whose real name is discovered to be Brigid O'Shaughnessy, the case mutates into a sinister international chase after a priceless historical figurine, the Maltese Falcon, originally intended as a gift from Malta to the King of Spain hundreds of years ago but lost in transit when a ship sank in a storm.

If you'd like to discover the source for virtually every convention, stereotype and cliché used for the hard-boiled detective genre, then THE MALTESE FALCON is your book. Dashiel Hammett started it all and Sam Spade is the progenitor for virtually every lone gun-toting, cigarette smoking, hard-bitten gumshoe that followed to the present day - cynical, quick with easygoing sardonic wit and clever banter, lots and lots of casual sex (of course), ambiguous morality, bitter, chauvinistic, single-minded with a strong but entirely self-defined professional ethic, tough, manipulative and self-centered but intensely loyal to those he chooses, and, of course, gritty and rough-cut handsome!

The tough guy, short and snappy dialogue is immensely entertaining and, while it is now quite clichéd (but admittedly still entertaining), it must have seemed extraordinary, novel and intensely innovative when THE MALTESE FALCON was first published in 1930. Brigid O'Shaughnessy serves as the requisite femme fatale that has also been copied and repeated countless times from Philip Marlowe to Mike Hammer to James Bond.

Considered to be one of the 100 best English language novels of the 20th century, THE MALTESE FALCON certainly deserves some space on your library shelves. Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss

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Quick Tip by . December 31, 2010
If you'd like to discover the source for virtually every convention, stereotype and cliché used for the hard-boiled detective genre, then THE MALTESE FALCON is your book. Dashiel Hammett started it all and Sam Spade is the progenitor for virtually every lone gun-toting, cigarette smoking, hard-bitten gumshoe that followed to the present day.
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Paul Weiss ()
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   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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Wiki

Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett's archetypally tough San Francisco detective, is morenoirthanL.A. Confidentialand more vulnerable than Raymond Chandler's Marlowe. InThe Maltese Falcon, the best known of Hammett's Sam Spade novels (includingThe Dain CurseandThe 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 ...

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Details

ISBN-10: 0848824369
ISBN-13: 978-0848824365
Author: Dashiell Hammett
Publisher: Amereon Ltd

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