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A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man name Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett’s coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted three generations of readers.
Published: VintageAnchor an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on Dec 29, 2010
ISBN: 9780307767516
List price: $7.99
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I'd never read any hard-boiled fiction before, but I feel like I got the gist of the genre from reading this. It was very riveting (cliffhangers galore!), but as a whole it left me a little flat. The story was interesting, but I felt it definitely could have been fleshed out a bit more, and the ending was a little too abrupt. In any case, Hammett spun a pretty decent yarn which I'm sure was even more exciting back when it was written.read more
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My first thought reading this book was pity for all those lesser pulp writers, like R.S. Prather, who wrote with enthusiasm, but could never really match the style and vitality of Hammett. His writing is so evocative that I could smell the cigarette smoke and hear the ringing of heels on pavement. And even knowing how the story shakes out and who committed the dirty deeds (having seen all three movie versions) I was still madly flipping pages to get to the end. Even Bogart’s flawless portrayal of Spade pales in comparison to the character who lives on the pages of Hammett’s masterpiece.read more
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As soon as I finished this, I looked up "Sam Spade," the detective protagonist of this novel, on the internet to find out if he was in any other novels by Hammett, and was disappointed to find out the answer was "no." (Although he appears in an authorized prequel by Gores, Spade and Archer, and 3 short stories--I may look those up.) Hammett and Chandler are often spoken as together forming classic noir, and I read that Chandler's Philip Marlowe was inspired by Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon was written in 1929), but I'd say the resemblance is pretty superficial--and I greatly prefer Hammett. Hammett's style, for one, while as vividly visual, slangy and with dialogue every bit as snappy, wears a lot better--no similes were abused in the making of this novel. I think the objective point of view helps. There's no mystery about what Marlowe thinks--of women, of homosexuals--all in that intimate first person voice that makes him, to me at least, all the more repulsive.We never really see inside Spade's mind though--so I stayed intrigued, and am not sure even at the end if he's better or worse than he seems. Also, there's Spade's relationship with his secretary, Effie. It's one thing that keeps him sympathetic--that there's one woman at least for whom he has respect, affection and trust and whose loyalty he's earned. I don't much like noir--too gritty, and what I knew of Hammett and his politics if anything would make me not want to like this novel--but I did. It was an engrossing read from beginning to end, and if there was another Sam Spade novel, I'd soon be reading it. Since there's not, I guess I'll just have to try The Thin Man with Nick and Nora Charles.read more
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I'd never read any hard-boiled fiction before, but I feel like I got the gist of the genre from reading this. It was very riveting (cliffhangers galore!), but as a whole it left me a little flat. The story was interesting, but I felt it definitely could have been fleshed out a bit more, and the ending was a little too abrupt. In any case, Hammett spun a pretty decent yarn which I'm sure was even more exciting back when it was written.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
My first thought reading this book was pity for all those lesser pulp writers, like R.S. Prather, who wrote with enthusiasm, but could never really match the style and vitality of Hammett. His writing is so evocative that I could smell the cigarette smoke and hear the ringing of heels on pavement. And even knowing how the story shakes out and who committed the dirty deeds (having seen all three movie versions) I was still madly flipping pages to get to the end. Even Bogart’s flawless portrayal of Spade pales in comparison to the character who lives on the pages of Hammett’s masterpiece.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
As soon as I finished this, I looked up "Sam Spade," the detective protagonist of this novel, on the internet to find out if he was in any other novels by Hammett, and was disappointed to find out the answer was "no." (Although he appears in an authorized prequel by Gores, Spade and Archer, and 3 short stories--I may look those up.) Hammett and Chandler are often spoken as together forming classic noir, and I read that Chandler's Philip Marlowe was inspired by Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon was written in 1929), but I'd say the resemblance is pretty superficial--and I greatly prefer Hammett. Hammett's style, for one, while as vividly visual, slangy and with dialogue every bit as snappy, wears a lot better--no similes were abused in the making of this novel. I think the objective point of view helps. There's no mystery about what Marlowe thinks--of women, of homosexuals--all in that intimate first person voice that makes him, to me at least, all the more repulsive.We never really see inside Spade's mind though--so I stayed intrigued, and am not sure even at the end if he's better or worse than he seems. Also, there's Spade's relationship with his secretary, Effie. It's one thing that keeps him sympathetic--that there's one woman at least for whom he has respect, affection and trust and whose loyalty he's earned. I don't much like noir--too gritty, and what I knew of Hammett and his politics if anything would make me not want to like this novel--but I did. It was an engrossing read from beginning to end, and if there was another Sam Spade novel, I'd soon be reading it. Since there's not, I guess I'll just have to try The Thin Man with Nick and Nora Charles.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Read 'The Maltese Falcon.' Watch the Bogart movie. Read the book again. One thing that should strike you is the fact that there is scarcely one spare word in either creation. Working with Hammett's book in one hand, John Huston must have slapped his screenplay together in about 30 minutes.Hammett's 'Falcon' is tight as a drumhead. The characters are not drawn but chiseled. The action is as fast as any speeding bullet. Every word of dialog sparks blue and crackles with electricity while it speeds things along. Nothing is wasted. 'The Maltese Falcon' is lean and mean, 100 percent nonfat.Chandler's Marlowe is more cerebral. Every once in a while he even notices what somebody is wearing. In recent memory, only Gus Hasford's Dowdy Lewis is so hard, so fast, so smooth, and cracks so wise. Hammett's Spade, by contrast, doesn't horse around. He just walks into the room and goes for the throat.Philosophical issues are fun to ponder. It's nice to be able to think about big issues when, every once in a while, one gets the chance. That's the stuff that typically wins prizes in literary circles, and that's as things should be. Even so, anybody can write a good, hard-boiled dick deserves (and gets) my respect.Dashiell Hammett gave us Sam Spade, and there are none better anywhere. Read 'The Maltese Falcon.' You will never be sorry.
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Sam Spade is a tough 1920s detective working San Francisco. Brigid O'Shaughnessy, an alluring redhead, approaches his partner, Miles Archer, about an assignment which he accepts. That night, while on the job, Archer is killed, and the police suspect Sam. He quickly finds himself caught up in a scheme to obtain the "Maltese Falcon," a priceless statue that has been lost for hundreds of years. Sam's fast talking style enables him to deal with thugs, Joel Cairo, Kasper Gutman, and Wilmer Cook, while still holding off the cops and charming the ladies. Hammett's writing is wonderfully descriptive, but to the point; this brief novel is only around 200 pages. Anyone who enjoys noir and pulp must read this gem.
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Could not help but envision Bogart, Peter Lorri, Greenstreet, etc. in the rolls as I read the book. Sure it is very cliche-ish, but that is sort of like saying the you don't read Shakespeare because it is full of cliches. Well worth the ride.
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