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The Maltese Falcon [Hardcover]

Dashiell Hammett
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1993
A facsimile reprint of this work's first edition features a mystery that introduces the immortal Sam Spade and a cast of characters that includes the amoral vamp Brigid O'Shaughnessy and the sinister fat man Caspar Gutman.

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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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


“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
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Legendary Novel July 2 2004
Although several of his novels have considerable merit, Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) will be best remembered for a single work: THE MALTESE FALCON.
Perhaps the single most extraordinary thing about the novel is its radical departure from the norm. In the 1920s and early 1930s, detective novels were not really considered "literary;" they were light entertainment, and they generally came in two varieties: pure pulp, which was more akin to action-adventure, and "the master detective" as created by such authors as Agatha Christie. In one fell swoop, however, Hammett not only fused these two ideas but also endowed his novel with tremendous literary style--more than enough to catch the eye of "serious" critics and more than enough to stand the test of time.
THE MALTESE FALCON is not a long novel, but Hammett packs a lot into it. The plot, which generally concerns the theft of a priceless, jewel-encrusted statue, walks a fine line between pulp mythology and modern pragmatism, never veering too far in either direction to seem impossible; the prose is lean and clean and packed with detail conveyed both simply and sharply; the characters stand out in a sort of high relief on the page. It is all memorable stuff.
It is difficult to discuss THE MALTESE FALCON without reference to the famous 1941 film version starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor. The film has been both a blessing and a curse, so famous that it has drawn thousands of readers to the novel, but so widely seen that it can become difficult to read the novel without seeing it through the lens of the film. But while the film presents the plot and much of Hammett's dialogue intact, readers will find the novel has somewhat different strengths--not the least of which is Hammett's prose itself. An essential of 20th Century American literature; strongly recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Maltese Falcon June 19 2004
By Amanda
To be honest before I read this book I had never even heard of Dashiell Hammett. If I had heard of him I probably would have completely ignored his books due to the fact I usually can't stand Detective stories. So with only a thought as to the fact he has an interesting name I would have simply written him off as just another author in a genre which I usually never venture into.
So, why did I bother reading The Maltese Falcon? Well, like most people I assume, I saw the movie starring Humphrey Bogart, and was hooked. Initially after first seeing the movie I had no idea there was actually a book which it was based off of. Then I noticed it at first on the Barnes and Noble bags, and figured that to be some sort of sign that I should go and read this book. Initially however I just placed it in my reading pile writing it off for the fact that it was just a detective novel, and probably would probably be no where as good as the movie was. So sadly it sat in my room unread for almost 3 months, then one day since I was nearing the bottom of my stack of books waiting to be read I grabbed and decided to just suck it up and read it since I had already spent the money for it. Let me tell you I sat and read almost the entire book that night!
Hammett's style of writing is tight, with all the details, suspense and mystery you're pulled through the entire novel from cover to cover. Spade's character is certainly "rough" and in the book is described as a "blond Satan" and believe me it's easy to see why. I'll spare going into the entire plot for you since it seems just about every other review already has that. But believe me you should definitely read this book, even if Detective stories aren't your thing, you won't be disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars THE archetype of the detective genre May 30 2004
Dashiell Hammett not only writes an amazing detective novel with the utmost suspense but also writes amazingly well -- detective novel or not. Perhaps he is undervalued in the scheme of things as far as his vast influence over the genre as a whole. Of late, however, he has received the credit he duly deserves since The Maltese Falcon is ranked as the #56 novel of the 20th Century by the Modern Library.
Featuring the irrepressible straight-shooter Sam Spade and his unforgettably cunning and sexy female counterpart Brigid O'Shaughnessy, The Maltese Falcon has enough twists and turns to make your head spin. As if these two indelible characters and the super suave dialogue weren't enough, Hammett throws in such incomparable characters as The Fat Man (appropriately named Gutman), the effeminate weasel Joel Cairo, and, of course, the relentlessly maligned Wilmer, or The Undersized Shadow as the chapter is titled.
Despite all of these great characters that complement the story, none shines as brightly as our gruff, cynical, and mercilessly shrewd hero and lady's man, Sam Spade. He means what he says and says what he means - you gotta love it. If you even remotely value fine (and highly entertaining) literature that is a great read even after having seen the equally great movie, then add this to your wish list today.
"By Gad, sir, you are a character!" - Gutman to Spade
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of Hammett's Best. Masterpiece of the Genre. Feb. 25 2004
"The Maltese Falcon" is one of Dashiell Hammett's most popular novels and one of his best. It originally appeared in serial form in "Black Mask" magazine, 1929-1930. The stories in Hammett's novels are typically a mite uninteresting and the characters a little underwritten. Readers don't complain, because story and characters were never the point. They are the vehicle for Hammett's delicious hard-boiled language and biting social commentaries. Published in 1930, "The Maltese Falcon" is a noir masterpiece that offers the best of both worlds. It's full of the blunt talk and pervasive cynicism that typify the genre. But "The Maltese Falcon" also gives us an intricate story and better-drawn characters than is customary in Hammett's work, and it's his sexiest novel as well.
Our detective is Sam Spade, a San Francisco private investigator who, with his partner Miles Archer, owns his own agency. Sam's a man in his thirties who has been around, seen every side of the law, and come away unimpressed. He's hardened; he's practical; he only cares that he come out on top of each case he investigates, and richer than when he started. One day a striking woman walks into his office distraught over her younger sister who has run off with a ne'er-do-well. Sam doesn't believe her story, but he believes her money. He takes the case, and his partner Miles is murdered as a result. To make matters worse, Sam is suspected of murdering the man who was suspected of Miles' murder. So he's left with little choice other than to track down his mysterious client and solve both crimes. Sam's trying to extricate himself from this mess only leads him into an ever-widening web of deceit.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Counterfeit
The mystery story is a morality tale and the tough guy genre started here. The very title is exotic. Dashiell Hammett was Raymond Chandler's model. Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2004 by Mary E. Sibley
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Hammett
Dashiell Hammett is best known as the man who wrote "Maltese Falcon," the classic noir mystery behind the classic noir film. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2004 by E. A Solinas
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Classic
What makes a classic? Perhaps that in itself is more of a discussion than is allowed in the Amazon word allotment, so I will limit myself to my personal definition: a classic has... Read more
Published on Oct. 29 2003 by mrliteral
5.0 out of 5 stars Prime noir
Smoky offices with names on the doors. Femme fatales begging for help. Sinister men in trenchcoats. Mysterious shootings. Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2003 by E. A Solinas
4.0 out of 5 stars A hallmark of American detective fiction...
This novel remains one of the original masterworks in the genre of American detective fiction-a genre Hammett virtually created single-handedly. Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2003 by Johnny Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars More Than A Detective Story
Several reviewers have said it's impossible not to picture John Huston's cast when reading this novel, even though Humphrey Bogart, for example, doesn't look like the Sam Spade... Read more
Published on Oct. 18 2003 by Fred Wemyss (Actual Name)
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, from chapter one to the end
When I first saw this book at the store, I thought to myself "Hey, isn't that the movie with Humphrey Bogart? Read more
Published on Oct. 13 2003 by Bryan Schingle
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I am sorry but I am going to have to disagree with almost everyone who has written a review for The Maltese Falcon. Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2003 by "roonetta"
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Detective Story
I am not usually a huge fan of the detective genre but this book is great because it not only is a quick-paced, clever mystery, but it is a work of literature. Read more
Published on June 22 2003 by P. Costello
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