5.0 out of 5 stars The Maltese Falcon
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...
Published on Jun 19 2004 by Amanda
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but overrated.
As a piece of fluff, its pretty good fluff. Enjoyable writing, interesting characters, good atmosphere, unpredictable plot twists. But that's it. No character development. Every character is the same at the end as they were at the beginning. No insights into the human condition. Grab it for the beach, coffee house, wherever. Enjoy.
Published on May 15 2002
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Maltese Falcon,
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)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.
My one complaint, which really isn't a complaint, is that if you've seen the movie, you've basically already read the book. The dialogue is word for word from the text, I don't think a single thing was changed. While reading the book all I could think of when I though of Sam Spade was Humphrey Bogart (who looks nothing like the Spade described in the book, but that doesn't matter), and the same thing for the other characters. I heard their voices reciting the text for me, and thought of the scenery of the movie as well. That's just how great the casting was in the movie. The only thing lacking are a few sub-plots, nothing really important and Joel Cairo's homosexuality was pretty much removed from the movie completely. Otherwise it's the same thing, not that that's a bad thing however.
5.0 out of 5 stars THE archetype of the detective genre,
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)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
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Hammett's Best. Masterpiece of the Genre.,
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)"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. A Greek named Joel Cairo, a ruthless international fence named Gutman, and the various identities of Sam's lovely and seductive client are all after something which they will stop at nothing to get. Sam must find out what it is and where it is before the police conveniently pin everything on him.
The novel's sinuous story and trio of well-drawn characters elevate "The Maltese Falcon" from good entertaining noir to just plain good writing. Sam Spade, his client Brigid O'Shaughnessy, and her enemy Joel Cairo are almost three-dimensional characters. Hammett reveals more of their manners and personalities than he usually does for his characters. And I think it's enough. If these characters were completely flushed out, it would take some of the edge off the story. I'm sure that the last thing Dashiell Hammett wanted to do was write a character study.
Noir is by its nature cynical, but Hammett's cynicism is more audacious than most. It seems that in every novel he finds a new way to smack the reader in the face. I've often wondered if he developed his stories around that purpose. In any case, it's what I love about Hammett's work, and "The Maltese Falcon" excels in its cynicism as well as its story. This time the shocker is the book's attitude toward love: Our hero doesn't hesitate to sell someone that he loves down the river out of pride. He admits it, and he admits that he'll regret it....for a while. Money might have made a difference. He admits that too. "What of it?" says Sam. The last chapter of "The Maltese Falcon" is Dashiell Hammett in full force. I recommend reading it twice.
There's no question that if you don't like bold-faced cynicism you won't like Dashiell Hammett's books. If you do like it, Hammett can't be beat. I'm admittedly difficult to please when it comes to fiction, even noir fiction. I nitpick about Hammett's work, which I like, and which any fan of the Unsentimental will like. For all of Hammett's ability to rattle readers by throwing basic moral assumptions back in their faces, and for all of his ability to entertain, his writing is rarely perfect. But "The Maltese Falcon" is nearly so. It's got sex, violence, story, characters, hard-boiled dialogue (but not as many great one-liners as some other of Hammett's novels), and relentless cynicism. "The Maltese Falcon" is a brilliant and very readable work of noir fiction that fans of unceremonious detectives won't want to miss. And it's a great American novel that I would recommend to anyone.
4.0 out of 5 stars Counterfeit,
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)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.
Sam Spade is described as a blond Satan. His partner is Miles Archer. They are hired to secure the return of a Miss Wonderly's sister. Through the San Francisco PD Spade is called out because his partner is down, his Webley-Fosbery is missing a bullet. Miles Archer was supposed to be tailing Floyd Thursby. Thursby has been shot, too. Spade was involved with Archer's wife. There are, needless to say, complcations.
Spade discovers that Miss Wonderly's name is really Brigid O'Shaughnessy. Soon Brigid is confronted with Spade's observation that she is feeding him rehearsed lines. A man named Flitcraft disappeared from a Tacoma suburb. When Spade found him in Spokane he and his wife divorced quietly. The man changed his life when he was nearly killed on a sidewalk by a falling beam. Brigid is surprised that Sam Spade takes such a high-handed manner with the police.
Brigid claims that she and Floyd Thursby and Joe Cairo were involved in a plot to obtain the black bird, the Maltese falcon. She has not touched it and has only seen it once. It is possible police brutality was the norm in 1929 when THE MALTESE FALCON was written. At any rate, midway through the story, Joe Cairo receives a going over. Brigid is to stay with Spade's secretary, Effie Perrine, because it is feared she is in danger.
The Maltese falcon has to do with tribute paid by the crusaders. The treasured piece ended up in the hands of a Greek dealer. It belongs to either a Russian general or to the King of Spain. It is discovered that Thursby was a bodyguard to a gangster, after all this is prohibition, who had immense gambling debts. Spade feels that his clients are entitled to a decent amount of secrecy and refuses to have discussions with the police who are attempting to disentangle the issues. Brigid, instead of staying with Effie, goes to the boat La Paloma, and the dying captain delivers the bird to Spade.
In San Francisco I ate at John's Grill twice. From that location Sam Spade lurches into the finale of this crime novel, walking into a trap with Brigid. The story is high in atmospherics, ultimately dated, and curious. What is pictured is a man beset by evil forces on all sides. Under the circumstances a person has to take a line and stick to it. Brigid's attempt at trickery backfires and the treasure is a counterfeit.
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Classic,
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)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 to be (a) good, (b) a work that has withstood the test of time and (c) make a mark in its genre. By this definition, the Maltese Falcon is a classic and I think few would disagree.
This is the story of Sam Spade, who is hired along with his partner Miles Archer, for what should be a routine tailing job. When Archer winds up dead, followed shortly afterwards by his supposed killer, Spade himself winds up under intense police scrutiny, and that's only part of his problems. He is also entangled with a series of criminals after the black bird of the title.
What makes the book special is Spade, the original tough-guy private eye. Spade is not so much tough physically - although he can hold his own - but in attitude. Spade's healthy belligerence towards the world is not the façade of a cowardly bully but rather a reflection of his strengths. He handles his problems with a mix of stoicism and faint amusement and presents an air of amorality that may be more pretense than reality. In brief, he is a well-developed character who moves the story along.
Hammett is not a perfect writer but this book is good enough and significant enough to rate an easy five stars. Although it may seem tame or routine to modern readers, in the context of its time, this book was groundbreaking. This is a classic of not only mysteries but also American literature.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Legendary Novel,
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)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
5.0 out of 5 stars Prime noir,
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)Smoky offices with names on the doors. Femme fatales begging for help. Sinister men in trenchcoats. Mysterious shootings. A cultured Fat Man, a conflicted PI, and a mystery object everyone wants. Hardboiled detective fiction was exemplified in "The Maltese Falcon," and now it's the standard.
"Shoo her in, darling." A beautiful red-haired woman comes into Miles & Archer's detective agency. She claims to be looking for her sister, who has supposedly gone off with a guy called Thursby, and pays the two private eyes too much money. Later on, Miles is shot -- and no one knows who did it. Since Spade has been dallying with Miles' wife, he's a prime suspect.
Things go from bad to worse when Spade is kicked around by little weaselly Joel Cairo and the mysterious Fat Man. They, like the red-headed Brigid O'Shaugnessy, are searching for the priceless Maltese Falcon, a jeweled bird statue covered in black enamel. Who has the Falcon? Who stole it? Who killed for it? And who might kill again to get it back?
Everybody's seen the movie adaptation, starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade. So it's a little hard to not see him as Spade, however different Bogart looked. The same atmosphere is here, but it's much more sinister than the movie, or even of Hammett's other detective novels.
The writing is fantastic. Hammett's style is sharp and lean, without a lot of description where it isn't needed. Instead of giving us a feature-by-feature description of Spade, he just says that Spade looks like a "blond Satan." Interpret that as you will. The dialogue is sharp and often a lot more realistic than you'd expect. What's astonishing is that Hammett shows us the characters just through their actions. Not a single thought is revealed.
Antiheroes are hard to write, but Hammett did it best. Morality is a palette of grays here; nobody is really good. If they're not outright despicable, then they have hidden creepy depths. Brigid O'Shaugnessy's little-girl act hides a nasty interior; Sam Spade, the "blond Satan," is as tainted a person as some of his enemies. Perhaps the only truly likable person is the smart secretary Effie.
Lapse into the smoky, shadowed world of old San Francisco, where men and women from across the world pursue a priceless treasure. Sharp, dark and very twisted, this is a fantastic mystery and a great study of human nature.
4.0 out of 5 stars A hallmark of American detective fiction...,
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)This novel remains one of the original masterworks in the genre of American detective fiction-a genre Hammett virtually created single-handedly. Hammett captures the darkness of the underworld with such a subtle touch that it leaves the reader somewhat tainted and wiser for the experience. Perhaps even more influential than his ability to cast long shadows is his ability to capture the singularity of mind with which his champion takes on his case; Hammett's character development embodies simple brilliance and brilliant simplicity.
Like all good detective novels, the morality is stark, and the purpose of each character is clearly defined. Unlike many modern writers, Hammett focuses more on the motivations of those struggling to do the right thing, not those who fecklessly step over the line and then lament about their self-inflicted conflicts. Absent from Archer and Spade are the clumsy, moralizing speeches so common in today's mystery fiction. Appropriately, the only reward for Hammett's detectives is in doing the right job and doing the job right.
For those who like detective novels, this work is definitely worth some close scrutiny. Hammett gets high marks for originality, and his influence is clear even sixty years later. Careful readers will see the same stark, principled discipline in characters such as Travis McGee, Spenser, Lou Boldt, Lucas Davenport, and Harry Bosch, to name a few. All of these modern characters owe a great deal to the path blazed by Hammett in his ability to create a character worth caring about and a cause worth believing in. True fans of the genre can do little else than tip their hat to the master-and perhaps re-read this masterpiece every few years.
5.0 out of 5 stars More Than A Detective Story,
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)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 described in the novel. It's true! You CAN'T not picture Bogart and Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet.
But that's not a minus. Just keep picturing them (which you won't be able to help) and read this book. It's like seeing an unexpurgated edition of the movie.
This book anticipates every detective novel written afterwards. If every character is a stock character, the unique thing is that each character is three-dimensional. Spade's secretary is dutiful and makes us laugh. But, Hammett shows why she is significant to Spade.
Some reviewers say Hammett doesn't let you know what any character is thinking. That's not true. The whole tale is filtered through Spade's mind. Crucial actions are left out so that we may be surprised at a few points, but we're never without Spade. It is entirely from Spade's view. The reader is alone with him when he searches an apartment. If we're not supposed to have an inkling of Sam Spade's thoughts, I've misread the whole book.
It is not amoral. Call Spade an anti-hero till you're blue in the face. He's a tough detective who does necessary things to solve his cases. As thrilling as his work is, he's not a thrill-seeker. If Spade takes some pleasure in the cruelty of his methods, it's because Hammett knows that an excellent detective can't despise his job.
On top of all this, the THE MALTESE FALCON has an almost Confucian moral.
Get it. Read it. You won't be able to put it down.
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, from chapter one to the end,
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)When I first saw this book at the store, I thought to myself "Hey, isn't that the movie with Humphrey Bogart?" I grabbed a copy off of the shelf, and put it in my reading pile. When I finally got around to it, I couldn't put it down until I reached the back cover.
I think that the reason this book works so well is because of the characters (not that it's slacking in any other departments). From the first few paragraphs, you get a feeling that Samuel Spade is like no other fictional detectives. As you read further into the story, this becomes true. The other characters, mainly Brigid O'Shaughnessy and Casper Gutman, are unique in their own ways and help move the story along.
The description is above reproach, giving the reader a true feeling for the setting, San Francisco, and the characters as well. Several tense scenes are relayed particularly well, and once resolved the readers feels some good relief.
The dialogue in "The Maltese Falcon" is amongst my favorite. the book is quotable throughout, realistic and interesting. One famous and favorite line comes to mind, "When you're slapped, you'll take it and you'll like it!", which sums up a lot of Sam Spade himself.
Highly recommended for mystery lovers, and readers in general.
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The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (Paperback - July 17 1989)
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