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The Maltese Falcon Paperback – Jul 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
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Top Customer Reviews
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
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.Read more ›
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
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
The Maltese Falcon movie was part of my growing up and I loved Humphrey Bogart in the roll of Sam Spade. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Denis Beauchamp
The story was good. The writing was classic Dashiell Hammett. But this edition was just awful. A cheaper edition said it was full of spelling errors and typos, so I paid a bit... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
You could do much worse than this noir classic. One of the things that always jumps out when you read from the Golden Age of Mystery is the quality of the writing. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Richard Schwindt
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 morePublished on Feb. 3 2004 by Mary E. Sibley
Dashiell Hammett is best known as the man who wrote "Maltese Falcon," the classic noir mystery behind the classic noir film. Read morePublished on Jan. 22 2004 by EA Solinas
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 morePublished on Oct. 29 2003 by mrliteral