The Maltese Falcon

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3 thoughts on “The Maltese Falcon

  1. 45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    The paramount of Noir Literature and later film, September 26, 2004
    By 
    Alysson Oliveira “Alysson Oliveira” (Sao Paulo– Brazil) –

    This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)

    Alongside Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe, Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade is one of the most famous detectives from American literature. These two writers define what we know as the noir literature. Personally speaking, I found it more pleasant to read Hammett than Chandler. Both writers are great, and deliver the best in the prose, character development, settings and all, but I found “The Maltese Falcon” more interesting than “The Big Sleep” and “Farewell, my Lovely”.

    Hammett’s prose is straightforward. He doesn’t waste time with digressions and many descriptions — only the essential. As a consequence, his novel is packed with action and mystery. It is not a surprise that this author writes with so much authority — he used to be a private detective. Most of the book –if not the whole narrative –feels like getting inside information.

    Hammett’s style became a paramount in this genre and he has a major influence on many contemporary writers — e.g. James Ellroy, Jeffery Deaver, and the French Jean-Christophe Grange among others. Hammett’s prose is filled with witty observations on the American way of life — mostly on the violence and corruption that were permeating the American Society.

    Contrary to what many contemporary readers may wrongly assume, the older mystery novel is not as prudish and conservative as it may sound. Hammett’s prose is more related to the 20s than the 50s. And in that early period society was looser than after the McCarthyism. Therefore, “The Maltese Falcon” can be a grateful surprise to many readers — who will find drink, drugs, sex and sexual orientation (the Cairo character’s sexual orientation has been largely discussed since the book was published).

    However we are almost all the time with Spade, the reader has no access to his thought. It is the reader’s job to reach conclusions and put the pieces together. And we can learn this from dialogues, events and mostly Spade’s reactions and facial expressions. But this is not a hard job for the reader — on the contrary, this is one of the best features of Hammett’s style.

    Of course, the movie version of the book is very famous –and almost as good. But it is always an irreplaceable pleasure to read Hammett’s words. And to meet Spade before he `had’ Bogart’s face.

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  2. 46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    As good as the movie, which is saying a great deal, July 21, 2000
    By 
    Robert James (Culver City, CA USA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)

    “The Maltese Falcon” is better known to most of the public these days from the movie — which is as close to a perfect adaptation as any movie has ever gotten. The novel is just as wonderful, if not more. There is a certain muscular quality to Hammett’s prose that is mirrored by Huston’s graphics, but Hammett has to be read to see what marvelous sentences he constructed. There are a few significant differences from the movie: Sam Spade in the book is described as a “blond Satan,” and the heroic quality that Humphrey Bogart projected is darker in the novel. There is a long story, told while Brigid and Sam wait, about a man named Flitcraft who disappears; the story is central to understanding Sam’s view of humanity. And there is Gutman’s daughter, who is cut completely from the film. There are other minor differences, but taken all in all, the movie served the book well. Fans of the movie will love the novel, and fans of the mystery and detective genre who haven’t read Dashiell Hammett are missing the genesis of the hard-boiled detective. An outstanding read!

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  3. 24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    None Better, March 9, 2001
    This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)

    Why should anyone read THE MALTESE FALCON?

    The classic Bogart flick is a near-perfect redition of Dashiell Hammett’s tough-guy dialogue. Director John Huston cast the film so well, that it’s impossible to imagine the characters any other way. And in all its twists and turns, the movie captures every nuance of Hammett’s plot, and even adds to the mix.

    So, again: Why should anyone read THE MALTESE FALCON? The same reason why the movie is so watchable time after time; If you haven’t read it, you don’t know how good it is, and if you have read it, it’s so good, you can’t wait to read it again.

    In THE MALTESE FALCON, Hammett nails every element of the detective genre so precisely, so superbly, that it’s a wonder anyone ever tried to write another detective novel after him. There are simply none better, a detective novel that goes beyond its pulp roots, and enters the realm of ‘capital L’ Literature.

    The plot, for those three people who are unaware, is as follows; Detective Sam Spade has unwittingly become a pawn in a bizarre game of chess. After his partner Miles is killed, he finds himself immersed in a convoluted plot involving a double-dealing moll, a sly fat man, a creepy small man, and a treasured statue of a bird that, if it exists, is worth unimaginable riches. But Spade is unwilling to be used in such a fashion, and starts to set himself up as a player in the scheme, all the while trying madly to figure out exactly what he should do.

    I have always believed, in the best of the genre, that the actual plot comes second to the characters, and FALCON is no exception. Hammett’s Spade is a remarkable resourceful character, living by a code that even he may not truly believe in. The characters of Gutman, Cairo, Brigid, and Wilmar are by turns despicable, evil, comical, and touching. Spade may be the driving force, but Hammett knows that Heaven is in the details; not one minor character is spared his sharp eye for character and ear for dialogue.

    But Hammett does not skimp on the plot, either. He is well aware of what Alfred Hitchcock named the ‘MacGuffin”; the one object that motivates the characters. It doesn’t matter whether or not the reader believes in it, it is only important that the characters believe. Hammett knows this, and uses the bird to unmask the evils that men do, the depths to which people will sink for greed, Spade included. They morally descend into murder, betrayal, and a surprising amount of sex (that the movie simply could not show, considering the age it was made in).

    But why is THE MALTESE FALCON so good? There are many other sterling examples out there, from Raymond Chander’s FAREWELL MY LOVELY (a favorite of mine), to Walter Mosley’s WHITE BUTTERFLY. But FALCON has that one elusive quality that will keep a reader coming back for more. I wish I knew what that was. I personally believe it is Hammett’s understanding of the human condition, of the many contradictions that make up an individual. To use Spade as an example, Hammett has created a character who is cruel, and hard-headed, and greedy, and self-serving. Only a man who knows what a person is capable of could ever attempt to make someone like that the hero.

    P.S. Incidentally, unlike the otherwise perfect casting in the movie, Spade does not resemble Humphrey Bogart in the slightest. He is a tall, hulking figure, with thinning blond hair and sharp, angular features, often described as a ‘blond Satan’. But it is remarkable that, despite this, Bogart’s portrayal is so note-perfect that you can’t help but picture him anyway.

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