The Maltese Falcon: The Film & Book
Dashiell Hammett was a prolific writer of short stories for the pulp magazines in the 1920s-1930s, but only wrote five mystery novels. Most of his works involved his anonymous detective The Continental Op, an employee of one of the big national detective agencies. Sam Spade became popular because of the movies, but didn't feature in much of this author's work. Hammett's greatest skill was his combination of terse presentation, witty dialogue, and a plain style, which is why Hammett is so well known now. It should be pointed out that he followed the proper conventions of the detective story in presenting complex crimes that can be solved by deduction from clues. He is considered the progenitor of the hard-boiled private eye novel, although this already existed in the pulps for which he was writing. What Hammett did do is raise the level of writing to the extent that it can be considered 'literature', making him one of the most influential mystery authors even without being prolific. In the Maltese Falcon, Hammett's most famous detective is Sam Spade, who appears only in this novel and three rather trivial short stories. This mystery became John Huston's classic movie with Bogart, Lorre, Greenstreet, and others and lifted dialogue intact from this book, that's how vividly written it is. One of the early but hardly surpassed hard-boiled detective stories. The mood of this masterpiece puts it right up there with the best of the 'noirs'. Like all Hammett books, it is short, but its terse and economical style contains enough detail for a much longer novel. It is crammed with details and events. Hence the movie necessarily crops a lot out of the sub-plots and other incidentals. Most scenes hold up remarkably intact in spirit, including word-for-word reproduction of the dialogue. And Sam Spade, described as a 'blond Satan', built like an Easter Island statue and defined by the letter V as to his facial features, is not Bogart,...
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