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The Maltese Falcon (1930)

by Dashiell Hammett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,322258824 (3.88)628
A treasure worth killing for Sam Spade, a slightly shop-worn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics, a perfumed grifter named Joel Cairo, a fat man named Gutman, and Brigid O'Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett's coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted three generations of readers.… (more)
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    PghDragonMan: The two detectives have a key trait in common: dogged pursuit of the truth and the truth has many twists along the way.
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» See also 628 mentions

English (244)  Spanish (5)  Catalan (2)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (256)
Showing 1-5 of 244 (next | show all)
DNF, Got sick of the treatment of women (even for a book written in the 30s) ( )
  jillsch | Mar 8, 2022 |
This was a fun novel. The narrator was good. ( )
  NancyinA2 | Feb 3, 2022 |
The Maltese Falcon is ridiculous. It's so cliche it's painful....and it's kind of fun. It's way easier to stomach once you realize that it wasn't cliche (probably)when it was written since so much of the formula probably comes from the recipe that Hammett cooked up.

The protagonist Sam Spade is over-the-top in so many ways and so much of the story is over-the-top and ridiculous, but it's fun. ( )
  Sean191 | Dec 20, 2021 |
I have seen the movie but I'd never read the book so when it was offered up at a BookCrossing meetup I thought it was time I did. Having seen the movie though I had Humphrey Bogart in my mind's eye as I read it and I didn't think he quite captured the description Hammett gave of Sam Spade. To wit:
"Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, v. His yell-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down--from high flat temples--in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan." For one thing, Bogart isn't blond; although the movies I've seen him in are black and white it's pretty clear that his hair is quite dark. And I don't get the v motif from looking at Bogart's face. Still, there's no doubt that Bogart captured the personality of Sam Spade as described by Hammett quite well.

The plot is so well-known now that I'm only going to say that Sam Spade gets involved with a motley crew of characters who connive with and against each other to get their hands on the figurine of a black bird that is supposedly worth a fortune. One of the crew is a beautiful woman with whom Spade falls in love. The problem is he can't believe a thing she tells him. Spade has other woman trouble in that the widow of his late partner want him to marry her now that her husband is out of the way. And perhaps Spade's secretary is another love interest. Combine all this with lots of cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking and you have the plot.

Hammett was definitely a master of the noir mystery. It's for good reason that this book is on the list of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die. ( )
  gypsysmom | Nov 6, 2021 |
Why Read It When You Know It?

The Maltese Falcon played by Humphrey Bogart is a story and a character we believe we know pretty much by heart. What’s the point of reading the novel, especially when the film does such a good and true job of capturing the book? Well, Brigid O’Shaughnessy has red hair, not Mary Astor’s dark brown. Minor, yes, especially in black and white, but you get the point. No matter how true the film adaptation, there will always be differences, sometimes minor, sometimes substantial, between the original and the interpretive copy. And therein lies the biggest reason for reading the book, particularly if you liked the movie.

What you see on your screen when you view The Maltese Falcon is director John Huston’s interpretation of the Hammett’s text. While Huston renders the book quite exactly, it remains that he colors it to match his vision. Really, can it be any other way? Bogart does a terrific job of capturing most aspects of Sam Spade’s character, which swings from backslapping, to brooding, to amorous, to brutally aggressive, to cunning, to dumb, to nearly always manipulative. Which aspect of Spade’s character dominates? Maybe you can discern this from the film; maybe you’d be better able to understand Spade’s true nature by reading Hammett’s words; or maybe, eh, who cares. Perhaps you’d like to read somethings that never made it onto the screen. The novel has some strong sexual content, given how many of us filter the past through a lens of greater comity. Hm, people will be people, today, in the Middle Ages, and in 1929, when The Maltese Falcon published.

Then there is the pure satisfaction of reading Hammett’s writing, his descriptions, his superb dialogue, and his steady pacing of plot revelations and twists. The dialogue here is the best. Yes, you will find some words and syntax peculiar to the time, but what makes Hammett’s dialogue outstanding, and serves as a lesson to budding writers, is how these define the character, define them better than any wordy description can. And there’s no better example than that of the Fatman, Kasper Gutman, delivered brilliantly by Sidney Greenstreet in the film. Essentially, Gutman’s the jolly fat man, until he releases his ruthless side, jolly too, but potentially deadly. Huston smartly transferred most of Hammett’s dialogue to film. Still, it pays to read the words for yourself to see how Hammett uses them to create character or change mood. It’s the syntax that truly defines the character of Gutman and everybody else in the novel.

So, if you enjoyed the movie and wonder why you would want to read the book, here’s why: Reading the book will increase immensely your enjoyment of the movie, and viscera. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 244 (next | show all)
[I]t would not surprise us one whit if Mr. Hammett should turn out to be the Great American Mystery Writer. . . . In short, "The Maltese Falcon" is the best one, outside the . . . polite classes, in Lord knows when.
added by NinieB | editNew York Herald Tribune, Will Cuppy (Feb 23, 1930)
 
If the locution "hard-boiled" had not already been coined it would be necessary to coin it now to describe the characters . . . .
added by NinieB | editNew York Times (Feb 23, 1930)
 

» Add other authors (179 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hammett, Dashiellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Angell, OlavTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marber, RomekCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meier, RaymondCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neujack, PeterÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
To Jose
First words
Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth.
Quotations
The boy spoke two words, the first a short guttural verb, the second 'you'.
"People lose teeth talking like that." Spade's voice was still amiable though his face had become wooden. "If you want to hang around you'll be polite."
The boy repeated his two words.
Spade by means of his grip on the Levantine's lapels turned him slowly and pushed him back until he was standing close in front of the chair he had lately occupied. A puzzled look replaced the look of pain in the lead-colored face. Then Spade smiled. The smile was gentle, even dreamy. His right shoulder raised a few inches. His bent right arm was driven up by the shoulder's lift. Fist, wrist, forearm, crooked elbow, and upper arm seemed all one rigid piece, with only the limber shoulder giving them motion. The fist struck Cairo's face...
"I don't know where that damned bird is. You don't. She does. How in hell are we going to get it if I don't play along with her?"
Cairo hesitated, said dubiously: "You have always, I must say, a smooth explanation ready."
Spade scowled. "What do you want me to do? Learn to stutter?"
‘Who killed Thursby?’

Spade said: ‘I don’t know.’

Bryan rubbed his black eyeglass-ribbon between thumb and fingers and said knowingly: ‘Perhaps you don’t, but you certainly could make an excellent guess.’

‘Maybe, but I wouldn’t.’

The District Attorney raised his eyebrows.

‘I wouldn’t,’ Spade repeated. He was serene. ‘My guess might be excellent or it might be crummy, but Mrs Spade didn’t raise any children dippy enough to make guesses in front of a District Attorney, an Assistant District Attorney, and a stenographer.’

‘Why shouldn’t you, if you’ve nothing to conceal?’

‘Everybody,’ Spade responded mildly, ‘has something to conceal.’

‘And you have – ?’

‘My guesses, for one thing.'
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

A treasure worth killing for Sam Spade, a slightly shop-worn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics, a perfumed grifter named Joel Cairo, a fat man named Gutman, and Brigid O'Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett's coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted three generations of readers.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary
Yes, I'm guilty, but
I'll get free with female wiles.
Whoops, need a Plan B.

(Carnophile)

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