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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Legendary Novel
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...
Published on 3 July 2004 by Gary F. Taylor

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3.0 out of 5 stars A classic let down by poor proof reading
This is generally regarded as one of the top-10 PI novels of all time. Unfortunately my reading experience of this was somewhat spoilt by some poor proofing of the text. The novel was excellent; however if possible, try to get hold of this in a different version.
Published 13 months ago by Ipcress


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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Legendary Novel, 3 July 2004
By 
Gary F. Taylor "GFT" (Biloxi, MS USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good edition, 6 Aug 2005
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, Red Harvest (Hardcover)
This volume contains some of Hammett's best work packaged in an attractive hardback. If you are unfamiliar with Hammett, The Thin Man is probably the place to start, and this volume makes a good introduction. Fans will have these titles already, but may want to have an elegant Everyman hardback for their library - or be able to give this nice hardback edition to friends they're looking to switch on to Hammett.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Original McGuffin, 26 Nov 2012
The Maltese Falcon was the first book I imagined in black and white. I must have seen the movie half a dozen times before reading it, read it a couple of times since, and find it impossible to imagine with anyone but Bogart as Sam Spade. Yet despite being famous as a black and white film, the novel is actually rich with colourful descriptions of clothes and hair and eyes. I picture each scene with red hair and eyes of yellow-grey or cobalt-blue distinct from the b/w backdrop.

The plot is simple. There's this object called the Maltese falcon, an object so valuable that men will kill to acquire it. The Maltese falcon is a fine example of what Alfred Hitchcock called the McGuffin, an object which the entire plot hinges upon possessing. Sam Spade's partner, Miles Archer, is killed while trailing a man and the man also winds up dead a few hours later. Spade stands accused of the second death and he must find the real killer to clear his name and avenge his partner.

With Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett reinvented the hard-boiled detective. Holmes had Watson to chronicle his adventures and create a wall between the reader and the detective's inner monologue, keeping you guessing until the end. The Maltese Falcon is devoid of mental process, but rather a physical landscape of hard eyes and pensive stares and casual murder done in dark alleyways. Spade is surly, sarcastic and mischievous, ahead of the game for the most part, but the reader is never privy to his inner thoughts.

Spade drinks and smokes, he withholds information from the police and tells the DA to go to hell. He also beds his client and takes guns from thugs and gets knocked out and beaten, but emerges pure at the end of it all. There is barely a TV or film detective in the last eighty years that hasn't been in some way inspired by Sam Spade. The Maltese Falcon is a check list for how detective drama has be done ever since.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Character Development, 6 Aug 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, Red Harvest (Hardcover)
If you are like me, you met The Thin Man first in the movie series. Those movies have Nick Charles straddling the gap between the "haves" and the tough guy world with insouciance as he waltzes with the wealthy socialites and unravels fatal plots. The book itself is much darker, directly suggesting alcoholism, incest, adultery, and all the minor crimes . . . and deadly sins. The view is that humans are thoroughly flawed, but some can rise above that to serve others anyway. That is the nobility of the Nick Charles character . . . as he staggers out of bed in the afternoon with yet another hangover. Helping out old clients is his source of redemption against the temptations he cannot resist.
The world view is probably somewhat autobiographical as Hammett spent more of his time in Hollywood late in his career, rather than working as a fiction writer. The echoes of F. Scott Fitzgerald are very strong, especially to Tender Is The Night.
For those who love the classic "tough guy" stories by Hammett, this one can never have the same appeal. Nick is still tough, but he mostly shows it by taking abuse with style. That's a feminine kind of toughness that comes from maturity. He passes off the chances to trade punches when they arise.
The characterizations of Nick and Nora Charles are the strength of the novel. But the book transcends that by also creating a picture of a flawed marriage between two people with hearts of gold who love each other, but are also killing each other. The development of the relationship is brilliant.
The mystery itself isn't very mysterious. It just has lots of red herrings. If you judge mysteries by the quality of the plot unfolding of that mystery, you will probably rate this book at 3 or 4 stars.
I suggest that you think about what temptations are difficult for you to resist. How will those temptations undermine your life and your relationships? How can you occupy yourself in ways so that there will either be less temptation or you will be more able to resist it?
To your good health and that of all your relationships!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overrated by modern standards, 17 Feb 2013
By 
Inspector Gadget "Go Go Gadget Reviews" (On the trail of Doctor Claw) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)
I have no doubt that The Maltese Falcon deserves its 'classic' status and that it broke new ground in several ways, but from a modern point of view the novel is stiff and clunky. The Falcon itself is a MacGuffin which becomes mostly irrelevant not long after it is first mentioned and the cat-and-mouse game of "who's got the falcon?" becomes very tiresome.

Sam Spade, a now famous literary private eye, is hired by a femme fatale for protection. He gives the case to his collegue, who is promptly gunned down. Soon Spade is drawn deeper into a web of corruption and deception, and it sounds like it should be fascinating, but it's mostly all talk and no action. Seriously, there's plenty of talk about stuff happening, but little of stuff actually happening. I want to read, and feel, and experience the mystery as the characters experience it, I don't want it delivered through dialogue as the characters sit about in various hotel rooms. Towards the end the dialogue becomes repetitive and circular and takes a great amount of patience to get through.

I like Dashiell Hammett's use of description when detailing things that are relevant, but a little too often it bombards the reader with superfluous information and weighs the scene down. I give this book a 4/5 for setting the trend, but if it were not for that it's a 3/5.
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5.0 out of 5 stars If you haven't read this classic; you need to, 8 July 2014
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Superb book, I could see Humphry Bogart and the whole cast as this dark tale winds its way through misdirection and intrigue, well worth a visit, especially if you remember the film well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Maltese McGuffin, 19 Jun 2014
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Sam Spade and Lew Archer listen to the story of a beautiful and persuasively distressed client. Her sister has run away with... a certain kind of man. She must find her sister and persuade her to return home before their parents return from abroad. Spade and Archer don't believe her story, Sam later explains, but they find her cash convincing and take the case. By the next day Archer is dead, Sam is suspected of his murder, and a sinister swarm of new characters has materialized. They are all searching for the same mysterious "object."

Having enjoyed numerous viewings of Bogart and company in the classic black-and-white film version of The Maltese Falcon, I decided to finally read the book. I was surprised to fine relatively few differences. Scenes and narrative were nearly identical, with only a few minor scenes deleted and minor characters demoted to nonspeaking roles. In the good old days, it seems, book authors were shown greater respect by Hollywood.

One detail is worthy of note. Hammett clearly did not have Humphrey Bogart in his mind's eye while penning the manuscript. The book opens with this description: "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 yellow-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."

I guess Bogey was worth resetting the author's expectations a bit. Hammett displays his writing skill by returning occasionally to the angles on Spade's face and the transformations they undergo as he puzzles and prods his way through the case. There are some pleasures in the reading the movie, great as it is, could not capture. Do read the book. It's worth your time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bogart all over, 8 Mar 2014
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Having seen the film it's hard not to read Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, and just how much he, and Greenstreet and Lorre, bring to life Hammett's characters.

A detective is visited by an attractive client wanting a tail put on guy... and the night takes off from there. Double cross, lies, deception, seduction, pistols and the peculiar manner of one Sam Spade.

Classic stuff.
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5.0 out of 5 stars THEY READ THIS BOOK IN HEAVEN, YOU KNOW!!!, 4 Feb 2014
By 
Greggorio! (Amazing Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)
The opening sentence of this classic work of detective fiction morphs gloriously into arguably the greatest opening paragraph in the history of western literature. Of course, that sounds like an utter nonsense but read the excerpt below from page one of this glorious tome and you will see what I mean:

"... 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 yellow-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..."

I have never considered anything looking remotely like Satan to be even close to resembling pleasantness, but I digress. If anything is going to set the mood of a book with a wonder-inducing gasp of bewildered joy, this paragraph is it. I defy anyone to read the above quote and finish without a smirk on their face, and fail to emit snort of utter disbelief.

And of course, from page four we have the somewhat poetic description of the life and death of a cigarette:

"... on Spade's desk a limp cigarette smoldered in a brass tray filled with the remains of limp cigarettes. Ragged grey flakes of cigarette-ash dotted the yellow top of the desk and the green blotter and the papers that were there. A buff-curtained window, eight or ten inches open, let in from the court a current of air faintly scented with ammonia. The ashes on the desk twitched and crawled in the current."

Art in printed form. Anyway, on with my book review...

The book is a delight. For classic noir fans, you have found your printed nirvana. For everyone else, you have found an entry point into the noir universe. In chapter one, we meet the cast of the show. Sam Spade, PI. Partnered in business by Miles Archer. Spade's first client of the book is the delightfully petite but apparently wealthy Miss Wonderly, who is evidently worried sick for her sister, who ran off from England with a Mr Floyd Thursby. Spade and Archer agree to follow Thursby to a rendezvous to retrieve the sister and track Thursby back to his base of operations. Of courses its lies, lies and more darn lies! But who cares? It's all serious fun.

The first major shock of the book comes halfway through chapter two. The first major plot twist occurs barely eight pages later. This stellar and legendary tale is rife with drama and suspense. Nobody trusts anybody and threats come thick and fast as the players of the game sort each other out. Or die trying.

Hammett's writing will soothe your soul with its attention to detail and damn near stop your heart with the atmosphere of the suspenseful moments. An example of the former lies with the writer's depiction of the art of enjoying a cigarette (please see quote above). An example of the latter can be found on just about any page picked at random. But chapter two's early interaction between Spade and two desperate cops is classic. Characterisation is first class. So is emotional attachment. Fans of the movie (and who isn't?) will find interesting parallels to muse over as their finish each chapter of the book. The book turns mean close to its finale and you almost feel sorry for one of the lost souls. But the baddies each get what's coming to them anyway and one in particular gets a reprieve and possibly a chance at redemption.

Reading this book is a no brainer. Buy it, borrow it, live it, saviour it. Keep it. Pass it on to your kids. But don't ignore it.

Some books will change your life.

This one will rule it.

BFN Greggorio!!!!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Story's a classic—this printing's anything but., 8 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Maltese Falcon (Paperback)
It feels great and the smell is nice. As is the font and everything else. The story, too, of course. It is, however, riddled with typos. Some funny, some sad, and some just outright strange, which is an experience in and of itself, sure, but somewhere around the halfway mark, where they start coming at you once, or even twice, per page, it gets tiring.
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The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, Red Harvest
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