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The Maltese Falcon (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Paperback – 17 Apr 1990

4.4 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 217 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Vintage Books ed edition (17 April 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679722645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679722649
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 945,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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"


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"
"

Book Description

The greatest crime novel of the 20th century launches Orion¿s Crime Masterworks series --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a massive Bogart fan, and for me 'The Maltese Falcon is one of the best films ever made. Like others, I had seen the film about five times before picking up the book, and as I read the book I was visualising Bogart, Lorre and Greenstreet, not to mention Elisha whatsisname who plays the kid all the time. I think the role of the female characters is much reduced in the film, which leaves out most of the sex and the whole question of Spade's emotional attachments to his partner's wife, his secretary and his client. These attachments make up a large part of the plot and for all its wonderfulness the film is much the poorer for leaving these themes out. It could have been a three hour masterpiece. The addition of these aspects fleshes out Spade's character from being a wiseass to being a human wiseass.
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By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 April 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
When luscious Miss Wonderly hires the detective firm of Spade and Archer to find her sister, who has run off with a man named Floyd Thursby, Sam Spade might not believe her story but he's happy to accept the $200 dollars she pays them upfront. So is Miles Archer, though his interest is more in the lady's lovely legs. The job turns out to be more than either partner bargains for though, when both Miles and then Floyd are shot dead. With Miss Wonderly begging for his help to protect her and find the Maltese Falcon of the title, Miles' wife hoping his death means she and Sam can finally be together, and the police accusing him of murdering Floyd in revenge for Miles' death, Spade is in trouble up to his neck. But nothing he can't handle...

Did Dashiell Hammett invent noir? I don't know, but Sam Spade is the earliest iconic noir detective, and the one that has spawned a zillion clones down the years. The book reads like a film, making it understandable why the film of the book works so well. Heavy on dialogue, the camera stays focused on Sam Spade at all times and yet we are never allowed inside his head. As he twists and lies and manoeuvres his way through the plot, the reader has no more idea than anyone else what his true intentions might be. Has he fallen for Miss Wonderly, aka Brigid O'Shaughnessy, or is he using her? Will he double-cross her and take the money offered by the mismatched baddies Casper Gutman and Joel Cairo? Or will he trick them all, and take the fabled golden bird for himself? It's only as the end plays out that we discover whether Spade does have some kind of moral code hidden beneath his smooth chain-smoking exterior.
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