Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Talking's something you can't do judiciously unless you keep in practice." - from The Maltese Falcon

I've been as bad an influence on American literature as anyone I can think of. –Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Vintage, 1930
Mystery; 217 pgs

Started: 02/18/2007
Completed: 02/18/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth.

Where Book Came From: The book is actually one of my husband's collection.

Reason for Reading: I wanted to read something fun and light for my final book in the Winter Classics Challenge.

Comments: While some may want to argue my choice of considering The Maltese Falcon a classic, I would argue that it is a novel that has stood the test of time and has influenced other authors and works within the same and similar genres. Dashiell Hammett is considered one of the forefather’s of the hardboiled detective novel, The Maltese Falcon being the most well known of his novels. Dashiell Hammett’s name often comes up as a favorite and influencer to many of my favorite mystery writers. It seemed appropriate that I should eventually find my way to one of his books.

Perhaps the most famous medium of the story The Maltese Falcon was the 1941 movie starring Humphrey Bogart, which the Library of Congress classified as being “culturally significant.” The movie is a classic all its own.

What better setting for a mystery involving a jeweled bird, a beautiful woman, hired gunmen, and greedy thieves than the city by the bay, San Francisco? In Dashiell Hammett’s classic hardboiled mystery, private detective Samuel Spade pulls out all the stops. When the lovely Miss Wonderly walks into his office one day offering up two hundred dollars on the spot, both Spade and his partner, Miles Archer, agree to take the case to follow a man in hopes of locating her sister. With the deaths of Spade’s partner and the man who allegedly had run off with Miss Wonderly’s sister, it becomes clear that Miss Wonderly is not who she says she is, and the story she fed the private detectives was far from the truth. The cynical and confident Spade is determined to uncover the truth, no matter how tight lipped his client may be or how much danger he will face.

Sam Spade is the quintessential hardboiled private investigator. He has a talent for getting at the truth and smooth talking his way out of trouble. It’s no wonder he steals the hearts of women. Although I had seen the movie before and knew the story, there is nothing like reading it in print. Dashiell Hammett proved to be a talented writer, taking readers back into the late 1920’s and putting them right into the story. It is no wonder so many mystery authors of today look to Dashiell Hammett as their inspiration.

Favorite Part: I loved reading about Sam Spade in action. He is quite the smooth talker! His confrontations with Lieutenant Dundy were quite amusing. My favorite character, however, would have to be his secretary, Effie Perine, who always came through in a pinch.

For the dish on the author, check out:

Read what Pussreboots had to say about The Maltese Falcon.

Miscellaneous: It is a terrfic feeling to have completed the Winter Classics Challenge. Many thanks to Booklogged at A Reader's Journal for hosting the challenge. She motivated me to crack open a handful of classics that I had been meaning to get to for a long while now.


  1. Nice Review!! I read this a long time ago, but I really enjoyed it! Sounds like you are knocking off challenge books left and right!

  2. I have seen the movie, but it never dawned on my to read the book! Great review. I'm off to find this one...
    (Good job on finishing the challenge. I've just finished my last, also)

  3. This is such a great book. I don't see how anyone could successfully argue that it's NOT a classic.

  4. Thank you, Stephanie. :-) I'm right on schedule with the challenges fortunately. I'm hoping I can continue to do so.

    Paula - Although I've seen the movie a dozen times, I feel like I need to watch it again now that I've read the book. I hope you will enjoy the book when you get to it!

    And congratulations on finishing the challenge! Spending time with Tom Sawyer is always great fun.:-)

    Bybee - Have you read Hammett's other books? I think my husband has a copy of The Thin Man around here. I'll have to read that one.

  5. Of course this is a classic! Despite not being the hardboiled mystery type reader, you have made me consider reading this with your wonderful review!

    Congratulations on finishing the challenge...feels great, doesn't it?

  6. The Maltese Falcon is one I had thought about reading for the challenge, but then I lost sight of it when I made my list. So glad to hear you enjoyed it.

    Congratulations on finishing the challenge. I'm hoping to finish up this week.

  7. Wendy - Thanks! Yes, it does feel great--a relief too because I began to doubt at one point that I would be able to get through five classics in two months. It was well worth it though. :-)

    Heather - We're even! Haha

    Booklogged - Thank you so much for hosting the Winter Classics Challenge. I know I keep saying that, but I'm really grateful that you put the idea in my head to read some of these classics. It feels like quite an accomplishment now that it's all done. I don't want it to end there. I hope that I will look back on this experience and remember just how much I enjoyed these five when I hesitate over the next classic I consider reading.

  8. I agree that it has stood the test of time (at least, thus far) and could be considered a classic. A modern classic, how about that? Or a classic of the genre.

  9. Congratulations on your successful trek through the classics! :)

  10. Wendy -- couldn't find your email, so I'm leaving you a comment... would you please Email me? I've got a question for ya! ;o)


    <>< Mizbooks

  11. Congrats on finishing the challenge!

    I love The Maltese Falcon and agree with Bybee.

  12. LK - Can anything written before I was born me considered modern? Only kidding, of course. The Maltese Falcon came up on enough lists of classic books that I figured it was a safe bet. :-)

    Thanks, Bookfool and Joy! It was a fun challenge. I wish you had been more pleased with your choices, Joy, but maybe next time. :-)

  13. I loved this book. I read it after having seen the movie, for a detective fiction class in college (I think you would have enjoyed that class), and was amazed at how the language, the patter, that I always put down as a Humphrey Bogart thing was really a Dashiel Hammett thing. When I lived in San Francisco and took the bus to work, my daily trip took me by a narrow alley named for the author, and I always wanted to get off and go explore it. Never did.

  14. P.S. The Thin Man stories are fabulous. If possible, Nick and Nora drink more martinis in the books than they did in the movies. LOL

  15. Laura - I think I would have liked to take a class like that very much!

    That is too funny about Nick and Nora drinking more martinis in the book than they do in the movie. I will have to pay attention to that when I read the Thin Man and then watch the movie. :-)


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