Monday, April 9, 2007

BOOK: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

This is my entry for the 1930s in the 15books/15decades challenge and it screams the 1930s. In a good way. Hammett is described as the creator of the modern suspense story and it was very good. It probably helps if you loved the movie, which I haven't seen, or heard the radio recording, which I remember hearing once twenty years ago and becoming totally enthralled, but I couldn't finish listening for some reason. Also, I am developing a crush on Humphrey Bogart and he is so tied up with this role of Sam Spade that he really has become Spade.

The story takes a while to get going but sets the mood of the hard-boiled detective story, with dames and guns and double-crossing. Our hero is not the greatest guy, but you know he's the smartest one there and will come out on top. I loved the way things were alluded to between Spade and Brigid without any descriptions; even when Spade got told off, it was done in a way that no words starting with f had to be used, but it was very clear. Subtle.

I read this and The Big Sleep this year and I think I preferred The Big Sleep and Rick Diamond to Sam Spade, because I was more confused in The Maltese Falcon during the reading, but I often find intrigue and suspense confusing, because those red herrings get me everytime. Both are very good reads; I find myself slipping into this genre of story along with Agatha Christie's this year. These old mysteries are classics for a reason. The library has collections of stories by Chandler and Hammett that I plan to investigate further.