The Maltese Falcon (novel)
|The Maltese Falcon|
first edition cover (1930)
|Publisher||Alfred A. Knopf|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
The Maltese Falcon is a 1930 detective novel by Dashiell Hammett, originally serialized in the magazine Black Mask. The story has been adapted several times for the cinema. The main character, Sam Spade, appears only in this novel and in three lesser known short stories, yet is widely cited as the crystallizing figure in the development of the hard-boiled private detective genre – Raymond Chandler's character Philip Marlowe, for instance, was strongly influenced by Hammett's Spade. Spade was a departure from Hammett's nameless detective, The Continental Op. Sam Spade combined several features of previous detectives, most notably his cold detachment, keen eye for detail, and unflinching determination to achieve his own justice.
In 1998, the Modern Library ranked The Maltese Falcon 56th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
Sam Spade and Miles Archer are hired by a Miss Wonderly to follow a man, Floyd Thursby, who has allegedly run off with Wonderly's younger sister. Spade and Archer take the assignment because the money is good, but Spade implies that the woman looks like trouble.
That night, Spade receives a phone call telling him that Archer is dead. When questioned by Sgt. Polhaus about Archer's activities, Spade says that Archer was tailing Thursby, but refuses to reveal their client's identity. Later that night, Polhaus and Lieutenant Dundy visit Spade and inquire about his recent whereabouts, and say that Thursby was also killed and that Spade is a suspect. They have no evidence against Spade, but tell him that they will be conducting an investigation into the matter.
The next day, Archer's wife Iva asks Spade if he killed Miles. He tells her to leave, and orders his secretary Effie Perine to remove all of Archer's belongings from the office. Visiting his client at her hotel, he learns her real name is Brigid O'Shaughnessy, she never had a sister, and Thursby was an acquaintance who had betrayed her.
Later, Spade is visited by Joel Cairo, who offers Spade $5,000 if he can retrieve a figurine of a black bird that has recently arrived in San Francisco. Cairo suddenly pulls a gun, declaring his intention to search Spade's office, but Spade knocks him unconscious. When O'Shaughnessy contacts Spade, he senses a connection between her and Cairo, and casually mentions that he has spoken to Cairo. O'Shaughnessy becomes nervous, and asks Spade to arrange a meeting with Cairo. Spade agrees.
When they meet at Spade's apartment, Cairo says he is ready to pay for the figurine, but O'Shaughnessy says she does not have it. They also refer to a mysterious figure, "G", of whom they seem to be scared. As the two begin to argue, Polhaus and Dundy show up, but Spade refuses to let them in. As they are about to leave, Cairo screams, and they force their way in. Spade says that Cairo and O'Shaughnessy were merely play-acting, which the officers seem to accept. But they take Cairo with them to the station. Spade tries to get more information from O'Shaughnessy, who stalls.
Spade confronts a kid named Wilmer Cook, telling him that his boss, "G," will have to deal with Spade. He later receives a call from Casper Gutman, who wishes to meet him. Gutman says he will pay handsomely for the black bird. Spade bluffs, saying he can get it, but wants to know what it is first. Gutman tells him that the figurine was a gift from the Knights of Malta to the King of Spain, but was lost in transit. It was covered with fine jewels, but acquired a layer of black enamel to conceal its value. Gutman had been looking for it for seventeen years. He traced it to Russian general Kemidov, and sent Cairo, Thursby, and O'Shaughnessy to retrieve it. The latter pair stole the figurine, but kept it. Spade feels dizzy, and when he tries to leave, Wilmer trips him and kicks him in the head.
After Spade returns to his office, Captain Jacobi of the La Paloma arrives, drops a package on the floor, and then dies. Spade opens the package, and finds the falcon. He receives a call from O'Shaughnessy, asking for his help. He stores the item at a bus station luggage counter and mails himself the collection tag. At the dock, the La Paloma is on fire. He goes to the address O'Shaughnessy gave him, and finds a drugged girl, her stomach scratched by a pin in order to keep her awake. She gives him information about Brigid, but it is a false lead.
When he returns to his apartment, O'Shaughnessy, Wilmer, Cairo, and Gutman are waiting. Gutman gives Spade $10,000 for the bird. Spade takes the money, but says that they need a "fall guy" to take the blame for the murders. Cairo and Gutman agree to give him Wilmer. Gutman proceeds to tell Spade the rest of the story. Gutman then warns Spade not to trust O'Shaughnessy. Spade calls his secretary and asks her to pick up the figurine. She brings it to Spade's apartment, and Spade gives it to Gutman. He quickly learns that it is a fake. He realizes that the Russian must have discovered its true value and made a copy. Meanwhile, Wilmer escapes. Gutman regains his composure, and decides to continue the search. Gutman asks Spade for the $10,000. Spade keeps $1,000 for expenses. Cairo and Gutman leave.
Immediately after Cairo and Gutman leave, Spade phones Sgt. Polhaus, and tells him about Gutman and Cairo. Spade then asks O'Shaughnessy why she killed Archer. She says she hired Archer to scare Thursby. When Thursby did not leave, she killed Archer, to pin the crime on Thursby. When Thursby was killed, she knew that Gutman was in town, so she came back to Spade for protection. Spade says that the penalty for murder is most likely twenty years, but if they hang her, he will always remember her. O'Shaughnessy begs him not to turn her in, but he replies that he has no choice. When the police arrive, Spade turns over O'Shaughnessy. They tell Spade that Wilmer was waiting for Gutman at the hotel and killed him when he arrived.
The novel has been filmed three times, twice under its original title:
- The Maltese Falcon (1931), the first version, pre-Code production starring Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels
- Satan Met a Lady (1936), a light-comedy adaptation starring Bette Davis and Warren William, with Sam Spade becoming "Ted Shane".
- The Maltese Falcon (1941) the third version, considered to be a film noir classic, starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet.
In addition, there have been many spoofs and sequels, including 1975's The Black Bird, a spoof featuring George Segal as Sam Spade, Jr., and Elisha Cook Jr. and Lee Patrick reprising their roles from the 1941 film.
- The Maltese Falcon (2001), an audio adaptation by the BBC starring Jane Lapotaire, Tom Wilkinson, and Peter Acre was published as an audio book in 2001 and broadcast on BBC Radio 7 in 2009.
- The Maltese Falcon (2005), the official authorized stage adaptation, was produced by The Long Beach Shakespeare Company, and premiered in 2007. In 2005, an earlier stage version of the book had been adapted and directed by Martin Pope. This adaptation, by Helen Borgers, was authorized and approved by Julie M. Rivett, Dashiell Hammett's granddaughter. Both Jo Hammett, Dashiell Hammett's only living daughter, and Julie Rivett attended the premiere. The play follows the book closely and includes Spade's Flitcraft story. Two years later, in the Fall of 2007, the same company mounted a second adaptation.
- Borgers' version of The Maltese Falcon (2007), opened in Huntsville, Alabama on the AlphaStage of the Renaissance Theatre, on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 in association with the Huntsville Public Library "BIG READ" Initiative. Directed by Jim Zieliński, the play was part of a series of Falcon-related events. An additional, final run took place May 15–17 of that year.
- Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (2008), a Grammy-nominated audiobook dramatization by the Hollywood Theater of the Ear, starring Michael Madsen, Sandra Oh, and Edward Herrmann, was released in 2008 by Blackstone Audio.
- Hardyment, Christina (November 24, 2001). "John Gielgud: An actor's life. Written and read by Gyles Brandreth". The Independent (London). Retrieved September 3, 2009.
- "Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon". BBC. Retrieved September 3, 2009.
- "Long Beach Shakespeare Company Produces Work Both Old and New".
- Herron, Don. The Dashiell Hammett Tour: Thirtieth Anniversary Guidebook. San Francisco: Vince Emery Productions, 2009.
- Layman, Richard. Literary Masterpieces, Volume 3: The Maltese Falcon. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2000.
- Layman, Richard, ed. Discovering The Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade: The Evolution of Dashiell Hammett's Masterpiece, Including John Huston's Movie with Humphrey Bogart. San Francisco: Vince Emery Productions, 2005.
- Miller, Walter James. Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon: A Critical Commentary. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
- Stone, Dan. An Introduction to The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett: Audio Guide. Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Arts, 2006.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: The Maltese Falcon (novel)|
- Listen to the Old Time Radio adaption of The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet.
- The Apartment of Dashiell Hammett and Sam Spade
- The Pickwick Hotel in San Francisco was the featured location in the novel.