“If you can show me twenty books written approximately twenty years back that have as much guts and life now, I’ll eat them between slices of Edmund Wilson’s head.” — Raymond Chandler
Dashiell Hammett’s classic crime thriller and its hard-boiled hero Sam Spade influenced everyone from Chandler to Le Carré.
The Maltese Falcon set the standard by which all subsequent detective fiction would be judged. Set in San Francisco in the late 1920s, the novel introduces us to private detective Sam Spade, who characterizes the archetype of the hard-boiled detective in his dead-pan pursuit of the recovery of a black figurine. Having worked for a time for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in San Francisco, Hammett reportedly drew upon his years as a detective in creating Spade and many of the other characters for The Maltese Falcon.
The Maltese Falcon was originally serialized in HL Mencken’s “pulp” magazine, Black Mask, beginning with the September 1929 issue. For publication of the book form, editor Blanche Knopf tried to tone down the overt sexuality of the magazine version, fearing the references would alienate readers, but Hammett prevailed. However, the 1941 film adaptation starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor (the best known of the novel’s many film versions) excised the homosexual subtext of the novel due to Production Code restraints. Today, the movie is considered a film noir classic and the novel is ranked 56th on Modern Library’s “100 Best” English-language novels of the 20th century as well as 54th on The Guardian’s list of the 100 best novels.
“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
“He was spare, frugal, hard-boiled … he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before.” — Raymond Chandler
«After reading The Maltese Falcon, I went mooning about in a daze of love such as I had not known for any character in literature since I encountered Sir Launcelot» —Dorothy Parker
«The Maltese Falcon is an intensely physical novel, and not solely, or even chiefly, because of its sexuality … The Maltese Falcon's physicality lies rather in the intensity of the characters' struggles with their emotions, and the vividness with which Hammett brings their personalities to the page through their bodies.—Sara Paretsky, The Guardian