11. The Maltese falcon

The story goes like this: my wife brought this home from book club. It’s Michigan’s The Big Read, see, and one of her fellow bookclubbers works at the Ferndale Public Library and had a raft of copies. Zena’s not interested, though — all she can think of is Garrison Keillor’s Guy Noir. But she picks it up, and when I needle her about it a few days later, she’s done a 180, she loves it, she can’t get enough of it, see? Which is enough to pique my interest, and here we are.

It’s a page turner, that’s for sure, with a great lead character, Sam Spade, a hard-boiled Detective who doesn’t trust anyone, listens when money talks and treats women like he owns them. He’s got an ethic, but it’s not a moral ethic — if your partner gets iced, you find and capture his killer, and you don’t chase a rabbit just to let him go.

It was amusing, reading the genesis of decades of Tough Dick Cliché. I’ve never seen the movie, so I came to it fresh — didn’t know a thing about the plot. Lots of descriptions of yellow or glowing eyes, set jaws, weak knees, etc. Very of its time. Women were dames and men were Men, a certain decorum reigned even among the riff raff, untrustworthy elements were “swarthy” or “Levantine,” on and on. Can you see why it would be enchanting?

If you can, I recommend it.

One thought on “11. The Maltese falcon”

  1. I love this book, although I’ll readily admit that it has all the drawbacks you mention.

    I still prefer Raymond Chandler and his gumshoe Philip Marlowe. “She had a face that would make an archbishop kick out a stained glass window.” Hammett never wrote like that.

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