S.G. Browne

Fiction Friday: The Maltese Falcon

Welcome to the final installment of Fiction Friday – Lucky Bastard Edition, where I’m spotlighting the books that influenced the writing of Lucky Bastard. We wrap things up this week with the quintessential detective novel: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.

Naturally, the quintessential detective novel deserves the quintessential detective. Enter Sam Spade, the novel’s protagonist who is often considered to be a major influence in the development of the hard-boiled detective genre. Sam Spade is a man’s detective: cold, detached, defiant, and relentless in his pursuit of justice. At least justice as defined by his personal code of ethics.

If you’ve read my other book reviews, you know I’m not going to regurgitate the plot. Rather, I focus on the writing, the characters, and the overall story. And this one has all of that in *cough* spades.

Hammett’s prose is sparse and economical, and his dialogue is fast and to the point. Although I admit that I occasionally found some of his dialogue to be a little overly dramatic, but it’s a small criticism. His style fits the genre perfectly and he does a great job of capturing the mood of San Francisco in the late 1920s.

In addition to Sam Spade, who alone is worth the read, The Maltese Falcon is populated with classic characters: tough guys, cops, gangsters, and a femme fatale who are all sharply defined. And the story, which begins with the death of Spade’s partner and ends with the revelation of who killed him, is a well-constructed, intertwined plot that involves murder, betrayal, and, of course, the titular valuable figurine.

While I personally don’t find Hammett’s prose to be as engaging as Raymond Chandler’s, the writing is solid, the plot intriguing, and the characters well defined and mysterious. If you’re looking to take a crack at your first detective novel, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Filed under: Fiction Fridays,Lucky Bastard,Movies and Books — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 9:50 pm