Although this book was in The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories, I decided to enter it as a book because in every aspect, it is indeed a booAlthough this book was in The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories, I decided to enter it as a book because in every aspect, it is indeed a book and is counted as one of the five books written by Dashiell Hammett, along with numerous short stories. The book I read was the serialized version, originally published in Black Mask, beginning September 1929 and ending January 1930. The books itself was published February 14, 1930.
Historically it is considered the groundbreaking and first in the detective genre. Other critics have stated that Dashiell Hammett should not be relegated to that genre alone but should be recognized and elevated to the level of serious literature in the same ranks as Ernest Hemmingway.
Otto Penzler, winner of the Poe Award and founder of The Mysterious Press who published Ed McBain, Ross Macdonald, Mickey Spillane and Isaac Asimov to name a few authors, is the editor of the huge three pound book, The Black Lizard (full title above.)
The only reason I put off reading The Maltese Falcon is because the book is so very cumbersome and I knew it would be a pain, literally, in the neck to hold and read. It was worth it though albeit the neck pain.
Penzler says Dashiell Hammett “is arguably the most significant author of the hard-boiled private-eye novel in the history of American letters.” He continues that The Maltese Falcon is Hammett’s best-known work and the most famous mystery novel ever written by an American. According to Penzler when it was issued as a novel, it was dramatically revised mostly by Hammett (some by copy editors) with more than two thousand textual differences between the two versions.
It’s easy to see why Raymond Chandler, Robert B. Parker, and Ross Macdonald would revere Hammett and consider him the patron saint of mysteries and their idol. Easy indeed. And Donald Westlake said “For early influences we have to start, and almost end, with Hammett.” High praise from the creator of the Richard Stark series. “Dashiell Hammett stands with his two most prominent successors, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, as part of the unholy trinity of great, distinctively American crime writers,” states Editor Eric McMillan whose website is below.
Hammett’s writing is sparse, clear, clean and I’ve said this in other reviews (about Chandler, I recall) but it appears as though he read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style prior to setting pen to paper.
His protagonists, Sam Spade, is a Los Angeles P.I. who, as Hammett described “…looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan.” He described him as having V’s predominate in his entire face, chin, mouth, brows and hairline. I vaguely remember the movie (same name) and Humphrey Bogart is nothing visually like Spade in the book. But it’s said that Bogart captured Spade the character and in our mind’s eye, is Sam Spade when we think of him. That is, of course, if you’ve seen the movie otherwise you would see him as Hammett wrote and described Spade.
Back to Hammett’s writing, his sparse but very descriptive writing, is wonderful to read. Some authors, as we know, have a tendency to become verbose sometimes, when fewer words will suffice.
For a taste of Hammett I offer the following sentences: • “Then Spade smiled. His smile was gentle, even dreamy.” • “Points of yellow light began to dance in his eyes.” (Hammett uses the word yellow throughout the book.) • “Gutman’s bulbs jounced as he took three waddling, backward steps away from the door.” • “The looseness of his lower lip and the droop of his upper eyelids combined with the V’s in his face to make his grin lewd as a satyr’s.” • “Gutman’s smile was affable, if a bit oily.”
To me, what these sentences have in common is their descriptive simplicity.
Hammett creates a femme fatale, a must in during that era, Brigid O’Shaughnessy, who turns on a dime to get what she wants, The Maltese Falcon. Seduction of the men around her is imaginative and colorful and it’s a challenge for Spade to stay out of her web.
The reader discovers Spade’s observation of himself and his own self-worth by the choices he makes. His view of life and living it is stated in his relating a story to Brigid of a missing man. I’m leaving the story to the reader but it describes clearly Spade’s view of life in today’s (1930’s) world. Come to think of it, one of the eye openers for me was that the book did not seem dated, so ‘my take’ on Spade’s life could certainly be true for someone in today world, that of being true to yourself.
The simplicity of language and unique, complicated mystery regarding the centuries old bird, make the story so very readable.
What I valued in the book was the historical nature (and the sparsely of the writing) since I’m an avid reader of the genre. Reading this genre I read where this writer or that author was influenced by Dashiell Hammett, so I was anxious to read him myself. I was anxious to understand how the genre was identified as separate from others and to know what ‘the fuss was all about’ with Hammett. I urge anyone who reads and enjoys mysteries to give this piece of history a turn. It’s certainly more than worth it as readers can see his influence in other writers of the same genre, even though it's more than 80 years old.
Hammett had quite an interesting personal life, including a love affair with writer Lillian Hellman. There are many sites devoted to his political activism including his refusal to cooperate with Joseph McCarthy's congressional hearings aimed at those who were sympathetic to Communists in the early 1950's. Obviously, he had a very exciting life.
Here are a couple of interesting links showing one showing where Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon:
Vanessa, my favorite bookseller, says Charlaine Harris is the most under rated writer today. I tend to agree with her. Harris is great coming up withVanessa, my favorite bookseller, says Charlaine Harris is the most under rated writer today. I tend to agree with her. Harris is great coming up with these quirky characters and here's another one she adds to her long list.
Harper Connelly (I love her name) can find the dead (when they're missing, of course) and visualize the last moments of the person's life. She travels with her step-brother who handles the money matters. They travel to sites as requested by friends or family of the deceased or law enforcement agencies.
This book is the first in a series and I liked it a lot. I've liked all of Harris' characters but some more than others. But Harper and Tolliver, her step-brother, are just regular folks who provide a service and get paid for it. And they seem to have their heads placed quite firmly on their heads. Just likable people, just like us; kindof anyhow.
Not going to run out right now and get the next one, Grave Surprise, but it sure was a fun read and break from the usual. I wonder how a writer can write in such detail about so many diverse characters. In case you forgot, this is Sookie Stackhouse's creator and my favorite, Aurora Teagarden. Hurray for Charlaine Harris! Harper deserves four stars from me!...more
Loving mysteries, I've read many times, 'this character reminds readers of Chandler's Philip Marlowe, known as the basis of the modern P. I.' Read manLoving mysteries, I've read many times, 'this character reminds readers of Chandler's Philip Marlowe, known as the basis of the modern P. I.' Read many books which refer to Chandler or Marlowe, but up until now, never read him. Those days are past, thank goodness, because I've discovered an author I love.
Published in 1939, the book was as fresh to me as if it was published last week. Can't recall one time when I thought, hum, he wouldn't do that because of such and such. My favorite bookseller Vanessa said that is an indication of a good writer, one whose writing is timeless and I agree.
The story grabbed me from page one to the end with some convoluted twists and turns. I read the ending a couple of times after I finished since it was a time for reflection by Marlowe, a time to be a little philosophical. Marlowe really is thoughtful, moral and really tries to do what's right. And with the number of mysteries I've read, I can see threads of this character in other characters. Some have said that Chandler changed the genre of the modern P.I.
It's great to read a great book, one which other writers aspire to, Robert B. Parker, for one. Parker said Marlowe was "wised up, hopeful, thoughtful, adventurous, sentimental, cynical and rebellious." I would never disagree with Robert B. Parker!
Thinking about how sparse and descriptive Chandler's writing is, I noted one line that I saved to go back to: "He wore a blue uniform coat that fitted him the way a stall fits a horse." That's visualization if I've ever read it.
Clear, clean, precise and to the point, Chandler must have read The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. They were (and still are, I hope) the prophets of omitting needless words in writing. I would say there's not one needless word in this book. Well, maybe one, but no more!
****** Update on influence on Chandler on present day mystery writers, in this case Michael Connelly and from his Website:
"Michael Connelly was born in Philadelphia, PA on July 21, 1956. He moved to Florida with his family when he was 12-years-old. Michael decided to become a writer after discovering the books of Raymond Chandler while attending the University of Florida. Once he decided on this direction he chose a major in journalism and a minor in creative writing — a curriculum in which one of his teachers was novelist Harry Crews."
Happened to pick this up at used book store and it's the best $2 I've ever spent. Loved, just loved the book. When I find a writer I love, I tend to rHappened to pick this up at used book store and it's the best $2 I've ever spent. Loved, just loved the book. When I find a writer I love, I tend to read everything they've written and this happened with RWW. Read them all (Doc Ford) and follow him like a groupie. Have also read his six books under Striker and enjoyed them as well, although they're not as 'polished' as the Doc Ford series. Doc Ford and Tomlinson are quite a pair and balance each other in a good, unique and fun way. White's description of the surrounding are not only believable but create a sense of place for the reader. So happy to have stumbled upon Randy Wayne White a few years ago. His books have brought me many hours of pleasurable time which was well spent. Much enjoyable reading and it all started with this great book. Can't wait until February 2012 for next one....more
Been loving the series of Elvis Cole and his quiet buddy/friend/business partner, Joe Pike.
It started with Elvis as the headliner and Joe his co-starBeen loving the series of Elvis Cole and his quiet buddy/friend/business partner, Joe Pike.
It started with Elvis as the headliner and Joe his co-star but this is the third series of Joe as star and Elvis as co-star although Elvis' role in this last book is more predominent than in others.
While Elvis clearly has had a love interest, Joe only love interest was mentioned because she was murdered. So our interest is stirred as soon as he seems interested in a woman he meets. Because of the situation, being harassed by local gang members, he commits to protecting her and her uncle who own a sandwich shop.
Like 'who's on first' skit, the book takes all kinds of turns to discover who are the good guys. The really sadistical killer (and Elvis and Joe, of cours) is the only one we're sure of and he's not letting anyone get in his way, even these two talented P.I.'s.
For me, Crais' writing never seems to slack. I admit some books are more my favorites than others, the first one, The Monkey's Raincoat (Edgar Award Winner) and L. A. Requiem (Edgar nominee) but as a series, it hasn't wandered far from it's roots. I do recall though Elvis being a little more 'light' and funny than he is these days, but hey, give the guy a break; he's had a lot of things happen to him since those sunny days 'eyeing the candy' from his second floor office where his clock tick-tocks with is eyes moving from side to side and tail keeping up with the eyes.
And Joe, what a friend Elvis is to Joe and visa versa. They read each other well and depend on each other without hesitation. Perhaps their individual sense of honor has something to do with their commitment to each other. Nice to have a friend who has 'got your back.' ...more
Great book, another one, so many thanks to Robert Crais for his great writing skills!
A new character, Max Holman, who just gets out of prison after 1Great book, another one, so many thanks to Robert Crais for his great writing skills!
A new character, Max Holman, who just gets out of prison after 10 years to find out that his son, a police officer, was murdered with three other officers. To make matters worse, he has not been in his son's life almost ever and was hoping for a reconciliation.
Trying to stay straight and within the law, Holman has to walk a fine line in trying to identify his father's killer(s) and why the murder of four LAPD officers happened. Everything looks mighty fishy to him so he contacts the person who put him behind bars, an ex-FBI agent who is not all that happy about his contacting her.
Crais hasn't disappointed me yet and this just adds to his stature in my eyes. Great plot, great characters...sorry I didn't know Crais before I discovered him about a year ago. Missed out on many hours of great reading pleasure. If you're not familar with him, give him a try. He's well worth the money spent any way you read.