Renee.turner26's Reviews > The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
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U 50x66
's review
Nov 19, 2011

really liked it

Hammett's meticulous record of every single detail can't match Raymond Chandler's meticulous record of every telling detail, and his convoluted series of murders by various characters for various reasons is hard to follow. Also, I'm still mad about how the bird turned out. I mean, come on. Give us the gold already.
However, this novel is the one that made Hammett's name for a very good reason---because it has atmosphere. In spite of the overlay of the classic voices of Sydney Greenstreet, Mary Astor (worst Brigid O'Shaughnessy they could have found), Humphrey Bogart, and the brilliant, inimitable Peter Lorre, the dialog is taut and strung like a high wire, and the character of Sam Spade looms vividly off the page: morose, bitter, tormented. Once Hammett stopped screwing around interfering with his own plots and just threw himself on the mercy of the reader, his apprenticeship to craft suddenly sprang him into a fully-realized, three-dimensional world.
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Granted, Hammett's real world sucked. He was playing games between two women who both considered themselves the love of his life---his wife Josey, with whom he had his two little girls, and his girlfriend Lillian Hellman, with whom he had a heavy-drinking, hard-living, party-animal, literary life. We all know now whom he chose. But the characters of clinging Iva (why does Spade string her along?), sexy Brigid (his professions of love at the end never do come across as sincere), and puppy-like useful helpmeet Effie are clearly real people, his relationships with them clearly real relationships.
Yes, Hammett was tormented (although he appears to have caused much more torment than was caused him).
Yes, Hammett proved in his final novel (The Thin Man) that he was a writer of the first water.
And I'd have given him four stars for The Maltese Falcon but for one overwhelming thing: the ego fueling his most famous creation becomes pretty darn thick by the time the reader's done wading through it.

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