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The Maltese Falcon
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Past Hardboiled Book Discussions > "Maltese Falcon" Discuss Everything *Spoilers*

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message 1: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan I just finished my reading of this month's novel. Here's my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 2: by Two Envelopes And A Phone (last edited Oct 16, 2020 10:59AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Two Envelopes And A Phone I enjoyed my re-read, and went into it remembering who was guilty of the murder near the beginning - so this was more of a revisiting of all the little details I had forgotten, plus reassessing this book years after reading dozens more hard-boiled books during the intervening twenty-five years.

The book was a 3-star book for me, until my re-read. It still only comes out at about 3.5 stars, to my mind, but I have rounded up to 4 stars as I recognize that there is enough here to call this a must-read for fans of the genre. I have been much happier with other, often twistier, plots in other hard-boiled novels...and just generally I prefer many of the first-person narratives on offer, like with Chandler's works we are allowed in the detective's head - jaded, cynical but humorous thoughts and all that. The Maltese Falcon *shows* the people, it does not really give us that inner access. We learn about them from what they do and say to anyone they encounter. Descriptions are excellent - but again, lay out a room, street, or office wonderfully, except that I miss a Philip Marlowe assessing things and judging people based on what they have surrounded themselves with, or where they go to drink and hang out. Great, cinematic-style descriptions, but just descriptions.

The truth about the Falcon itself is less disappointing for me, with the re-read - its unattainable nature, its "never-ending quest for greedy, smitten fools" quality resonates more with me as an older reader. Those who MUST have it move on, still searching, while Sam starts to recover from his encounter with the bird. I don't see it as an anti-climax anymore. People chase after stuff they never find.


message 3: by Dan (last edited Oct 16, 2020 06:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan My assessment is similar. I'm rounding up to four stars rather than rounding down. I also agree with you that first person narrative might work better for our genre in that it lets us get closer to our characters. There are third person narrative techniques that do this as well, but they weren't employed here.

I think Hammett is trying too hard to write in a Hemmingway-like literary style that his material doesn't really accommodate. There are some advantages to the style. For example, it is so cinematic a surprise in the plot has much more impact(view spoiler).

It's also refreshing for the reader to have to work a bit at understanding what is going on rather than being spoon-fed. It allows us to have differences in interpretation from even the author what the meaning is since we're only being told of the events and not what to think of them through relations of character thoughts. If the event is complicated enough with different possible interpretations of meaning, this can lead to really rich reader experiences. Sam Spade and Brigid O'Shaugnessy are complex enough characters that this stylistic approach works for Hammett's characterizations.

Where it fails is in how the author conveys plot details to the reader when so many of them happened in the past. He can't really simply tell the reader through narration. So it had to come out in rather unlikely dialog sequences. I'm a Hemmingway and now Hammett fan, but I nevertheless look forward to a writing style change with next month's read.


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