Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

Title: The Maltese Falcon
Author: Dashiell Hammett
Publisher: Books on Tape
Rating: WARTY!

Audio book read stiltedly by Michael Prichard.

Need I get into the blatant objectification employed in this cover? I hope not.

First published in 1930 and turned into what is now considered a film noir classic in 1941, The Maltese Falcon is what would, were it published now, be considered a stereotypical hard-bitten private dick story. This is where Sam Spade was born. He's hired by a Miss Wonderly to try and get her younger sister to return home.

Wonderly has no idea where her sister is (nor does the reader!), but she claims she's hanging out with a man whom Wonderly considers dangerous: a married Englishman with the unlikely name of Floyd - unlikely because no Brit would ever name their child 'Floyd', but Dashiell (How-About-That-Hair?) Hammett obviously didn't know this or didn't care. Wonderly requests that either Spade or Archer do this and she pays handsomely for the consideration. Spade's assistant, Miles Archer, is assigned to tail Floyd Thursby. Luckily for Spade.

That night Spade is awakened by a phone call notifying him of Miles Archer's death. Why they would call Spade rather than Archer's wife is a complete mystery, but Spade goes to the murder site and sees that Archer was shot before falling over a safety rail and rolling down an embankment. Spade undertakes (I use that word advisedly) to notify Archer's wife.

Even later that night (I guess Spade goes to bed rather early!), two police detectives, Polhaus and Dundy, visit Spade and take an interest in whether he has access to a gun. It turns out that Thursby has also been murdered and Spade is now a suspect! The fact that he was having an affair with Archer's wife doesn't help his case.

And so it goes. This story really wasn't very good at all. Maybe back in the day it was new, and fresh and different, but now it's really rather pathetic. I can neither recommend this nor the movie they made from it.

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