The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett

My Copy: 9780679722649 (Image from

Okay, if you’ve seen the classic film with Humphrey Bogart, then you’ve basically got the story down. I love this book. I’ve read it twice now and will be keeping this one on the shelves in my writer’s hall-of-fame.

I can’t help it. Much like the film itself, the book is so unique with its use of dialogue, description, and characters. I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like this story before. Either this is a Dashiell Hammett trait or it’s something specific to the story.

The Maltese Falcon begins with Sam Spade, a private detective who hears a proposition from his client Ms. Wonderley to tail a man named Thursby. Well, his partner, Miles Archer, wants to get in on the case and Spade lets him… only Miles winds up dead, and Ms. Wonderley’s name really isn’t Wonderley.

From there, the case takes plenty of twists and turns. There’s betrayal, theft, murder, double crossing, deal making and lots of slapping and punching to get your noir-ish imagination going.

There’s a lot of good in this book. The characterization leaps off the page. It’s obvious that the screenwriters for the film were careful to keep to the book as best they could, and why wouldn’t they? They had the best framework already there for the taking.

I admit, I saw the film before I realized it WAS a book, and happily read the book cover to cover each day I read it. It’s too good, and if it’s doing anything at the moment, it’s enticing me to think harder about good characterization and description. The way Mr. Hammett uses description is so unique, and I’m learning more about writing reading this book.

And perhaps someday, when I have more space on my bookshelves, I’ll read his other works.

Happy reading (and happy viewing–even for those who have an unhealthy disgust for black and white films, it’s freaking worth watching…but read the book first, okay? It’s barely over 200 pages, so it won’t take that long!)

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